Old Rules in the Evolution of Sports

Sports have been with us for a very long time either to play or to watch. And like most games, sports come with an object as well as a set of rules to follow in order to obtain it. However, we sometimes have a tendency sports for granted thinking that the game has been played this way. But you would be wrong since sport rules just didn’t come out in the open. Rather they had to be develop over time.  In sports rules are meant to be broken. So much that they’re constantly revised to improve quality of play and participant safety, which are both important. I mean sports need to be fair and fun. And participants need to be safe or else the franchise or school can run the risk of being sued. So for your pleasure, I present to you old sports rules for favorite American games to show how they used to be played but with commentary for further comedic effect. This excludes sports that contain racing, targets, or judging.

Baseball

In the 19th century, baseball was a gentlemen's game and a great American pastime. It was a time when pitchers can only throw underhand, balls can be caught on the bounce, a pitcher can cover a ball in his own saliva, batters can cite pitch preference, and umpires could confer with the players and fans. Even earlier, there were no strikes, teams played to a 21 score, and bases were run clockwise. Yes, it was a hell of a game in those days.

In the 19th century, baseball was a gentlemen’s game and a great American pastime. It was a time when pitchers can only throw underhand, balls can be caught on the bounce, a pitcher can cover a ball in his own saliva, batters can cite pitch preference, and umpires could confer with the players and fans. Even earlier, there were no strikes, teams played to a 21 score, and bases were run clockwise. Yes, it was a hell of a game in those days.

Until the 1920s, pitchers could coat the ball with anything at their disposal, including spit, mucus, and petroleum jelly. (Perhaps we should give germaphobic baseball players more respect, especially germaphobic pitchers. Seriously, disgusting.)

Of course, pitchers needed all the help they could get. Until 1883, they were required to throw underhand as if tossing a horseshoe as well as keep both firmly planted on the ground during their delivery. They were also prohibited from stepping toward the plate. (Gives you an idea of how much it sucked being a pitcher those days.)

Batters could call high or low pitch between 1867-1887. This helps explain some of the unusually high batting averages during that era. (Then again, I’m sure the players were less likely to be busted for steroid use.)

Called strikes didn’t exist until 1858. Before then batters stayed at the plate until they put the ball in play, regardless of whether it took one pitch or a hundred. A new rule change in 1879 declared that 9 balls made a walk. This rule was changed several more times until 1889, when it was reduced to the now-standard 4 balls. (If it weren’t for strikes, balls, or fouls, baseball games might’ve lasted for days.)

In the 19th century, if an umpire can’t see whether a catch was fairly made, he could confer it with the spectators and the players. (Seriously, why confer with the fans or players? That doesn’t make any sense. Most of the fans would root for the home team. Besides, if this was a case the Pittsburgh Pirates wouldn’t have 20 consecutive losing seasons already.)

Fly balls can be caught off on a bounce until 1864, and foul balls until 1883. (Kind of sounds like something your mom used to do when your 6-year old nephew wanted to join the big kids’ kickball game.)

From 1885 to 1893, baseball bats were allowed to be flat. But it would be revoked since they have a tendency to splinter into pieces upon baseball contact. (Flat bats in baseball? Seriously, this isn’t cricket. Next thing, it’ll be just making up rules as you go along. Besides, think of all the splinter injuries among batters.)

Rather than crouching, catchers would stand a few feet behind home plate until the 1900s. (Wonder how that worked out. Guess this led to many catchers getting head injuries.)

Before a baseball game consisted of 9 innings from 1857 on, it wasn’t unusual for a baseball game to last until one team scored a predetermined number of runs, which was usually 21. (Now that’s crazy. I mean most winning teams don’t score that high in a baseball game for God’s sake.)

In the early days, whenever a ball was hit in the long grass or bushes, play was suspended until the ball was recovered with both teams fanning out to find it. (Man, imagine the delays you’d have at these games.)

In the mid-19th century, a baserunner could be put out between bases by having the ball thrown directly at them. This was known as “patching,” “plugging,” or “soaking” was considered central to the manly spirit of the game. (And you think football has a problem with concussions.)

