Monday, February 19, 2007

Sports and the Rule of Law

Yesterday's New York Times Sports section carried a front-page article describing a rules crackdown by NASCAR. I confess up front that I know virtually nothing about NASCAR or the particular rules that are at issue. The article noted, though, that NASCAR officials had decided to try to distance their sport from its outlaw past (apparently, the sport started with moonshiners outrunning "revenooers" on country roads in the states of the old Confederacy) in order to broaden its already considerable appeal to suburbanites both inside and outside the South. The theory, evidently, is that a sport cannot be taken seriously by modern Americans if it is well known that the rules are winked at and that cheating is even expected.

I do know something about professional basketball. One of the accepted truths among NBA types is that the league's explosive growth from the 1980's onward has been based on emphasizing the superstars. Magic, Bird, Jordan, Shaq, and their heirs are able to put fannies in the seats and increase TV ratings and merchandise sales. The corollary to this is that the league openly allows and even encourages unequal enforcement of the rules. When Larry Bird was fouled, he could get a three-point play by a "continuation" of his move that defied reason. Magic Johnson could take three or four steps so long as he was making a spectacular pass. Michael Jordan could draw a foul in a key situation simply by being near someone. And Shaq is allowed to commit offensive fouls with impunity apparently because he is so big that it is unreasonable to notice that he flattens men who have established their defensive positions.

What is extraordinary about the NBA is that these player-specific violations of blind justice are not only acknowledged but even celebrated. Hubie Brown, a former coach and broadcaster, would laugh and say things on official NBA broadcasts like "He hasn't been in the league long enough to get that call against Kobe," and "The refs aren't gonna make that call in Chicago." Such comments never, to my knowledge, evoked denials or discipline from the league. (The league does crack down on some things, though, such as unacceptable clothing choices and fighting with fans.) Contrast this with the NFL and MLB. Even though there is a lot of complaining in football about the rule called "roughing the passer," I have never heard anyone claim that certain quarterbacks get special treatment, only that all quarterbacks are either too exposed or too coddled. In baseball, you'll occasionally hear muttering that certain pitchers and batters receive the benefit of the doubt on balls and strikes; but this is denied by the leaders of the sport and is officially prohibited.

Although something of a reach, I find the political slant on this interesting. What might be the ultimate red-state sport (stock car racing) is now embracing the rule of law as a way of legitimizing itself in the eyes of swing voters. Meanwhile, the ultimate blue-state sport (i.e., the sport most closely associated with African-Americans and with urbanism) celebrates its choice to openly ignore its own rules. Maybe the NBA's legitimacy is not yet suffering for its lack of adherence to the rule of law, but I view NASCAR's choice as something to celebrate (even if I will never actually watch the sport).

14 comments:

Derek said...

Reading your post it occurred to me that "important" and powerful people in our society (i.e. politicians, CEOs, athletes, celebrities, etc.) definitely get some special treatment with respect to the rule of law, although perhaps we don't go so far as to celebrate that fact. So I guess that puts us somewhere between the NFL and the NBA on the rule of law spectrum. Ice Hockey?

Neil H. Buchanan said...

U.S. college hockey or European hockey, yes. NHL goon-squad hockey, no. The NHL is in some ways worse than the NBA (encouraging fighting by not cracking down on it -- except to protect superstars). The NHL's fate might actually be the best example in sports of the dangers of lawlessness to the long-term appeal of the sport, though there are obviously many other factors at play.

Caleb said...

I'm not sure the NHL is such a good example. It seems to me that it remains as popular as ever in Canada (And as you suggested different factors might account for its unpopularity here in the US). What's more, the rules against fighting (limited as they are) ARE enforced. On some level, fighting has always been a part of the game - early player who risked slapshots to their unprotected heads were probably not very worried about a punch. Having watched lots of hockey (admittedly on Canadian Network TV), I've never seen any rules infraction celebrated in the same way as the examples you cite from basketball.

(As for a "sport" that thrives on rule-breaking, what about the inexplicable popularity of the WWE?)

Michael C. Dorf said...

