Weird professional sports rules

Today I want to cover two of my favorite odd rules in professional sports. One from the NBA, and one from the NFL.

First, let’s take a ride back to April 2010. This was Steph Curry’s rookie year, and the Warriors were trash. They won only 26 games. They were bad to start out with, and then caught the injury bug. By the time they reached the end of the season, they had only 6 healthy players. Their last game of the year was against the Portland Trailblazers and ended up being a showcase for this incredible rule.

The Warriors had 5 healthy, legitimate NBA players: Steph Curry, Monte Ellis, Anthony Tolliver, Reggie Williams, and Chris Hunter. To play the game, the NBA rules require that they have 8 players suited up. Don Nelson pulls up Devean George from the D-League and has two injured players, Ronny Turiaf and Anthony Morrow, throw on a jersey and kick it on the bench. Gameplan was: all 5 starters play all 48 minutes. This went perfectly according to plan for about 5 minutes, until Chris Hunter got hurt. No worries, they’ll bring in the D-Leaguer. This lasts for another 39 minutes, until the D-Leaguer fouls out with under 5 minutes. At this point, the Warriors are actually beating the 6th place Blazers. What now?

Coach Don Nelson knows the rule, so he tells the ref that they are going to invoke rule 3, Section I a:

“If a player in the game receives his sixth personal foul and all substitutes have already been disqualified, said player shall remain in and shall be charged with a personal and team foul. A technical foul also shall be assessed against his team. All subsequent personal fouls, including offensive fouls, shall be treated similarly. All players who have six or more personal fouls and remain in the game shall be treated similarly.”

So Don (or as the Warriors fans that existed pre-dynasty liked to call him, Nellie) wants to keep George in the game and take the technical. The refs are not having it, saying that Hunter, the guy that got hurt 5 minutes in, is still eligible. After a good amount of arguing and booing from the Portland faithful, Coach Nellie puts Chris Hunter back in. Hunter is very clearly hurt but plays through it. He actually recorded a blocked shot before attempting to take a charge, getting called for a blocking foul, and further injuring himself.

At this point, Hunter leaves the game (and is considered ineligible). At this point, Don Nellie pleads to put George Back in. Nope, the refs say there are still two eligible players. So Nellie puts Ronny Turiaf in. Ronny the bear goes in, fouls someone, and claims he has a new injury. This disqualifies him. Then, they put Morrow in who claims an injury on the first possession. At this point, the refs finally agree to let George back in the game. Portland shoots their free throws for the technical and the game goes on.

Somehow, the Warriors are still winning at this point with about three and a half minutes left. Rather than trying to survive the last 200 seconds, they end on a 14–6 run and win the game 122–116 (Curry and Ellis combine for 76 points).

The fact that Portland wasn’t able to run the court enough to tire them out, draw enough fouls (remember that a simple shooting foul would be 4 shots and maybe the ball, not sure how it works), or create enough easy offense given that the Warriors would be so worried about fouling brings me back to the Duke vs. UNC game when Duke had 6 healthy players. Ol’ Roy and the Tar Heels failed to get toddler ogre Marshall Plumlee out of the game despite having 4 fouls with 10 minutes left. This is also the game where Brice Johnson’s teammates seemed to forget that he was one of the best players in the country and stopped passing it to him for the last 10 minutes. Also the game that Ol’ Roy forgot how to call a timeout. If you want to relive this game, here’s a good recap:

and here’s a video of the Warriors Blazers game:

Next, my favorite NFL rule: the fair catch kick.

Basically, the rule states that any time a player fair catches any kick, the team can attempt a field goal from that yard line in the form of a kickoff. They get a holder and a 10-yard buffer between the ball and the defense. If the kicker is able to get it through the uprights, it’s worth 3 points just like a normal field goal. If it is short, it is essentially a kickoff (although it is technically its own type of kick in the NFL’s eyes).

Why would a team do this? The most common time is when a team punts from their own end zone with under 10 seconds remaining. The receiving team can fair catch and decide between attempting a hail Mary or attempting a fair catch kick. Unless you have this guy:

a 60 yard field goal probably has a better success rate than a hail Mary. Ironically enough, I learned about this rule when I was watching the Packers play the Lions in 2008. Here’s a video of Mason Crosby missing his 69 yarder.

It looks like this has only ever been attempted 24 times and only been successful 6 times. The last successful attempt was in 1976 by Ray Wersching of the San Diego Chargers (RIP in peace SD Chargers).

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