Do major sports have too many rules?

My wife and I were talking about this the other night. She’s a big fan of traditional/popular sports - MLB and NBA especially. I like MMA and Olympic sports more. I told her I thought the major sports had too many rules - for example you can sit in a room with a half dozen old-timers who have been watching the NFL for 40+ years and in just about any given game there seems to be an invocation of some obscure rule no one has ever heard of. My wife actually agreed with me for once so maybe there’s something to this.

I mean, what if there were no icing in hockey, or not so many moving violations in basketball? I had better examples the other night but I hope you get my point. I’d like to see what would happen in a lot of these sports if they required all the rules must fit on 1 sheet of paper instead of a whole book.

Soccer hasn’t got to many rules - and that sure is major.

Just let the referee make the call and live with his mistakes (what else would there be to talk about the week after?)

The game would devolve into one team shooting the puck into one team’s end, followed by that team shooting it back, who would shoot it back, and so on.

Rules aren’t added to major sports capriciously. Every single rule has been added to address a specific situation.

For example, in our Mafia games here, we started with a small set of rules. One of them is that you have to actively participate in the game or you’ll be replaced by someone who is willing to participate. Totally reasonable, and it’s necessary because one team depends on all players participating in order to win. But it turns out that replacing players like that make things a lot tougher on that same team, especially when the replacement happens late in the game. Fine then, we said, if the game reaches a certain point and you’re not participating, you just get killed. And then it was independently discovered in two concurrent games that there are certain cases where it’s advantageous for certain players on one of the teams to get killed – it can actually guarantee victory if the conditions are right. So now the rule is, if you get modkilled for reasons such as nonparticipation you lose, even if your team wins the game. And now Conspiracy just ended, in which there was a very real fear that the Werewolf team, which had no chance of victory left, could commit mass suicide-by-mod to steal victory from the Town team and give it to the Town team. So now the rules might have to be amended again to try and head off that kind of scenario. And in the meantime players who legitimately have to withdraw from the game due to real-life issues risk a modkill and an instant-loss.

It’s unfortunate, but keep sports and games entertaining and balanced require constant tweaking to the rules. The infield fly rule is an abomination, but it’s necessary to have such a rule to prevent the defence from taking advantage of a loophole in the rules.

As Rysto has pointed out, if there were no icing in hockey, it would just become an endless games of shooting the puck across the ice. There’d be no other logical way to play the game.

You couldn’t possibly explain baseball on one sheet of paper without having all kinds of scenarios that would not be covered by rules. Same with football. Basketball could perhaps be simplified, but not by as much as you think - again, most of the rules were put into place to prevent the exploitation of loopholes.

I think football is the worst in this respect. Why is the offense required to have a certain number of players on the line of scrimmage? Why isn’t everybody an eligible receiver?

Icing was obviously a bad example. And Ponch8, football was exactly the sport that got me thinking about this.

Hockey actually doesn’t have all that many rules, especially compared to football.

But all sports require rules, and most develop due to people trying tactics that was felt to be detrimental to the game. Things like the icing rule in hockey, the third strike foul bunt and infield fly rule in baseball, and goaltending in basketball were developed because of the need for there to be a fair contest for all participants. Sometimes the rules get complex because of the difficulty in defining the practice they want to outlaw.

I try to avoid the Olympics, but I got sucked in to watching a volleyball game and there are some weird new (ie unfamiliar to me) rules there. One guy on each team wears a different color shirt than his teammates, but I’m pretty sure he’s not the goalie. Players could only jump up to spike the ball if they took off from behind a line. I’m sure there were other weird rules but those are all I saw in the 2 minutes I watched.

Not quite.

A back-row player cannot spike unless taking off from behind the line. This prevents the back row from rushing up to the net to have five spikers ready, thus making a mockery of the requirement that there be three back-row players.

The player wearing the different shirt is the libero. Explaining this position takes a bit, so I’ll simply link Wikipedia: The Libero.

Soccer has 17 laws. Most of the laws are uncomplex. Even Law 12, fouls and misconduct, is relatively easy to understand. Law XI, now, that’s where all the arguments start… :smiley:

I’m reminded of a question asked of me when I was teaching English in China: Why do Americans like sports like baseball and football that have so many rules?

All I could think to say is that we’re essentially a litigious society, and arguing over the rules is not only thought of as a good time, it’s also the reason we have so many lawyers.

And it is not only the game that has all the rules, there are masses of rules about who is allowed on the team and when they can play: drafts, salary caps, roster limits, disabled list, bereavement list, injured reserve.

Every team sport (and many individual sports) has rules of this nature. You have to determine who is qualified to play and make sure everything is determined fairly.

I’m sure there are similar rules in soccer (who is allowed to play for a team, who qualifies to try out for international play, etc.).

The issue is simply that you’re used to the rules in certain sports and don’t notice them, but notice the rules for other sports.

I think you need to add “in America” after your first use of “sport”. I am not aware of any of the things I listed being present in soccer, or indeed any other major professional team sport, in England. That is not to say that some sports don’t have some restrictuions, and I am not aware, but it is at minimum much less than in American sports. Who can play when simply never comes up as news items. There is no draft. There do not appear to be roster limits (Arsenal, Chelsea and Man U all have different numbers of players on their rosters).

Players do get injured, of course, but they simply don’t play until their injury heals. There are no formal rules about declaring someone to be injured/disabled and rules as to when they can return.

No offense, Ravenman, but that’s a really lousy explanation. Rules are not implemented because we are litigious, they are usually implemented to prevent one side from getting an unfair advantage over the other.

You may not be aware of them, but they exist. See the rules of the Football Association (Pdf file), which run 41 pages.

There are rules on charity matches, how to sanction matches with foreign clubs (28 days notice required), football and religious observances, small-side matches, the playing season, employment of players, provisions for minor players, misconduct hearings, arbitration hearing ground rules, and much more. And this before anyone sets foot on the pitch.

In addition, the FIFA has a 138-page pdf document listing the Laws of the game. This includes 50 pages discussing the basic laws of the game and over 60 pages of interpretations of those laws.

Overall, that doesn’t seem all that different than any US sport. There are different concerns native to each sport, but still lots of rules to deal with them.

That doesn’t really match up with the history of those sports. The popularity of certain sports in the USA can be explained through an examination of their histories, and there’s no reason to believe football and baseball were specifically chosen by virtue of having complex rulebooks.

It’s worth noting most fans of both sports don’t actually KNOW all the rules - as a carded umpire in both baseballand softball I can tell you right now most people who’ve played those sports for years still don’t get the infield fly rule.

Tell me about it. I’ve lost track of how many people I’ve tried to explain it to in a game situation that it’s to protect the batting team, not that it’s “stealing an out”.

RickJay and Raygun99, if you have not already read it, I suggest you try to find a copy of

"The Common Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule,"123 U. Penn. Law Rev. 1474 (1975), for an offbeat look at that rule.

I remember a Cubs game about 10 years ago when they turned a triple play on an infield fly rule despite dropping the popup. The Giants had runners on 1st and 2nd who thought they were required to run to avoid being forced out after the drop. The batter was out automatically despite the drop, and each was tagged out.