In the earliest days of baseball, bases were commonly run clockwise with today’s third being first. In some variations, the first hitting batsman could chose to either run clockwise or counterclockwise and the subsequent hitters in an inning would have to follow suit. (“Hey, Rodriguez, you’re running the wrong way! First base is on the right side of home plate this inning!” Man, really hate to be those players at the time.)

Golf

In the olden days, golf seemed to have rules that applied to just about anything. They had rules applied to whenever the ball landed in poop or was carried by a dog. They had rules pertaining to striking caddies. They even had rules applying to when it as appropriate for players to steal each other's balls. Yes, golf rules could be very specific at times.

In the olden days, golf seemed to have rules that applied to just about anything. They had rules applied to whenever the ball landed in poop or was carried by a dog. They had rules pertaining to striking caddies. They even had rules applying to when it as appropriate for players to steal each other’s balls. Yes, golf rules could be very specific at times.

When one player’s ball blocked the path of another player’s ball on the green but was at least 6 inches away, the obstructing player’s ball wasn’t lifted. Instead, the player who was farthest away from the hole had to curve or chip their putt around their opponent’s ball. The “stymie rule” as it became known, was officially abolished in 1952, when the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews established a new joint set of rules. (Both organizations must’ve believed that the “stymie rule” was lame or inspired a lot of bad behavior among golfers. Not that curving or chipping an opponent’s putt is very exciting.)

Golf courses haven’t always had a standard number of holes. That changed in 1764 when the Royal and Ancient Golf Club converted from 22 holes to 18 holes because the club thought the first 4 holes were too short. (So that’s how the 18 holes started. Seems like a pretty lame reason.)

Golf holes used to come in many sizes. That changed in 1891 when the Royal and Ancient Golf Club determined that the hole should have exactly a 4.25 inch diameter. The precise size was chosen in order to comply with a popular Scottish hole cutter invented 62 years earlier. (Seriously, if you wanted to standardize the size of the golf hole due to a popular Scottish hole cutting invention from 62 years ago, shouldn’t you’ve done it earlier?)

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club introduced stroke play in 1759 which granted victory to the player with the fewest strokes over a set number of holes. Before it was match play, whereby each hole was treated as a separate competition and the player who won the most holes, won the match. (Match play golf seems like fun. Then again, it’s probably as boring as hell, too.)

In 1744, players were required to tee the ball if it was within a club’s length of the hole. (Why couldn’t they just hit the ball with the club like most golfers do? Makes better sense.)

From 1908-1984 was a rule on dropped balls out of bounds or into the water which says: “A ball shall be dropped in the following manner: The player himself shall drop it. He shall face the hole, stand erect, and drop the ball behind him over his shoulder.” Today golfers now have to stand erect and drop the ball at an arm’s length. (And if you’re Tiger Woods, you better keep your man balls in your pants. Seriously, the shoulder rule is stupid.)

In 1828, a player was allowed to hijack an opponent’s ball should it land in a hazard like sand, mud, or rubbish. (“Seems like Tiger Woods has stolen his opponent’s ball in the sand trap again. Man, why can’t Tiger just play with his own balls?”)

In 1812, if a player’s ball struck his opponent or his caddy, his opponent lost the hole. But if a player’s ball struck his own caddy, then the player lost the hole. (Man, do I yearn for the days of 1812 when golf had the potential of becoming a contact sport. Would’ve made the game a lot more interesting and entertaining.)

In 1776, a player could pick a ball out of a fresh pile of excrement and play it on a one stroke penalty. (Guess they had a lot of livestock at the country club and no fence. Didn’t know golf rules applied to balls landing in shit.)

In 1773, a player could pay a fine for giving an old ball to his caddy. (Guess 18th century golfers didn’t like helping their caddies. Jerks. They were also paid pretty shitty, too.)

