Monday, January 12, 2015

Play Is the School of Rules

I'm like a mind reader. I see around corners. Don't envy me. It's a curse.

On Saturday morning, the 10th of January, I posted a video of a person creeping out onto the field and interfering with a play during a Patriots football game in 1961. If it was described to you in today's terms, you'd assume that the person that did it was a jerk, seeking some sort of fleeting fame by barging in on proceedings much more important than his little life. It was nothing like that. It was kind of charming.

Now, then. Later on Saturday the 10th:

Professional football was, and should still be, unimportant. The game in the video from 1961 was a nearly meaningless exhibition of a trivial occupation being performed by people too old to pretend they were college students any more. The fellow who crept into the end zone from the throng they once allowed to stand on the field is an average guy, doing something on a lark, and slipping back into anonymity. He probably made more money at his job than all the football players, and was likely a salubrious person with an excess of twinkle in his eye. His interference in an unimportant game wasn't commendable, I guess, but it was funny, and about as antisocial as throwing toilet paper in the shrubs of that stringy lady that gives out toothbrushes and a lecture on Halloween instead of candy. No. Big. Deal. They didn't bother to play the down over. The ref signaled the game was over, and that was it. Dinner was on the table, I imagine.

The true purpose of sports is not to supply the participants with enough money to buy two diamond earrings to wear under their helmet, and to afford better lawyers when they cold-cock their concubine in an elevator. The purpose of sports is not to divide up spoils. Sports are the school of rules.

It's half a joke that football players are allowed anywhere near schoolchildren to lecture them on "fitness," and character. They are, almost to man, physical freaks who abuse drugs to cheat. They have nothing to offer the average person in the way of advice. They would be valuable if they were willing to participate in the school of rules, but they're not interested. The purpose of sports in general is to train people to compete with one another under a set of rules that apply equally to everyone. You're supposed to learn that the desired outcome does not dictate the rules. You're not supposed to work backwards from desired outcomes to determine the rules on the fly, either. You learn that if you are unable to get the outcome you desire, you're not supposed to resort to violence, cheating, or much more importantly, saying you were cheated when you were not.

The purpose of arbitrary rules in sports (look it up, you have no idea what arbitrary actually means) is to level the playing field. The opposite of arbitrary rules, strictly enforced, is not fairness. Fairness is not a destination. Fairness is the journey. Fighting breaks out when there's no recourse to the rule book anymore, just special pleading to get what you want. When laws are enforced on a sliding scaled to ensure desired outcomes, they're not laws anymore. Wars are started that way.

I don't know what made me think of the trench coat defender, but a few short hours later, the coach of the Baltimore Ravens, in danger of being unable to get the outcome he wanted whether he earned it or not, charged out onto the field of play and deliberately interfered with the regular course of play.

He didn't know the rules, or more likely, the rules didn't deliver the outcome he desired, so he wanted to change them, right then and there. He charged at a ref, and appeared to bump into him, an offense that should have gotten him ejected from the game immediately, and earned a six-figure fine from the league. Instead, he was granted a free time out by the officials. He admitted -- he boasted -- that he deliberately did it to stop the game and berate the officials. He's been know to strike officials, before, to get his way, by the way.

I'm not like that referee, or all the referees in the NFL. I would have immediately ejected him for that. If he objected, physically, to the ejection, either he'd be picking up his teeth with a broken arm, or I would be. He's a jerk that knows the referee has been trained to forgive almost any behavior on his part. A coach is not expected to teach in the school of rules anymore. That referee is a better man than I am. The referees are the only people on the field that ever show the slightest bit of aplomb.

In the game on Saturday, the rules were being applied to both teams equally, and officiated fairly and accurately. The referees actually cut the loudmouth coach extra slack, literally pointing out players on the opposition and telling his defenders,"Do not cover him."  The coach didn't care. He knew he was going to lose because he's not as good at his job as the opposing coach, and never will be. So he pitched a fit, and literally interfered in the game rather than play by the rules. When he did lose, an event that was entirely due to his inability to coach, he accused the other team of cheating. He knew it wasn't true, but thought it might be useful to him personally if he said it. He knows sportswriters don't know the rules, and don't care what they are either, and they fawn over loudmouth jerks like him rather than people that play by the rules. But then again, the NFL doesn't function like a school of rules anymore. At least not any rules useful to anyone but a thug or a gambler.

Unlike the trench coat linebacker, there wasn't any charm in it. But then again, no one calls Baltimore "Charm City" anymore, do they?

[Related, from the Rumford Meteor]


Sam L. said...

When was Balimer called "Charm City"?

News to me, but though having been around, am still a hick from the stix.

Bob D said...

Your aside made me get up and go into the other room to grab the American Heritage 2nd College Ed. from the old kid's school ref bookshelf, where it was kept with the Building 19 Collier's Encyclopedia, and check on the definition of arbitrary. I was much more expecting what was listed as the 2nd definition, than the first stated one. Although in defense, I had an inkling of the first.

Bob D said...

OK, that's kind of cruel.
1.: Determined by whim or impulse, not by reason or law.

But they'll miss getting caught up in skimming the essays prefacing the dictionary.B

SippicanCottage said...

Why isn't the ball round? I'd prefer a round ball. It should be smaller, my hands have trouble holding it. Why is the field 100 yards? It should be metric. It should be square. I'd prefer it if it was made of foam rubber. No, rip it out at halftime and put down chicken feathers and jacks. The players should wear beanies with propellers. They should be able to attack the opponent players families in the stands after a play. Why can't they play underwater? Dez Bryant should be able to throw the ball away before he catches it because he needs to shove his teammates away from himself and do a dinkdance in the endzone instead of winning the game by catching it on the two yard line. Why can't I have 12 guys on the field? Or 153? Why can't the coach trip people? Why can't the players drink Fribbles at the line of scrimmage? Why are the lines white? Why are there lines? The clock should totally run backwards and forwards, depending on the color of a mood ring worn by Chris Collinsworth at the time. We should decide where to spot the ball on disputed plays based entirely on Facebook likes. Why can't the tight end ride a donkey? Why can't Wes Welker wear a Trilby instead of a helmet, and drink rohypnol cocktails instead of gatorade? Why can't a three hundred pound man stomp on a prone opponent and still play next week?

My bad, they fixed that one.

Anyway, all those rules seem arbitrary. We should all vote on the rules all the time to decide things. The coach should totally be able to run onto the field and say a first down should be 1/10 of a hogshead of millimeters, divided by the amount of D's in the tallest cheerleader's left bra cup. I volunteer to handle the first down marker, by the way.

Bilejones said...

Why do they wear uniforms designed by Tom of Finland on a frisky day?

chasmatic said...

Sipp, all of this to let us know you don't like football?

What's up with that?

H. Gillham said...

I like.

For no real good reason except you wrote it, and you make me laugh.