The 10 Most Shameless Abuses of Loopholes in Sports History

September 7, 2010

There are men.  Then there are sportsmen. Then there are true competitors.  And then there are the guys who just really, really hate to lose and will find any way in the rules to ensure they don't.

Source: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

By Dan Seitz


10. The Badgers Use The NCAA's Rule 3-2-5-e To Make Some Boring Winning Football

There's no getting around it: college football is big business.  And in that spirit of big business, the NCAA decided to enact Rule 3-2-5-e in 2006, which was designed to speed up football games by starting the clock when the kicker touched the ball, not when the receiver caught it.  After all, the fans are busy people who don't set aside an entire day to enjoy their favorite game. They're busy people with things to do and errands to run. Let's get this game fitting into a neat timeslot, right now!

Thankfully, we had the Badgers and Bret Bielema. Bielema, noting the rule, and that he had 23 seconds on the clock, had his kicking team go offside twice, running out the clock and leaving his opponent, Penn State, unable to get their offense off the bench.

The NCAA quickly changed the rule back.  We guess all those football fans will just have to stop trying to rush the game.


9. The Brabham BT46B Discovers Ground Effect

Source: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1978, Brabham rolled out a car which obviously had a huge problem...overheating.  After all, it had to be overheating: there was a massive fan underneath the car sucking out all the air from underneath the car just to cool off the poor overheated engine.

As you might have guessed, this had a side effect on the Formula One car that the engineering team had innocently not anticipated.  Namely that the vacuum on the bottom of the car allowed it to stick like glue to the track, especially around corners.  In fact, it was so accidentally good at cornering that the driver, Niki Lauda, compared it to being on rails.

Believe it or not, this was actually allowed to race, and unsurprisingly won.  Then the organization in charge of F1, Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, declared the configuration illegal.

And this wouldn't be an article about loopholes unless we noted that the ban meant that although the car was retired, it retired with a 100% win rate.  Take that, F1 snobs!


8. Masakatsu Funaki Uses a Perm to Win MMA

In Japan, MMA is taken a little less seriously than in the US.  Real matches will be held and then a staged wrestling match will come into the arena.  It's all the same to the Japanese.  But, despite that, there are rules that all fighters have to obey in any league, and the Japanese Pancrase Society in the 1990s was no exception.

For example, there was a strict dress code: trunks, boots, and nothing else.  This was to get rid of any weapons that somebody might sneak into the ring, but it turns out there are no rules on personal hygiene, something Masakatsu Funaki noticed.

So, when he stepped into the ring the next time, he had a rich, glorious perm over his neck and shoulders...absolutely weighted down with hair grease.  Why?  Because it was impossible to slap him into a chokehold!  He'd just slip out, probably with a giggle and an "OOPS!" while the other fighter just stared at the ring of his arm where the guy who was about to punch his face in used to be.

What's ironic is that Masakatsu didn't actually need this bit of rules lawyering.  He could hand out beatings like nobody's business and is considered one of the best MMA fighters of all time.


7. Barbados' Ties the Game...By Kicking Into Its Own Net

Source: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

We don't really understand how soccer scoring works beyond getting a goal, because, and we're going to let the rest of the world in on a little secret here, it's seriously ridiculous.  Take this situation in 1994, wherein Barbados had to beat Grenada, specifically by two goals.  Why?  Because the moon was waxing, who knows?

Anyway, Barbados was one goal, and Grenada knew it just had to keep them from scoring another to lose the match yet win the battle.  At this point, the Barbados team recalled that goals count for two in overtime.  Seriously, is this a sport or Calvinball?

Barbados needed to go into overtime, and it did kicking the ball into its own net.  The game was forced into overtime and Barbados got their double-scoring goal and advanced.  And the rest of the world makes fun of us for not caring about this game.  Next you'll tell us there's excitement in cricket.


6. Australia Makes Cricket Interesting, or At Least Discovers Cheating

Source: Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Well, okay, there is excitement in cricket, if you find rules lawyering and being kind of a douche to be exciting.

In 1981, Australia was up against New Zealand in the World Series Cup.  New Zealand was close to winning...somehow...we're taking the cricket press at its word that it was a close match.  These people score this game with fractions like 4/235, for God's sake.  And we're going to have no complaining about bloody provincial Americans in the comments, because none of the five countries that play cricket really understand the rules either.

