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Rick's Rules

The author calls timeout on some things in sports that are just plain dumb

Don't mess with us. We've got Milwaukee Brewer tickets, and we'll make you use them. Now, we have here the official list of the 10 most Spam-brained things in sports. Get these fixed by morning, or we enroll your daughter in a tennis academy.

1) The desperation timeout. This gets us out of our Barcalounger and screaming at the Sony every time. Here's a basketball team playing killer defense. It's got the other team's forward trapped in the corner. The poor guy can barely exchange oxygen, much less get rid of the ball. The shot clock is running down. The guy is either going to travel or have a stress coronary, or both. But as he's falling into the lap of the woman in the front row, he calls timeout. End of problem.

Is this why timeouts were invented, as an escape clause? When Joe Montana is about to get turned into an oily rug spot by a very angry Reggie White, can he suddenly call timeout? Sorry, Reg. Just need to ask the coach a little something. Can you step in against Roger Clemens, notice that he has just thrown a 98-mph Tylenol at your knees, and suddenly mention, "Ump, I believe I'll take timeout right about now"? Only in basketball has the timeout turned weenie.

2) The sequined mulligan. Only in figure skating do you get do-overs. Tonya Harding once got one because her costume came undone and another time because her shoelace broke. All she had to do was skate over to the judge during her performance and ask to start over. A little anguish, a few tears, a judge who has grown fond of her kneecaps and, voilà!, she gets to try again. Lovely. Next time you're 15 over par after four holes, point out to your opponent that your cardigan has snagged and you have to start again at number 1.

3) Phootball physics. Whaddya mean the ground can't cause a fumble? Matt McKinney proved to me that it can when I was nine years old. He took me and the football, both of which were supposed to be running an end sweep, lifted us over his head and threw us down at the same time to see which would bounce higher. The ball did, and he ran it back for a touchdown.

4) The two-for-three sale. Sometimes the NBA has all the intelligence of dry mulch. It institutes the three-point shot, but if a player gets fouled while shooting a trey and misses, he gets only two free throws. So if your learn is up by three and Reggie Miller is about to tie the game with a trey, you might as well foul the bejesus out of him so he can sink only two on you. Who does the NBA's math, Chris Webber?

5) The soccer offsides. Personally, we don't care if soccer falls into a giant pit of hungry sloths and takes Liverpool with it. But the kids seem to like it. The problem with soccer is that on a downfield pass, an offensive player isn't allowed to get behind the last defender until his teammate kicks him the ball. That's like making it illegal for Jerry Rice to run past the free safety. No wonder soccer goals are scored about every vernal equinox. Either let the guys freely pass downfield or take the whole thing back to Cameroon.

6) The let. Explain this to us, please. When your serve hits the net and dribbles into your opponent's service court, it's a let and you serve over. But when your backhand hits the net and dribbles over, you win the point. Where did they think this one up, at a Capriati kegger?

7) Five plus five equals zero. Let's see, free throw percentages are down in both college and pro basketball. And, lately, every time a player makes a free throw, he has to slap five with everybody, up to and including the guy with the mop underneath the basket. Now the shooter has lost his concentration, changed his foot position and gotten out of the zone that earned him the high fives in the first place. Then he misses the second shot. Legislate that stuff outta here.

8) Bowling balls. Does John Elway get one ball to throw deep and another to throw short? Does Rusty Wallace get one car for the straightaways and one for the curves? Does Jack Nicholson get to change golf clubs in the middle of smashing up a Mercedes? No. So why do pro bowlers have "strike" balls and "spare" balls?

9) Golf. All of it. We've never played with a guy yet who understood a single golf rule. See, you can drop anywhere in here, keeping the line of entry back from your caddie, until you find a burrowing animal. Personally, we stamp down spike marks, never count any shot that would have been just fine if it weren't for that stupid tree and are pretty sure we made an 8 but just give us a 5.

10) Global warming. Why is it that just about every other sport but basketball allows its guys coming off the bench a chance to warm up? Relief pitchers throw in the bullpen. Substitute quarterbacks throw on the sideline. But hoop subs are supposed to leap off the bench after sitting for an hour and start playing full speed without so much as a stretch. Bet us: The first team to install a sideline warmup basket four-peats.

Have this stuff fixed pronto or you know that testimonial bash you've been planning for your boss? We send Marge Schott to be the after-dinner speaker.