In 1956-2008, players weren’t allowed to remove a ball for identification purposes. (Yes, this is stupid. Seriously, you can pick up a ball if it lands in shit but you can’t lift it to see if it’s yours? Makes no sense.)

In 1783, whenever a dog carried or hijacked a ball in play, the player was allowed to use another as long as it lay as near to the original spot. (Seems like 18th century golf courses had a lot of stray dogs running around.)

Before the 14 club rule of 1939, a golfer could use as many clubs in a round as he wanted. (Boy, I’d sure hate to be a caddy before 1939.)

From 1744-1952, players had to play a whole round with one ball unless lot, even if it’s badly damaged. (Now that sucks especially if it’s covered in shit.)

Between 1744-1952, when a ball was within 20 yards of the hole, the flag stick had to be removed. (Golfers with poor eyesight were at a real disadvantage there.)

Tennis

Ah, tennis a genteel sport before the advent of Jon McEnroe and Serena Williams. However, early tennis was indoors with people passing a wooden ball with their hands over a 5ft high net.

Ah, tennis a genteel sport before the advent of Jon McEnroe and Serena Williams. However, early tennis was indoors with people passing a wooden ball with their hands over a 5ft high net.

During tennis’s infancy, the game mostly took place indoors, where the ball was played off the walls with the player’s hands. As the game progressed, some players started using gloves with webbing to protect their hands before eventually upgrading to a primitive form of today’s tennis racket. (To me, if it’s not two people hitting the ball over the net with rackets, it’s not tennis. Otherwise it’s a form of handball. Also, webbed gloves, really?)

The first indoor tennis courts had nets rising to 5 feet high at the ends and drooped to 3 ½ feet in the middle. (You might as well think of indoor tennis as another game of two player of scaled-down volleyball.)

Tiebreakers weren’t introduced until 1970. They occur when games are deadlocked at a score 6-6. (Man, wonder how they determined winners at Wimbledon until then.)

According to a Victorian rulebook, tennis was a game made for 3. (3 players? Seriously, that doesn’t even make sense! Even 8 person tennis is more plausible than this!)

Some early tennis balls were made of wood and barely bounced at all. (Of course, I’m sure wooden ball tennis resulted in a lot of injuries. No wonder early tennis players wore gloves to protect their hands.)

 Soccer

Though better known as football to much of the known world, soccer is very popular sport worldwide. However,  in early soccer, tripping, shin kicking, and carrying the ball were all permitted. But cleats weren't.

Though better known as football to much of the known world, soccer is very popular sport worldwide. However, in early soccer, tripping, shin kicking, and carrying the ball were all permitted. But cleats weren’t.

Tripping, shin kicking, and even carrying the ball were all permitted. Following an implementation of a new set of rules in 1863, these practices were forbidden. (I can understand carrying the ball. However, I guess the tripping and shin kicking led to a lot of soccer fights among players.)

Prior to Charles Goodyear’s invention of vulcanized rubber in 1836, soccer players kicked around “balls” made from human and animal skulls, stitched-up cloth, and inflated pig and cow bladders. (Wait a minute, pig bladders were used in football as well. Still, the skull part really doesn’t make me want to see a Pirates of the Caribbean soccer game.)

According to an early set of rules established in Sheffield, England, in 1857, the ball could be caught off another player’s pass, provided it had not touched the ground. A free kick then ensued. (So in Sheffield soccer, pass interference was perfectly permissible.)

In 1858, players were allowed to catch the ball provided that it hadn’t touched the ground or had been thrown from the touchline. (I’m not very familiar with soccer. However, I’m sure this rule doesn’t make much sense.)

Cleats were once banned. According to a set of 14 rules established by the English Football Association in 1863, “No player shall be allowed to wear projecting nails, iron plates, or gutta percha on the soles or heels of his boots.” (Sounds like something you hear from Monty Python.)

A 1863 Cambridge rule reads, “The maximum length of the ground shall be 200 yards, the maximum breadth shall be 100 yards, the length and breadth shall be marked off with flags; and the goals shall be defined by two upright posts, 8 yards apart, without any tape or bar across them.” (Wait a minute? Since when were the biggest soccer fields bigger than modern football fields in the US? Also, two posts 8 yards apart doesn’t make goal posts stand out. I mean they use nets for soccer goals for a reason.)

