I hadn’t watched American football in many years but around Christmas time I watched a little bit with my son who is getting old enough to pay attention to it.  What struck me was how many pointless rules there are in football.  I asked myself which of the many pointless rules is the most pointless.  Some candidate


2. Illegal motion

These two are basically rules that establish a conventional way to play the game.  If you dropped these rules you would still have a game that makes sense but aesthetically you could argue the game is less attractive.  Players grabbing each others uniforms, offensive players running around before the snap.  It’s a matter of taste but the deadweight loss is the subjective element of enforcement.  Bottom line:  artificial rules but not totally pointless.

3. Intentional grounding.  This rule has a point but its a stupid point.  The quarterback can’t throw the ball just anywhere, he has to throw it near somebody who could legally catch it. Or he can throw it out of bounds, it seems.  But if he can’t do any of those he has to get mowed down by a charging defender.

But here’s the most pointless rule I could come up with:

4. Ineligible Receiver Downfield.  There are only certain players on the offense who are designated as eligible to catch a pass.  If anybody else catches a pass then it doesn’t count.  Now that by itself is pretty artificial.  Those players, and their counterparts on the defense are basically added to the game just to offset one another.  You could remove them from both sides and it would be a wash.  But even more pointless:  an ineligible player is not allowed to advance down the field when a pass is thrown, even if it is thrown to somebody else.  These rules essentially provide job security for giant, immobile humanoids whose only function is to stand in the way of somebody else.  They take away the possibility of having a team of 10 perfectly substitutable athletes plus a quarterback.  I can’t see how that would not be a more interesting game.

Is there any more pointless rule than that?