A "sports legal realist" might say that Neil and others are being unduly formalist about the rules. In the real world there is law on the books and law as enforced. E.g., you can drive up to 10 mph above the posted speed limit w/o getting ticketed, except in "speed traps." Likewise, in sport. E.g., although the official vertical limits to the strike zone in baseball are knees to letters of the uniform (roughly the nipples on a man), the unwritten rule is that any pitch substantially higher than the waist or gut will be called a ball. But Neil is right that one can't really find openly-embraced person-specific deviations in real law. When we note them (as Derek does), it is to lament the deviation from blind justice. I take it, though, that the NASCAR change seems to be targeted at deviations between the written norm and the practiced norm in general, not just person-specific deviations.

Neil H. Buchanan said...

It's true that there are norms of enforcement that deviate from the formal rules. Another baseball example is the "location play" at 2nd base on possible double plays, where the runner is called out even if the middle infielder doesn't really touch the base. There is a defensible argument for this, though, which is that such a norm prevents injuries.

My complaint is not about that but about an attitude that says, "Well, there's rules and there's what you can get away with." Mike's right that there is a second step that we must take to get to the NBA's problem, which is letting certain people get away with things because of who they are. I don't know enough about NASCAR to know whether that was also part of the problem. Even choosing not to enforce the rules and norms, though, is a problem.

This then raises Caleb's point about the NHL actually enforcing its rules against fighting. The rule of law is not only about treating everyone equally, nor is it only about enforcing the rules. It is also about trying to make sure that the rules are reasonable and good. The NHL has always feared alienating a fan base that loves gooning and thus has never been able to expand its base. Saying that it's not as bad as the NBA because they're not breaking the rules is ultimately unsatisfying because many (most?) reasonable people who have seen hockey played under different rules know that it is a beautiful game when played right.

I admitted that the analogy to politics is a stretch, but I still think it's there. All of these aspects of the rule of law -- equal treatment, reasonably vigilant enforcement, a constant effort to improve the laws themselves -- are important, and it's heartening to me to think that the majority of Americans ultimately find lawlessness to be unacceptable. Elections can turn on how much lawlessness we are willing to stomach.

sexy said...

情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,按摩棒,跳蛋,充氣娃娃,情境坊歡愉用品,情趣用品,情人節禮物,情惑用品性易購

免費A片,AV女優,美女視訊,情色交友,免費AV,色情網站,辣妹視訊,美女交友,色情影片,成人影片,成人網站,A片,H漫,18成人,成人圖片,成人漫畫,情色網,日本A片,免費A片下載,性愛

A片,色情,成人,做愛,情色文學,A片下載,色情遊戲,色情影片,色情聊天室,情色電影,免費視訊,免費視訊聊天,免費視訊聊天室,一葉情貼圖片區,情色,情色視訊,免費成人影片,視訊交友,視訊聊天,視訊聊天室,言情小說,愛情小說,AIO,AV片,A漫,av dvd,聊天室,自拍,情色論壇,視訊美女,AV成人網,色情A片,SEX

情趣用品,A片,免費A片,AV女優,美女視訊,情色交友,色情網站,免費AV,辣妹視訊,美女交友,色情影片,成人網站,H漫,18成人,成人圖片,成人漫畫,成人影片,情色網


情趣用品,A片,免費A片,日本A片,A片下載,線上A片,成人電影,嘟嘟成人網,成人,成人貼圖,成人交友,成人圖片,18成人,成人小說,成人圖片區,微風成人區,成人文章,成人影城,情色,情色貼圖,色情聊天室,情色視訊,情色文學,色情小說,情色小說,臺灣情色網,色情,情色電影,色情遊戲,嘟嘟情人色網,麗的色遊戲,情色論壇,色情網站,一葉情貼圖片區,做愛,性愛,美女視訊,辣妹視訊,視訊聊天室,視訊交友網,免費視訊聊天,美女交友,做愛影片

av,情趣用品,a片,成人電影,微風成人,嘟嘟成人網,成人,成人貼圖,成人交友,成人圖片,18成人,成人小說,成人圖片區,成人文章,成人影城,愛情公寓,情色,情色貼圖,色情聊天室,情色視訊,情色文學,色情小說,情色小說,色情,寄情築園小遊戲,情色電影,aio,av女優,AV,免費A片,日本a片,美女視訊,辣妹視訊,聊天室,美女交友,成人光碟