In the early days of soccer, players were allowed to punch the ball. (I’m sure this is really not a good idea.)

A 1858 Sheffield rule states that a ball might be hit or pushed with the hand. But they couldn’t hold the ball except in free kicks. (In soccer, there’s a reason why the goalie is the only person to use their hands. Also, holding a ball for a kick is what we call, “punting” in US football.)

According to the 1858 Sheffield rules, “Pushing with the hands is allowed but no hacking or tripping up is fair under any circumstances whatever.” (Something tells me that Victorian soccer players seemed rather prone to violence. Wonder what the fans were like then.)

An 1871 rule states that no player should score a goal with a free kick. (Now that’s just stupid.)

An 1856 Cambridge rule states: “When a player catches the ball directly from the foot, he may kick it as he can without running with it. In no other case may the ball be touched with the hands, except to stop it.” (Uh, isn’t the whole idea about soccer kicking and running after the ball? Also, what’s with stopping the ball with your hands? Only the goalie is allowed to do that.)

An 1863 Cambridge rule reads, “A goal shall be won when the ball passes between the goal-posts or over the space between the goal-posts (at whatever height), not being thrown, knocked on, or carried.” (Hate to say this, but I kind of get the impression that soccer goal posts might’ve resembled field goal posts in the old days.)

Basketball

Invented by James Naismith, basketball is one of the quintessential American sports. However, in the olden days, there was no dribbling, players were out due to substitutions or fouling twice, coaches couldn't address their players, and the court was covered in a cage.

Invented by James Naismith, basketball is one of the quintessential American sports. However, in the olden days, there was no dribbling, players were out due to substitutions or fouling twice, coaches couldn’t address their players, and boundaries weren’t clearly defined that teams and players resorted to all kinds of antics when the ball was out of bounds.

Between 1900-1921, players who were substituted weren’t allowed to reenter the game. In fact, it wasn’t until 1934 that players were allowed to reenter the game more than once after coming out with a breather. Unlimited substitutions were finally allowed by teams in 1945. (I can see it now. “Sorry, Lebron James, but you can’t get back in the game after taking a pee break during commercial. You know the rules.”)

One of Dr. James Naismith’s original rules was: “The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands, but never with the fist.” (Seems like his vision of basketball sort of had a volleyball feel. But most NBA players usually fist bump each other off the court, not the ball in play on.)

Coaches were prohibited from addressing their players during the game until 1949, when they were allowed to speak to them only during timeouts. (Wonder how many teams lost games because they couldn’t consult with the coach. Seriously, that’s stupid.)

In Dr. Naismith’s game, the ball should be held by the hands, not the arms or any other body parts. (Boy would he be appalled by how modern NBA players hold the ball under their arm to slow down the pace, keep rebounds away, and other reasons.)

Another Naismith original rule read, “A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man running at good speed.” (So no running with the ball, then? Does this mean that players can’t dribble? Because that’s how most basketball players today run with the ball. It makes better sense that way.)

Until 1911, players were disqualified from the game after collecting their second foul. The rule has since been amended to 5 fouls in high school and college and 6 fouls at NBA games. (“Second foul, Michael Jordan? Confined to bench!”)

Under Dr. Naismith’s rules, “No shouldering, holding, pushing, striking or tripping in any way of an opponent. The first infringement of this rule by any person shall count as a foul; the second shall disqualify him until the next goal is made or, if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game. No substitution shall be allowed.” (Now I’ve went through the two fouls. And I understand the fighting aspect of it. However, what’s with the no substitution thing? Does this mean that one jerk getting kicked out for misbehavior results in having less than 5 players on the court? What if the whole team does stuff like this? Is that even fair?)

Time restrictions on ball possession weren’t introduced until 1933. Until then, one team could legally hold onto the ball for the duration of the entire game after building a comfortable lead. (Man, that doesn’t seem fair at all. Wonder if this rule resulted into fights on the court.)

