Almost everyone has witnessed a play in a sports game that should or should not have been allowed and major backlash was seen immediately. Whether it was the banning of dunking in the NBA between 1967 to 1976 or the complete overhaul made to boxing after a tragic fatal incident, these rule changes were implemented for good reason.
Whether you knew why the rules were changed, or didn’t even know that they were changed at all, you can be the judge if they enhance or hindered the sport.
George Mikan stood at nearly seven-foot tall and people were quite shocked by his size when he made his basketball debut. If he had the ball close to the net, opposition defenses had zero chance of stopping him, making him the highest scoring player per game.
As a result of this, officials widened the lane from six to twelve feet to prevent him scoring so easily. He also played a big part in officials making goaltending illegal in basketball.
Morris Stroud got lucky and played in the NFL despite never playing college football. Despite his average playing abilities, he made his mark on the game as his coach Hank Stram used him in a specific way.
The former center was instructed to line up with the field goal posts instead of on the line of the scrimmage so he could block any balls that came close to the crossbar. Although the trick wasn’t successful, the NFL thought it was unfair to block shots like this so made it illegal.
Ed Walsh was known to be dominant in baseball due to his unbeatable spitball. While he wasn’t the first pitcher to use the trick, he perfected it to a tee and was the one who made it popular. After catching on, other pitchers in the 1910s started using vaseline to doctor the ball.
The spitball made it harder to hit and harder to see due to the discoloration and this tragically caused a death. Ray Chapman was struck in the head by a spitball as he couldn’t see it in a dark game. The practice was banned in 1920.
Shaq was known to be a beast of a basketball player. His sheer size and strength broke so many hoops when he dunked on them and even shattered backboards. The accidents caused lengthy delays in games as everything had to be put back together.
Goal posts had to be made sturdier as a result and rule makers decided to give the opposing team a free throw in case a situation like Shaq was to happen again. If a player breaks the backboard today, he is penalized with a non-unsportsmanlike conduct technical foul.
For years, Tom Dempsey held the record for longest field kick at 63 yards for an impressive 43 years. However, many questioned whether he had an unfair advantage through his specialized footwear.
Dempsey was born with no toes on his right foot so he was made special shaped footwear that were designed for him to play. While there was no concrete evidence if it gave Dempsey an advantage, league officials added a rule that kickers who wore prosthetics had to have it shaped like a normal foot.
Martin Brodeur was famously a hockey goalkeeper who rarely stayed in front of his goal. Due to his incredible skills, the league decided it wasn’t fair to let him play the puck behind the net, so Brodeur came up with an alternative.
He mastered the dump and chase whereby he would hit the puck back towards the corners and chase after it to set up plays. The move completely terrorized other teams and the league decided to rule out any goalie who handled the puck behind the net.
Coach Neilson came to realize that in hockey, penalty shots would be nearly impossible for an opposing player to score if he put a defenseman on the ice and told him to charge for the other player. When the NHL realized what was happening, they insisted that a goaltender must be used on defense during penalty shots.
In addition, Coach Nielson would pull the goalkeeper in last minute situations for an extra offensive player but told him to leave his stick in front of the net. The NHL banned this too.
Unlike many pitches, Pat Venditte could pitch the ball with either hand. Venditte could pitch perfectly to batters who only batted with one hand, but when he faced a switch hitter, it became a problem.
In this case, the game became impossible as both the batter and pitcher would continuously switch sides until the referee intervened. Since then, the pitcher has to declare which hand he is pitching with and continue for all batting. This was then known as the Venditte Rule.
Screening a goaltender is something that was always used in hockey but Sean Avery put his own spin on it. Avery would position himself in front of Martin Brodeur, waving his gloves and stick in the air to block the view.
In the whole play, he never knew where the puck was or what was going on in the game, just focused on being as annoying as possible. Eventually, it was ruled that such behavior was unsportsmanlike and would in turn receive a two-minute penalty.
Just like in hockey, there was never a specific rule that stopped base players distracting the batter in baseball. Eddie Stanky played second base and due to being in the direct eye line of the batter, would start doing jumping jacks to distract.
While there was no official rule on it, it was only when one of the opponents got riled by Stanky and proceeded to start a dugout brawl. The NYPD had to be called to stop the incident and the league outlawed the maneuver and called it The Stanky Maneuver.
In his college years playing basketball, Jabbar was so dominant in the game as he was able to dunk the ball through the hoop with complete ease. He was excelling in this until the NCAA made the dunk illegal and many believed it was to slow him down.
However, Jabbar found a way around it and developed his hook shot. This hook shot has opposition stunned and couldn’t do anything about it which made him one of the most dangerous players in the NBA.
