Writing down the 'Unwritten Rules'
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist

Blue Jays manager Buck Martinez ripped Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez for walking into the Toronto clubhouse before a game last week, thereby violating baseball etiquette regarding fraternization.

Pedro is just the latest in a recent series of athletes caught disregarding sports etiquette, which is understandable, given that this etiquette, like most term papers by college basketball players, is largely unwritten. And the problem with unwritten rules is that accidentally violating them is extremely easy.

It's ridiculous. Sports has all these rules considered as sacred as the Ten Commandments. Breaking them leads to anger, insults, fights and lingering feuds. And yet they remain unwritten. But when it comes to something truly trivial, the rule is posted in letters so unmistakably large that Harry Caray could have read it without his glasses. NO PEPPER.

Dick Jauron
If a football team wins an important game, the coach must get drenched.
What we need to do, then, is to print the unwritten rules of sports and post them in locker rooms alongside the NCAA basketball pools. Which shouldn't be that difficult. Like the best lines to "Caddyshack," sports fans already know these rules by heart:

  • After winning a championship, football teams must douse the coach in Gatorade with the same enthusiasm and glee with which they would water down a Chi Omega during a wet T-shirt contest.

  • You must never interrupt the pitcher's focus by talking to him before a start, even if he's just reading the latest issue of Hustler or watching the early edition of SportsCenter. Instead, avoid any contact with him, regarding him with the same caution you would a psycho killer, a disgruntled postal worker or Roger Clemens.

  • After tackling an opponent following a 43-yard gain when you're trailing by 30, pound your chest and howl as if you were Johnny Weismuller.

  • Benchwarmers must stand on the perimeter of the coach's huddle and pretend to listen, when they're really checking out the breasts on the members of the dance team.

  • Keep the label facing up toward you, even it it's an aluminum bat.

    Tiger Woods
    Remain absolutely silent and don't snap photos when Tiger Woods is preparing to hit that stationary ball.

  • When a batter steps to the plate to face a pitcher throwing 98-mph fastballs and 90-mph sliders near his head, fans must shout and clap and stomp their feet until the noise is loud enough to drown out Bill O'Reilly. When a golfer steps to the tee to hit a motionless golf ball, however, the gallery cannot whisper or so much as snap a photo.

  • Players listed as "probable" on NFL injury reports are definite. Players listed as "questionable" are probable. Players listed as "doubtful" are questionable. Players listed as "out" are clinically dead.

  • When a baseball fight breaks out, you must run onto the field in support of your teammates but never, under any circumstances, actually throw a punch.

  • Baseball managers must wear uniforms, as if they will actually get into the game in the late innings. Basketball coaches must wear $3,000, finely tailored suits, as if they will pose for GQ during halftime. Football coaches must wear cheap nylon jogging suits as if they shop at Foot Locker.

  • No blood, no foul.

  • After winning a championship, all teams must claim that no one gave them a chance, even if they were the defending champions with a $125 million payroll and were a unanimous preseason pick to win the title.

  • Quarterbacks and running backs must publicly thank their offensive line for making it all possible.

    Kwame Brown
    Kwame Brown followed the rules last June when he came dressed to kill on draft night.

  • Draft picks must show up on draft day wearing such garish suits they look like refugees from a "Guys and Dolls" road show.

  • Make-it, take-it.

  • When a pitcher has a no-hitter going, broadcasters must avoid mentioning the term "no-hitter" as scrupulously as they avoid using the words, "I've got this round."

  • Prior to running out of the locker room to violently smash into their opponents and causing painful, debilitating injuries, football teams must hold hands and pray.

  • Horse racing must be referred to as The Sport of Kings, even though it is attended mostly by unemployed, alcoholic deadbeats named Red and Speed.

  • Losers walk.

  • You must stand and sing "The Star Spangled Banner" and God Bless America" with so much righteous patriotism it's as if you personally raised the flag on Iwo Jima, even though the last person you actually cast a vote for was Boog Powell.

  • Regardless of whatever crises might be threatening world peace, the president must take time to place a call to the winning team's locker room following a major championship. Unless, of course, the president has passed out after choking on a pretzel.

    Laker girls
    If you're a Laker, you can't date a Laker Girl. However, your coach can date the owner's daughter.

  • If you're a player, don't date the cheerleaders. If you're a cheerleader, don't date the players. If you're a coach, date the owner's daughter.

  • After a hockey goon kicks an opponent's rear early in the game, he must allow a rematch later in the game.

  • You must buy everyone in the clubhouse a drink after sinking a hole-in-one. You must buy everyone on the softball team a beer after striking out.

  • If you know your opponent received a bad call in tennis, intentionally lose the next point to be a good sport. (Yeah, right.)

  • What is seen in the locker room, what is said in the locker room and what is heard in the locker room, stays in the locker room. Unless a publisher offers you a $100,000 advance.

  • Play one game at a time.

  • Baseball teams may not attempt to steal a base when leading by five or more runs after the sixth inning. Basketball teams may not press when leading by 20 late in the second half. Football teams may not keep their first team in, or pass the ball, when leading by four touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Texas-El Paso need never worry.

    Alex Rodriguez
    When you sign a $252 million contract, you must repeat this phrase over and over: "It's not about the money."

  • When signing a $252-million contract with a last-place team, you must insist that "it's not about the money."

  • When a team finishes in last place, the manager/coach gets fired, not the owner who insisted on signing a shortstop for $252 million when the team really needed two pitchers.

  • Fans in Los Angeles must leave in the fourth quarter/third period/sixth inning to beat the traffic.

  • If a pitcher hits you with a pitch, you must not rub the bruise or in any way indicate it hurts. (At least, that used to be the unwritten rule. According to an amendment verbally passed in 1991, when hit by a pitch, you stand defiantly, throw your bat at the pitcher and begin a bench-clearing brawl.)

    And finally:

  • You must not visit a friend in the opponents' clubhouse before a game. However, you may hug, talk and exchange family photos by the cage during batting practice.

    Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.



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