Hard to believe but dribbling wasn’t originally part of basketball. In fact, continuously pounding the ball into the hardwood didn’t come into vogue until 1909, when players were allowed to take more than one bounce before being required to shoot or pass. (Seriously, basketball is built on dribbling. That’s the point. Where the hell would basketball be without dribbling?)

Until 1938, players and fans alike had to endure a jump ball at half-court after every made field goal. The rule was eventually abolished because it slowed the pace of play. (Yeah, I can see why they changed that. Kind of like kick off but not very practical in a basketball setting. Wonder how many false starts they got out of it.)

Under Naismith a ball out of bounds goes to the first person touching it unless he holds it for over 5 seconds. However, these boundaries weren’t defined with most cases being just walls. It wasn’t until 1904, that the boundaries became straight lines. However, the original rule has led to pushing, shoving, elbowing, desperate dives, and total insanity. It was even worse when the ball ended up in balconies with players in mad dash to be first up the stairs creating jams and fights. This led to teams forming wedges to block opponents from going up the stairs. Sometimes they even tried hoisting players to the balcony in an effort to be the first to touch the ball first. (For some reason all this seems straight out of Space Jam for me.)

In the NBA it was illegal for teams to, “guarding an area instead of a specific offensive player, or was double teaming an offensive player away from the ball.” (Seriously, what’s the point of team sports if you can’t let multiple players do defense?)

From 1913-1933, out of bounds plays were eliminated by erecting wire mesh and chain link fencing around the entire court. This resulted in additional rough play with players body checking each other into the wire mesh. Such actions resulted in cuts, bruises, and sometimes infections. (Okay, maybe cage basketball isn’t a good idea.)

One of Dr. Naismith’s rules said: “If either side makes three consecutive fouls it shall count as a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the meantime making a foul).” (Uh, fouls are supposed to be bad. Also, 3 straight fouls = 2 free points for the other team, really?)

Another Naismith gem: “A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the basket and stays there, providing those defending the goal do no touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edges, and the opponent moves the basket, it shall count as a goal.” (Again with the soccer and volleyball jargon. Also, most basketballs don’t go through baskets and stay there, but through nets that have no bottom. Otherwise, how would you get the ball out?)

Under Dr. James Naismith, early basketball was supposed to be officiated by a referee and an umpire who “shall be the judge of the men and shall note the fouls and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have power to disqualify men.” (I’m sure the umpire-referee dynamic worked real well, which doesn’t exist anymore. Today it’s just 3 referees who mostly get shouted at and might either fix or gamble in the games they’re officiating.)

Of course, Naismith intended that referees have a lot of responsibilities during the game as he “shall be judge of the ball and shall decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, to which side it belongs, and shall keep the time.” (Apparently, he didn’t foresee how basketball has an official timekeeper at every level as well as the arbitrary determination of what humans can do in different fractions of a second. Seriously, in Pep Band I’ve seen teams call a time out when there’s a fraction of a second left on the clock.)

In the early days of women’s basketball, there could be 6 players on the court consisting of 3 forwards and 3 defenders and the court was divided in 3 zones with 2 players stationary. Later, this was reduced to 2 and the players consisted of 2 stationary guards, 2 stationary forwards, and 2 rovers that could move throughout the entire court. (Yes, there separate rules for women’s basketball. I know that’s crazy.)

Ice Hockey

Ice hockey evolved from field hockey and has become Canada's national pastime. However, early ice hockey used to have 7 players on the rink, banned goalies from dropping to the ice, and consisted of 2 30 minute periods.

Ice hockey evolved from field hockey and has become Canada’s national pastime. However, early ice hockey used to have 7 players on the rink, banned goalies from dropping to the ice, and consisted of 2 30 minute periods.

Forward passing wasn’t allowed until the 1929-1930 season. Until then, a player can move the puck forward only by handling it with his stick. (You mean they just don’t use their sticks in hockey?)