情趣用品.A片,情色,情色貼圖,色情聊天室,情色視訊,情色文學,色情小說,情色小說,色情,寄情築園小遊戲,情色電影,色情遊戲,色情網站,聊天室,ut聊天室,豆豆聊天室,美女視訊,辣妹視訊,視訊聊天室,視訊交友網,免費視訊聊天,免費A片,日本a片,a片下載,線上a片,av女優,av,成人電影,成人,成人貼圖,成人交友,成人圖片,18成人,成人小說,成人圖片區,成人文章,成人影城,成人網站,自拍,尋夢園聊天室

sex999 said...

A片,A片,情色,情色,A片,A片,情色,情色,A片,A片,A片下載,做愛,成人電影,.18成人,日本A片,情色小說,情色電影,成人影城,自拍,情色論壇,成人論壇,情色貼圖,情色,免費A片,成人,成人網站,成人圖片,AV女優,成人光碟,色情,色情影片,免費A片下載,SEX,AV,色情網站,本土自拍,性愛,成人影片,情色文學,成人文章,成人圖片區,成人貼圖

美女交友,AIO交友愛情館,AIO,成人交友,視訊交友網,視訊交友,拓網交友,PC交友,視訊交友90739,交友,情色交友,聊天室交友,辣妹視訊,視訊辣妹,美女視訊,視訊美女,情色視訊,日本AV,免費視訊聊天,視訊聊天,AV女優,AV,視訊聊天室,視訊,免費視訊,情人視訊網,本土自拍,自拍,AVDVD,SEX,微風成人,微風論壇,微風成人區,成人網站,成人,成人電影,嘟嘟成人網,成人貼圖,成人影片,成人圖片區,成人圖片,18成人,成人小說,成人影城,成人文章,成人論壇,愛情公寓,情色論壇,情色,色情聊天室,色情,情色貼圖,情色文學,色情小說,情色小說,寄情築園小遊戲,色情遊戲,情色電影,情色網,做愛,UT聊天室,聊天室,聊天,哈拉聊天室,豆豆聊天室,尋夢園聊天室,聊天室尋夢園,080苗栗人聊天室,苗栗人聊天室,080中部人聊天室,080聊天室,中部人聊天室,柔情聊天網,6K聊天室,小高聊天室,上班族聊天室,免費A片,A片,成人聊天室,一夜情聊天室,情色聊天室,色色網,免費AV

路傑 said...

免費A片, ut聊天室, AV女優, 美女視訊, 免費成人影片, 成人論壇, 情色交友, 免費AV, 線上a片, 日本美女寫真集, 同志聊天室, 聊天室交友, 成人文章, 成人圖片區, 色情網站, 辣妹視訊, 美女交友, 微風成人區, 色美媚部落格, 色情影片, 成人影片, 成人網站, 免費A片, 上班族聊天室, A片,H漫, 18成人, a漫, av dvd, 一夜情聊天室, 微風成人, 成人圖片, 成人漫畫, 情色網, 日本A片, 免費A片下載, 性愛, 成人交友, 嘟嘟成人網, 嘟嘟成人網, 成人貼圖, 成人電影, 成人, 中部人聊天室, 080中部人聊天室, 成人貼圖, 成人小說, 成人文章, 成人圖片區, 免費成人影片, 成人遊戲, 微風成人, 愛情公寓, 成人電影, A片, 情色, 情色貼圖, 情色文學, 做愛, 成人遊戲, 成人影城, 色情聊天室, 色情小說, 一葉情貼圖片區, 情色小說, 色情, 寄情築園小遊戲, 色情遊戲, 成人網站, 麗的色遊戲, 色情網站, 成人論壇, 情色視訊, 情色電影, aio交友愛情館, 言情小說, 愛情小說, 色情A片, 情色論壇, 自拍, 癡漢, , 俱樂部, 豆豆聊天室, 聊天室, 色情影片, 視訊聊天室, 免費視訊聊天, 免費視訊, 視訊交友90739 情人視訊網影音視訊聊天室 免費視訊聊天室 視訊聊天 視訊交友 美女視訊 視訊美女 視訊 免費視訊 免費視訊聊天 視訊聊天室 辣妹視訊 一夜情 色情a片 aio交友愛情館 情色電影 情色視訊 色情遊戲 色情 情色小說 一葉情貼圖片區 色情小說 色情聊天室 情色交友 成人論壇 成人網站 色情網站 情色論壇 小高聊天室 女同志聊天室 6K聊天室 080苗栗人聊天室 080聊天室 聊天室尋夢園 UT男同志聊天室 男同志聊天室 尋夢園聊天室 UT聊天室 聊天室 豆豆聊天室 A片 成人電影 成人貼圖 嘟嘟成人網 美女交友 本土自拍 成人交友 成人影片http://ssff01.3b8mm.com/

