Arbitrary Rules, Lady Catherine

I’m still quite sore from a Saturday morning game of touch football played with some friends and coworkers. I’m not the most limber person in the world, and when I’m out of shape and do a lot of running my hamstrings become tighter than the discourse of the Joseph Novella.

Nevertheless, I enjoy football. I think I have the body for it–6’3", about 225 lbs., not as much muscle as there could be, though. As a homeschool student, I never got the change to play high-school sports like Tim Tebow did. Sometimes I feel about sports the way Lady Catherine de Bourgh felt about music:

"There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient."

I was thinking about the various aspects of athletic competitions and games that make them fun. Some sports are contests in a single area of strength (track and field). Others are individual games (tennis, golf, racing). Within the genre of team sports, some are relatively simple and elegant with few "arbitrary" rules, such as soccer and hockey. These games are relatively simple: get the ball/puck in the net, and don’t hurt each other (too badly).

Football and baseball have so many rules. I like these sports most because they require learning context and history to understand. Why does an incomplete pass or a run out of bounds stop the clock, but a tackle in bounds does not? Because in the early days of football they may have only had one or two game balls, and countless minutes of game time was wasted trying to find errant passes that went into the crowd. Who thought up the infield fly rule? Why does the second baseman not have to touch second base when turning a double play? Rules have stories, and stories are fun.

About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, transplanted to Pennsylvania...lived and taught in Eastern Europe for six years…Old Testament professor, ordained minister, occasional liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth.
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