An 1899 rule of hockey once stated: “Any player guilty of using profane or abusive language to any officials or other players shall be liable to be ruled off by the referee.” (Sidney Crosby may be a great hockey player of many talents, but restraining profanities during a game is not one of them.)

Before we had periods, most players played until the winning team reached a predetermined score like 10, 15, 20. (Most hockey teams score less that in any given game.)

Ice hockey borrowed many of its rules from field hockey, including the use of “bully” requiring opposing centers to bang their sticks together 3 times before trying to control the face-off. That fell out of vogue in 1913 when the modern face-off was introduced. (Yeah, banging 3 sticks before play is kind of lame.)

Each team was allowed to play 7 men at a time from 1880 until the 1911-1912 season. This included the goalie, 2 defensemen, 3 forwards, and a rover who switched from defense to offense as needed. (I wonder who would be the rover for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Uh, never mind.)

Goaltenders were not allowed to drop to the ice when making saves and could, drop to the ice when and could, in fact, be penalized for doing so. This rule was eventually changed prior to the 1917-1918 season. (“Marc Andre Fleury drops to the ice again. Guess it’s time for him to go to the bad boy box for the third time in a row.”)

The game used to be structured quite differently, too. The 1910-1911 season saw hockey change from 2 30-minute periods to 3 20-minute periods-a format we have today. (Still, wonder why an average hockey game lasts over 2 hours. Then again, time outs and commercials add up.)

Football

Football has become one of America's most popular sports. However, while it has never been a genteel sport, it was way more violent and injury inducing in the 19th century. Seriously, early football had 20 guys to a field and they were encouraged to score touchdowns through any means necessary.

Football has become one of America’s most popular sports which evolved from rugby and soccer. However, while it has never been a genteel sport, it was way more violent and injury inducing in the 19th century. Seriously, early football had 20 guys to a field and they were encouraged to score touchdowns through any means necessary.

Football teams were originally allowed to take the field with 20 players per side. In 1880, that number was reduced to 11 thanks to the sweeping changes championed by Yale graduate Walter Camp. (40 players on a field? Yeah, that’s going to cause a lot of safety issues.)

Another change introduced by Camp in 1880 was reducing the field size by half to 110 yards. In 1911, it was changed to its current length of 100 yards. (Which is good because imagine how the stadiums would be if football fields were 220 yards. Yeah, gaining touchdowns would take a lot out of you.)

Gaining first downs used to be a lot easier. From 1882-1906, players were given 3 attempts to advance the ball 5 yards for a first down. Distance was later changed to 10 yards and a fourth down was added in 1912. (5 yards for a first down? Then again, they were playing on a 110 yard field at the time.)

Forward passing wasn’t legal until 1905. The innovation was introduced after 18 players were killed and 159 were seriously injured on the football fields across America earlier that year. (And they said that football players getting concussions was a big problem. Imagine what problems the NFL would’ve had in 1905.)

Football has never been a genteel sport, but it was especially brutal in the 19th century, when players were encouraged to score touchdowns through any means necessary. Punching, eye-gouging, and tackling around the neck were all legal. (If we played football by these rules today, imagine how many players would end up in the emergency room. Yeah, be thankful that they don’t have vintage football like they do vintage baseball.)

Until the 1980s, the NFL had a strange policy on helmets stating, “A player who uses a helmet he is not wearing as a weapon shall be ejected.” (Since how can a football helmet be used as a weapon? Seriously, I don’t get it.)

Volleyball

Volleyball is a rather popular sport all over the world. It was invented by a YMCA coach named William G. Morgan and  not too far from where basketball was born. Of course, under his rules, games consisted of 9 innings as well as 3 serves by each team. And if the first was out of bounds the server had a second try.

Volleyball is a rather popular sport all over the world. It was invented by a YMCA coach named William G. Morgan and not too far from where basketball was born. Of course, under his rules, games consisted of 9 innings as well as 3 serves by each team. And if the first was out of bounds the server had a second try.

