The world of sports is filled with silly rules.
In baseball, a 70-year-old manager has to wear a full uniform. In golf, you apparently cannot play any defense. In tennis, they say having no points is “love.”
Who can forget the “tuck rule” in football? That monstrosity gave us Tom Brady.
Earlier this month, though, Montana high school sports gave us the silliest rule in the history of sports. Wrestlers were not allowed to shake hands with their opponents because they might transmit the coronavirus via sportsmanship.
Sure, they are allowed to actually wrestle. For 6 minutes, and sometimes longer, the wrestlers were allowed to go face to face — and face to other body parts — with opponents as they rolled around on the mat.
That mat, by the way, is the same one that so many other wrestlers just rolled around on, shedding blood, sweat and respiratory droplets.
Then, out of an abundance of caution, the wrestlers were not allowed to shake hands after doing all that.
After the first week, that ridiculous rule was changed, and wrestlers are now allowed to shake hands with their opponent. The short-lived rule will go down as a classic example of rules makers having a good idea but not thinking it through all the way.
Playing sports in a pandemic is full of such inconsistencies.
Basketball players are still not allowed to shake hands after games because of the pandemic. They are, however, allowed to bang on the boards and in the key for 32 minutes of action. They are allowed to play man-to-man defense — even in girls’ games — without wearing a mask.
When the players come out of the game to sit on the bench, which is spaced out to keep them away from their teammates, they have to put on a mask to protect themselves and others.
In some states, they are now going to a coin toss instead of jumping for the ball at midcourt to start the game. Tipoffs, it seems, are more dangerous than boxing out.
Basketball referees have to wear masks as they stand around and make sure the players do not dunk during the pregame warmups. They wear their masks through the player introductions and national anthem.
Then, when the game is about to tip off, the referees take their masks off and put them in their pocket.
Coaches wear the masks the entire game. But they pull them down when they have to shout instructions at a player or scream at a referee.
If the NFL was in charge of making sure high school and college coaches wear masks, most coaches would be bankrupted by all the fines.
A lot of these inconsistencies are understandable as we pretend to be safe while making our way through a pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans.
That is because it is impossible to actually safely play sports during a pandemic. But since not playing is not an option during the age of the “Parents Sports Alliance,” we have to pretend to make things safe.
We have to put up with CMA rules that might protect the schools from the liability of a player falling ill or even dying after competing in a sport.
We make sure players are safe on the bench and fans are protected in the stands. Then, we completely expose the players on the field play. That is kind of like saying that you only have to shower before entering the deep end of the pool.
One team, however, will be taking a consistent approach to playing. Montana Tech’s volleyball team will be wearing masks full time when they begin their season Friday at Rocky Mountain College in Billings.
Even though spectators are not allowed at matches, the Orediggers will wear face coverings while playing. They also wear masks while practicing.
“That’s just an attempt to obviously prevent our players from getting sick and preventing the spread,” Oredigger coach Brian Solomon said during an appearance on the sports radio show KBOW Overtime last week. “The No. 1 priority, obviously, has to be not getting sick, but also trying to stay in class as much as possible.”
Solomon got a crash course in dealing with the coronavirus when he learned that the volleyball season was going to be pushed back from the fall to the spring. Instead of coaching volleyball, Solomon started putting in full weeks of work as Montana Tech tried to tackle coronavirus testing and prevention on campus.
“With that came a lot of respect for the challenge our health department faces,” the coach said. “We’d rather be a stronger partner in that. I think it’s something that is a very reasonable step for us. Why not take the extra measure?”
As far as Solomon knows, the Orediggers are the only team that is planning to wear masks during the volleyball season. That, though, could change once their opponents see Tech’s players setting the example.
Maybe it will spread to other sports.
Wisconsin, which flips the coin instead of tipoffs in high school basketball, requires players to wear masks during games, and the players seem to be doing fine.
Two basketball officials in the Missoula pool wear masks during games. They bought masks designed to allow for a whistle. If they can do it, you would think the others could, too.
If the Orediggers can wear a mask playing volleyball, you would think other teams could, too.
“It’s not going to eliminate quarantines, but it’s going to limit exposure,” Solomon said. “We want to keep them (the players) safe. Is it really hard to wear a mask? We’re doing all the right steps to keep it a safe environment.”
The Oredigger volleyball team has not played since it lost a one-game tiebreaker to Saint Mary (Kansas) on Dec. 6, 2019 at the NAIA National Volleyball Tournament in Sioux City, Iowa.
Tech saw its spring drills canceled pretty much before they got started when the world shut down last March. The appreciation of just being able to play again, Solomon said, made his team OK with wearing masks.
“It took about a week of ‘ewe, this is uncomfortable,’” Solomon said. “Then we said, ‘We haven’t played in 10 months, who cares.’”
Wearing a mask on the volleyball court will not ensure the Orediggers will avoid the coronavirus. The odds are that players, high school, college and pro, come in contact with the virus away from school and sports anyway.
With the Orediggers wearing masks, however, it will not seem like such a crazy inconsistency when they do not shake hands with opponents after each match.
As long as Solomon does not start coaching while wearing a full uniform, the Orediggers will not be used as an example of silliness in sports.
— Bill Foley, who thought there was way too much shaking hands before the pandemic, writes a column that usually appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74