note1 said...

不動産
合宿 免許
網頁設計
ショッピング枠 現金化
クレジットカード 現金化
キャッシング
幼児教室
名刺

kutyhgvd said...

It is the knight noah which makes me very happy these days, my brother says knight gold is his favorite games gold he likes, he usually knight online gold to start his game and most of the time he will win the knight online noah back and give me some cheap knight gold to play the game.

. said...

酒店喝酒,禮服店,酒店小姐,制服店,便服店,鋼琴酒吧,兼差,酒店兼差,酒店打工,伴唱小姐,暑假打工,酒店上班,日式酒店,ktv酒店,酒店,酒店公關,酒店小姐,酒店兼差,酒店上班,酒店打工,禮服酒店,禮服店,酒店小姐,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,經紀 彩色爆米花,經紀人 彩色爆米花,酒店傳播,酒店經紀 彩色爆米花,爆米花,童裝,童裝拍賣,童裝大盤,童裝寄賣,童裝批貨,酒店,酒店,童裝切貨,酒店,GAP童裝,酒店,酒店 ,禮服店 , 酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,招待所,酒店小姐,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店上班,暑假打工,酒店公關,酒店兼職,酒店經紀, 禮服店 , 酒店小姐 ,酒店經紀 ,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,

wsty said...

www.eshooes.com .
www.pumafr.com.
www.myshoess.com.

www.eshooes.com .
www.pumafr.com.
www.myshoess.com.
[url=http://www.pumafr.com]puma shoes[/url]
[url=http://www.eshooes.com]chaussures puma[/url]
[url=http://www.myshoess.com]nike air max ltd[/url]

freefun0616 said...

酒店經紀人, 菲梵酒店經紀, 酒店經紀, 禮服酒店上班, 酒店小姐兼職, 便服酒店經紀, 酒店打工經紀, 制服酒店工作, 專業酒店經紀, 合法酒店經紀, 酒店暑假打工, 酒店寒假打工, 酒店經紀人, 菲梵酒店經紀, 酒店經紀, 禮服酒店上班, 酒店經紀人, 菲梵酒店經紀, 酒店經紀, 禮服酒店上班, 酒店小姐兼職, 便服酒店工作, 酒店打工經紀, 制服酒店經紀, 專業酒店經紀, 合法酒店經紀, 酒店暑假打工, 酒店寒假打工, 酒店經紀人, 菲梵酒店經紀, 酒店經紀, 禮服酒店上班, 酒店小姐兼職, 便服酒店工作, 酒店打工經紀, 制服酒店經紀,,

erqing said...

Those are best online website , best service , best quality. Good luck !
ed hardy clothing
Chaussures Sport
Tennis Racquet Shop
Cheap Polo Shirts
The North Face Jackets
cheap ed hardy
Chaussures Sport
Tennis Racquet
nike shox r4
ed hardy
cheap ed hardy
polo shirts
cheap polo
Remise Chaussures Sport
nike tn requin
ed hardy clothes
nike femmes chaussures