Early volleyball could have any number of players on a team, 9 innings, and each team being granted 3 serves within each inning. There was also no limit to the number of ball contacts for each team before sending the ball into the opponent’s court. Later the number of players was reduced to 6 maximum, number of ball contacts to 3, and the inning system ditched for a predetermined score or winner of a set of games. (Yeah, volleyball isn’t like baseball and the inning system is too long.)

Under the original William G. Morgan rules, a volleyball net was supposed to be about 6 1/2 feet high and a court of 25 feet wide and 50 feet long. (Modern courts are much bigger like 59 x 29 1/2 ft. Besides, while high school or recreational volleyball players might find 6 1/2 feet high nets sufficient for play, this wouldn’t be the case for college and pro teams of either gender. Seriously, men’s volleyball nets are 8 ft high while women’s are 7 ft and 4 inches. And there are plenty high school girls who would never have a chance playing Div. I volleyball because they didn’t win the genetic lottery on height requirements.)

Under Morgan’s original rules, if a served ball was out of bounds a second serve was allowed. (Boy, I would’ve loved to be permitted a second serve in gym class. Of course, I’d probably mess it up, too.)

In early volleyball, players could continuously “air dribble” the ball to a restraining line 4 feet from the net. (Is it just me or does a dribbling line not make any sense?)

Olympic Wrestling

Now the wrestling I'm talking about here is Olympic wrestling that you've seen in Foxcatcher. Now this form was inspired by a couple contact sports in Ancient Greece. Both had men compete in the nude and both were rather violent as hell. One form's only two rules were against gouging eyes or biting.

Now the wrestling I’m talking about here is Olympic wrestling that you’ve seen in Foxcatcher. Now this form was inspired by a couple contact sports in Ancient Greece. Both had men compete in the nude and both were rather violent as hell. One form’s only two rules were against gouging eyes or biting.

In Ancient Greece, the Pale wrestling matches had players scored points when his opponent touched the ground with his back, hip, shoulder, or tapped out due to a submission-hold or was forced out of the wrestling-area. First to score 3 points wins. (And you thought a wrestler had to win by pinning down his opponent.)

One of the Ancient Greek Pale wrestling rules listed: “It is at the discretion of the referee whether or not twisting the fingers with the intention of forcing the opponent to concede defeat is permitted.” (So the legality of finger twisting is determined by the ref’s discretion. Not sure how I feel about this.)

Another form of Ancient Greek wrestling was Pankration which was more freestyle and only had prohibitions against gouging eyes or biting. Note that most Ancient Greek Olympians were men who competed in the nude. (So remember that gouging eyes and biting were forbidden. But punching teeth out and groin attacks were perfectly fine.Let’s just say, it’s way more brutal and violent than MMA, UFC, or the cage fighting stuff.)

In Ancient Greece, wrestling competitions there were no time limits or weight classes. Competitions were designated by age group, particularly men and boys (who were usually 17-20 years old). (You mean they let teenage boys do this? Seriously, that’s messed up.)

Boxing

Boxing is one of the oldest sports that has been around since ancient times. It's also one of the most violent. Old timey boxing matches were more like street fights and often bare knuckled. In Ancient Rome, it wasn't unusual to see two boxers fight to the death.

Boxing is one of the oldest sports that has been around since ancient times. It’s also one of the most violent. Old timey boxing matches were more like street fights and often bare knuckled. In Ancient Rome, it wasn’t unusual to see two boxers fight to the death.

Fights were often contested bared-knuckled from 1681-the late 19th century. According to the London Prize Ring Rules in 1838, spiked shoes were also allowed within limits. (Bare knuckles and shoe spikes, not very good safety practices.)

In Ancient Rome, boxers would often wear leather thongs on their fists which would later became a harder leather weapon containing metal studs. Later they had their leather wraps armored with a special copper and iron rings. (In modern day boxing, metal on arms is really illegal.)

In addition to fist fighting, early modern boxing matches also contained fencing and cudgeling. (Uh, I thought boxing didn’t contain weapons. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be boxing, right?)

