Defender of the unwritten rule

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Lincoln Riley, the latest sports character to perpetuate extremely silly ideas about

Lincoln Riley, the latest sports character to perpetuate extremely silly ideas about “unwritten rules”.
photo: Getty Images

Tony La Russa. Vic Fangio. Russell Westbrook. And now to complete the “game the right way” Mt. Rushmore is Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley.

Oklahoma lost for the first time this season on Saturday, falling 27-14 at Baylor. He was 24-14 in the closing seconds of the match, but instead of kneeling and running out of time, Baylor manager Dave Aranda decided to call the timeout with three seconds left and kick a basket. Seemingly a weird decision until you realize that the third tiebreaker for the selection of the Big 12 championship match entrants is a margin of victory.

“I know why Dave tried to kick the basket. I do not agree. And I still think, above all, that there is a code of sportsmanship that I believe in. I wouldn’t have done that, ”Riley said after the game.

Yes, you would. Unless you’re interested in playing a conference league game. Baylor has two conference losses. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have one each, but they will be played in two weeks. It is entirely conceivable that all three will end up with the same conference record, with each possessing a win over the other (1st tiebreak) and the same record against the rest of the conference (2nd tiebreak), in which case the third tie-break will decide who plays in the league match.

My first problem with the crowd “play the game right / when I was your age we would look people in the eye when we shook hands and our only Christmas present was a little thing called sportsmanship” is that it’s so arbitrary.

“Don’t swing on a court when the count is 3-0 and the bases are loaded and you’re ahead by at least six runs and the air quality isn’t healthy for sensitive groups.” Why did you run? Why not five? What if there are only two baserunners? Jesus, this is complicated. Someone should really write all of this. Oh yeah

They constantly shift the goal posts on what is and is not bad sportsmanship. Riley said: “There is a code of sportsmanship that I believe in.” Well, that’s it. You believe it. No other coach, player or fan subscribes to the imaginary regulation that exists only in your mind.

My second problem is that it’s hypocritical to all these coaches who like to act like tough blue collars who treat a football match like he’s going to war for suddenly needing a teddy bear and a good cry when the other team reaches the score. I understand why there is a mercy rule in Little League. Any 8-year-old would struggle to get excited about their next baseball practice if they just lost 90-0. You don’t want kids to get discouraged and quit, but that’s NCAA Power 5 football. If you do not want the other team to score a field goal, do not leave them within range of the basket.

Obviously this whole situation is further complicated by the fact that Baylor fans stormed the pitch after the timeout was called, thinking the game was over.

“It became a security issue,” Riley said. “The way the referees don’t apply a 15-yard penalty when you probably have 5,000 people on the pitch is unbelievable to me. It is what it is. This is his decision. This is the decision of the officials. I do not agree”.

It’s definitely a security issue, and I’m sure people will discuss whether fans should be allowed to storm the pitch, or if there should be more security, just like every other time fans storm the pitch. But I don’t see how it is the team’s fault. Aranda wasn’t waving at them on the pitch just to annoy you even more before they kicked a basket. Your grievances really should be with the fans for not waiting to storm the pitch, or with the security for not being able to stop them, or maybe just yourself for losing the game.

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