In the 70s, you could have an infinite number of timeouts and all that it cost was a free throw for the opposing team but you could still retain possession of the ball. Paul Westphal called for a timeout when his team were down by one point and there were just seconds left on the clock.
Westphal knew that the opposition would get the free throw and they went up by two but the Suns came back to draw and the game went into triple overtime. The rule to stop this was eventually put into place as it drew the game out indefinitely.
Wilt Chamberlain mastered the dunk free throw during an exhibition match with the Kansas Jayhawks. The opposition coaches were quick to deem the tactic as cheating and unfair and the NCAA went on to establish rules against foul-shot dunks.
The majority of players were not able to achieve this feat, so it was quite obvious that Wilt was a catalyst in the rule being implemented. Also, the NCAA were fed false information claiming that the free throws were 100% accurate.
With many European sports, getting a certain number of goals or points can matter in tournaments if teams have the same number of winning points. Real Madrid coach Pedro Ferrandiz was considered crazy when he told his team to score in their basket.
The score was 80-80 and with his top three players sitting on the bench he didn’t want the game to go into overtime where they would lose by more. However, the move was considered unsportsmanlike and could be considered cheating.
Gretzsky and his team were so dominant in four on four situations so they would do extremely well on the ice when both squads had a man sent off. These scenarios created legendary games that fans couldn’t get enough of, but the NHL knew they had to do something.
They implemented a rule in 1985 the double fouls of the same nature would result in no penalties and everyone would stay put on the ice. No one was happy about the decision and at the beginning of the 1992-93 season it was reversed.
Rob Ray found his own way to obtain an advantage on the ice by wearing loose-fitting clothing and sewing pads into his clothes so they would come off easily. When the fights would start, his shirt would come off easily and opponents couldn’t grab him by the jersey.
Not only did he get an advantage in fights but also for him to swing on his opponents. The NHL then wrote in rules for all players to have their shirts on or they would get penalized.
During practice, Stan Mikita accidentally bent his stick in the doorway in a rink and from this realized that his shots were completely unpredictable to opponents. He and his teammate Bobby Hull would take slap shots from afar and the puck would end up in the back of the net.
Due to helmets not being common before the 1970s, the unpredictability of the shot became too dangerous and the NHL had to limit the curvature of the stick allowed.
Prior to a game between the Patriots and the Miami Dolphins, the pitch froze over the night before the game and a snow plow was used to clear the yard markers so play could go on.
During the game, no one was scoring because of the terrible conditions. Ron Meyer decided to use a snowplow in the middle of the game to secure a victory over the Miami Dolphins and plowed a short length of the field where the Patriots were about to kick a field goal. The league was forced to introduce a rule and ban snow plows from being used in the middle of the game.
NFL defender Lester Hayes got himself into a sticky situation when playing football. Stickum was an adhesive used by many NFL players so that it would be easier for them to catch and grip the ball. Well, Hayes took it to a new level and smothered his hands and his jersey in the adhesive to make sure the ball could not escape him.
This resulted in Hayes setting a record for most interceptions in one season. Not only would the ball stick to him, but so would wide receivers and this became a problem. The league decided it was enough and banned the adhesive.
Michael Joseph Kelly
Michael Joseph Kelly was the sole baseball player responsible for making major league baseball implement the rule that a substitution cannot be made during the middle of play. Kelly was a player and manager and when he was on the bench, a ball came flying towards him.
He started yelling that he was making a substitution and went running to catch the ball and outed the opponent. While the wording of this rule had a loophole, the out was allowed but the rules were changed at the end of the season.
When Jimmy Graham was one of the New Orleans Saints stars, he would celebrate his touchdowns by dunking the football over the crossbar. While the actual act wasn’t a problem, the fact that he had bent the crossbar on one side and the game had to be delayed while ground staff put it back in place was the problem.
As a result, the NFL wrote it into the rules that this act was considered unsportsmanlike behavior and would result in a 15 yard penalty.
The only sportsman to make the list twice is Shaq. The famed basketball player made a great impact on the game, and not only on the court. Shaq would dominate the whole court due to his size but his foul-shot ability was poor. Teams would take advantage of this and foul Shaq whenever possible, in a term coined the “Hack-a-Shaq”.
The game would also be delayed for an additional 3-4 minutes, angering both teams and fans. The NBA decided to give the fouled team a free throw and possession of the ball.
Roy Williams wasn’t as tall as the average NFL players standing at just six foot. From this, he found advantages in other ways and developed a technique known as the horse-collar tackle which allowed him to yank the players collar and sweep them off their feet in a tackle.
Williams perfected the tackle and four players suffered significant injuries in one season from him. The following season, the tackle was banned and known as the Roy Williams Rule.
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