In early Roman boxing, participants were slaves often fought to the death at the Roman Amphitheaters to please the spectators. Later trained combat performers soon became a valuable commodity and their lives weren’t given up without due consideration. (So I guess Roman boxing wasn’t less gory than their gladiator games. Then again, it was abolished in Rome in 393 AD due to excessive brutality.)

Until the mid 18th century, it wasn’t prohibited to attack an opponent even after he fell to the ground. (Dude, how can this be even cool?)

In Ancient Greece, there were no weight classes, rounds, or time limits. And opponents were selected by chance while fights lasted until one player was unable to fight. (So how is that fair? I mean pair a skinny guy with a more muscular man and there’s not much competition. Of course, in early boxing short and/or skinny guys usually got beaten.)

The first modern boxing rules were introduced by champion Jack Broughton in 1743 to protect fighters in the ring where deaths sometimes occurred. (You mean this was getting people killed?)

An early article on in 1713 described boxing as a system of headbutting, punching, eye-gouging, chokes, and hard throws. (Of course, anyone injured couldn’t expect decent medical care due to living in the 18th century. Also seem to resemble street fights more than actual boxing.)

In the 18th and 19th centuries, when a fighter went down, he had a count of 30 seconds to recover. (Modern boxers only have 10. Then again, the 30 second rule makes getting up all too easy.)

Lacrosse

Lacrosse is one of the few popular sports today with origins in Pre-Columbian America. However, it was mostly played between tribes on an open field with as many as hundreds of young men on a team. And now it's played by many high school girls.

Lacrosse is one of the few popular sports today with origins in Pre-Columbian America. However, it was mostly played between tribes on an open field with as many as hundreds of young men on a team. And now it’s played by many high school girls.

In 1868, when a player was fouled in a game, he was required to report to the captain who reported to the umpire. The umpire thus warned the offending player on the. Persistent complaining on fouling resulted the offending player being ejected from the game an the match lost. (So it was the players who were supposed to report fouls to the officials. Yeah, I can see that working well.)

In Pre-Columbian America, lacrosse teams could consist of as many as 100 to 1,000 young men and the goals can be up as far as 500 yards to 6 miles on an open plain. Games could last from 2-3 days with play being from dawn to dusk. Some tribes even had goal posts 6-9 ft apart. And they used a ball of wood or deerskin stuffed with hair. (Man, this is like lacrosse on steroids. Now that’s crazy. Also, I’m sure hundreds of guys swarming after a ball can result in a lot of injuries.)

Water Polo

Water polo is often played in pools everywhere in the western world. However, early water polo was more like water football in which  players would try to carry a small ball to the pool edge. It was often said to erupt in fights with at least one player floating unconscious by the end of the game.

Water polo is often played in pools everywhere in the western world. However, early water polo was more like water football in which players would try to carry a small ball to the pool edge. It was often said to erupt in fights with at least one player floating unconscious by the end of the game.

At one point, water polo balls were made of leather which absorbed water and became heavier during the game. (Leather may be good for a lot of sports. But water polo isn’t one of them.)

Whenever a player came too near a goal, a goalie on the pool deck would often jump on him. (Now that’s something anyone wouldn’t expect.)

The earliest games were played with a small rubber ball often imported from India. This was later changed to a leather soccer ball or one of a pig’s stomach because players used to put the small ball in their swimming trunks and swim underwater towards the goal. Once there, the player would remove the ball and slam it onto the pool deck. (Hey, isn’t that cheating? Yeah, I think that’s cheating.)

Early games were more like water football or rugby and often nothing more than water gang fights as players ignored the ball, preferring underwater wrestling matches usually ending with one man floating to the surface unconscious. (So, kids, remember not to go to the pool when they’re playing water polo. I’m sure you don’t want a water sport be as much like hockey as possible.)

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One response to “Old Rules in the Evolution of Sports

  1. I never thought about the origins of these sports. Pretty interesting to see how the rules evolved. They are still tweeking things- especially in football. There were new rules this season.

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