To Think, Sports Was Once Considered an Educational Experience …


Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, January 6, 2019, 4:45 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

An alarmingly large array of life’s experiences are stupid, but that’s too broad a topic for a blog being written while watching NFL playoff games.

Sports is also too broad a topic, and this isn’t going to be comprehensive. It’s going to be limited to what occurs to me while watching NFL playoff games.


Rules vary too much. Sometimes I write about a high school football game on Friday and a college game on Saturday, and then I watch a pro game on TV on Sunday. It’s confusing for no good reason.


“No, it’s not.”
“Why not?”

“In college, you can’t advance that ball. You can in the pros.”


“What about high school?”

“Uh, I don’t know.”

Some differences make sense, but the majority do not.

Why must there be a difference between how interference calls are assessed? Why must there be a difference between a running play that “crosses the plane” and a passing play, where the receiver must maintain control when he falls to the ground, even though he had possession, albeit briefly, when he caught the ball? Why is there a two-minute warning? That goes back to a time when there wasn’t a scoreboard, and time was kept by the referee. That time has passed.


Why, in soccer, is there a scoreboard with a clock, and yet the game ends when the referee, who has allegedly been paying attention to all the time not adequately measured in front of everyone by means of said clock, decides it does?

Why is it one foot in bounds in high school and college and two in the pros? Is it because pros are more skilled? If so, they’d be even more skilled if they’d had to get two feet down in middle school.

The stupidity starts before the game even starts. A coin flip is a random event, but, for some reason, it’s too complicated for the captain of the football team to get right, so a team can “defer” to the second half. I don’t think the game is made any better by having an option to “defer,” thus postponing any decision to the second half, where it is elementary, my dear (Deshaun) Watson.


It’s embarrassing that a grown man has to pay an even more grown man to yank him back to the sideline every time the more prominent grown man gets emotional. It’s embarrassing for state troopers to play Secret Service for head coaches of football teams. One day, if Holly Rowe asks a tough question, a trooper is going to haul her off to jail.

Almost every receiver and every player trying to cover him interferes on every play. The official has to determine how much is too much and which player did the most of it. “Son, I’m sorry, but you can’t play for us here at Soda Pop Tech. You don’t know how to interfere.”

For years I’ve heard it said that the referees could call holding on every play, but, in fact, they only call it on a quarter of them. Forty years ago, offensive linemen were allowed to use their hands in order to reduce holding penalties. Since that rule was changed, holding has at least doubled.


Yet too many rules are made to make the games easier to officiate. That’s why the only jump ball in basketball is at the beginning. Jump balls are fun to watch. The obvious reason jump balls aren’t held is so referees don’t have to throw the ball straight up.

In baseball, a player with a bat in his hand is a batter, unless he’s hit by a pitch, at which point he becomes a “batsman,” which seems to me a ridiculously archaic use of the language. He ought to be a hit batter, for gosh sakes.

“Hey, batter, batter, batter, suh-wing, batter!”

“Hey, batsman, batsman, batsman, get hit, batsman!”

Sports events have too much dead time. The officials started huddling and the offenses stopped. Between reviews, huddles and TV (or, if there is no TV, “media”) timeouts, it’s a wonder the athletes don’t start smoking again. There’s plenty of time to catch their breaths …

If they must have “media timeouts,” hey, let me have one. “Hey, ref, how about a timeout? I’ve fallen behind on my stats.” Everybody gets a “media timeout” except the media. And a 30-second timeout always takes more than 30 seconds.

“Hey, the games are too long!”

Wonder why?

I just looked up at the Eagles-Vikings game. Here’s what I just heard.

“Since the rule change this year, that third step makes it a legal catch.”

In a game played between professional football players making millions of dollars, they just had a fumble no one bothered to recover. So, naturally, it became an incomplete pass. Why?

Because it’s stupid. That’s why. I could go on, but this is a good place to stop.


The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

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(Steven Novak cover)


The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.


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