Anyway, the Australians rolled the ball on the ground instead of throwing it, essentially.  This kept New Zealand from being able to score under the ridiculously complex rules of cricket, thus securing Australia the only World Series in a sport not related to fighting large predators or doing something utterly insane.


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5. The A-11 Makes Defense a Nightmare

The A-11 in high school football works on a fairly simple principle: all 11 offensive players are eligible to receive some pigskin special airmail.  Developed by two high school coaches in northern California in 2007, this is different than most strategies, and it became a loophole for a pretty simple reason...

Most football offensive strategies had about 150 to 200 plays.  The A-11 had 16,000, thanks to a scrimmage kick loophole.

Unsurprisingly, it hasn't exactly caught on.  For some reason, a loophole that makes defensive planning into a total nightmare and completely impossible to defend against has been seen as a wee bit unfair and unsporting.  But, of course, the debate rages on, especially in high schools that would kind of like to win for once.


4. Russian Ice Dancers Clean and Jerk with Costume Belts

Source: YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images

Oksana Domina and Maxim Shabalin were Russian ice dancers with two dreams. The first dream was to offend the hell out of Aboriginal people with costumes that were about as racist as it gets before you hit the ice in a Klan hood. This dream was easily achieved.

The second dream was to make lifts easier.  While watching ice dancing is so girly you actually grow breasts while you watch it, actually doing it is pretty hard, especially when you have to lug some woman over your head.  Sure, she's tiny and probably anorexic, but that's still 70 pounds you've got to lift over your head and hold while moving at high speeds on a slippery surface.  That's not easy for anybody.

Luckily, Domina and Shabalin hit on a really obvious idea: just wear a belt to grab and haul, which they shamelessly did at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.  Now if they could just grasp that it's not actually okay to make fun of black people, they might be on to something.


3. The Patriots Use a Snow Plow

Source: Al Messerschmidt Archive/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

On December 12, 1982, the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots were playing a tough game.  Not because they were evenly matched teams or anything, because for some reason, instead of staying indoors with a nice cup of cocoa and a good book, they were playing football. In December. In New England.  Generally, when it's December in New England, the weather's horrible, and December 12 had decided to be a real overachiever and start dumping snow on the game, something that went all day and made it a scoreless, boring slog.

But in the fourth quarter, Patriots coach Ron Meyer had a great idea.  After all, the stadium had snowplows, and they could just clear off a place for the Patriot placekicker, which they did, and this led to the one scoring moment in the game.  The Dolphins, needless to say, were not given the same consideration.

The NFL, sheepishly, banned snowplows on the field a few years later.  Meanwhile, the plow itself has pride of place as an exhibit, along with anything else that helped the Patriots win a game in the '80s, so there are, like, five inanimate objects there. Maybe they should have had it handy for that Super Bowl...just saying.


2. Brian Kownacki Flips for Home

Brian Kownacki, a player on Fordham's baseball team, had already had a rough game.  He'd been beaned not once, not twice, but three times, once in the wrist and twice in the shoulder.  He was running for home this past April in a game against Iona, but was faced with a problem.  Namely the catcher, with the ball, waiting in front of home plate to tag him out.  Kownacki had to stay on the line and in the airspace above the line in order to stay within the rules.

But the rules said nothing about going airborne, so Kownacki simply did a leaping flip over the catcher and tagged home.  Iona pretty vigorously argued against it being legal, but it turns out that as long as he didn't touch the catcher, and stayed on the line, the play is perfectly legal according to the rulebook.



Besides, he'd gotten beaned three times.  Three!  He earned the right to flip over that catcher!


1. Ayrton Senna Crashes into His Opponent for Victory

Source: Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

In 1990, Ayrton Senna had one problem, and that problem was named Alain Prost.

Senna, a Grand Prix racer, had the entire thing in the bag based entirely on points, provided Alain Prost didn't win.  Senna didn't have to win the final race, he didn't even need to finish.  He just needed to keep Alain Prost from landing a high-ranking position.

So Senna got out his car, got ready to run a good race, and win on merit, and then decided to hell with all that and crashed into Prost, driving him off the road and costing Prost not just any shot at Senna's World Cup standing, but also any chance of winning the Constructor's Cup.

Which we guess is one way to do it, but we find ourselves wondering if Senna had realized at any moment that he might actually wind up killing a guy for an oversized knickknack.  You'd think just doing your best on the race would be a lot easier.


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