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Weird Rules returns

Why we decided to revisit our old series with a new twist

Our newest episode of Weird Rules, on the 2003 Vikings draft disaster

What is “sport” without rules? Just a buncha confused-looking nincompoops in an empty void with a bunch of mismatched equipment, that’s what! The rules of a game are its bones, giving it its definition, shape and structure.

But over time, as athletes continue to push against the limits of human ability, sports must evolve to keep up. Rulebooks expand, and they get more complicated and complex; the most recent version of the NFL rulebook PDF is 94 pages, for cryin’ out loud, and there is still speculation on what qualifies as “a catch.”

Eventually, as in any such complex system, loopholes are bound to be discovered and exploited; strange circumstances and odd mix-em-ups are inevitable. Rules try to create an ideal and standarized environment so that players can meet on a neutral battleground to display their skills. The real world, however, doesn’t work that way. We are imperfect beings who create imperfect systems. “Life,” as the great scientist and mathematician Ian Malcolm once said, “uh, finds a way.” Life, and wacky hijinks.

So, we created Weird Rules, a series that explores the nonsense that occasionally pops out of such rigid systems; the odd stories that were either caused by a poorly-thought-out rule, or the ones that led to the creation of another. (Personally I like to classify these into two categories: The You Can’t Do That No More Rules, and There’s No Rule That Says A Dog Can’t Play Basketball Rules. (Nobody else does.))

After a while, we felt like we were starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel for episode ideas. Sure, there were lots of weird rules out there, but we always felt that what made a weird rule a Weird Rule was the story. We thought, well, there are plenty of weird stories out there that aren’t necessarily rule-related that we could tell each other to make us laugh, so we took those and the format and created That’s Weird.

And we love That’s Weird! But we also missed that added element of how a rulebook, this cold and unfeeling document, seemed to be the instigator of such strange stories. And we realized, hey, there are actually all kinds of systems around sports that pop that way: contract disputes, draft protocols, trade procedures, recruiting restrictions, even real life human rules (some people call these “laws”). All this scaffolding in place is necessary, but occasionally someone is going to climb that scaffolding and hang a pair of underwear from it like a flag, just because they can. (That hasn’t happened but it would make for a great episode.)

Thus, we’re bringing back Weird Rules with a set of episodes that widen our scope beyond the actual rulebooks just a bit, starting with Will and Clara talking about the time in 2003 when the Vikings missed their first-round draft pick and all hell broke loose. We’re still open to suggestions of other episodes, so if you have ideas, leave them in the comments. Enjoy!