Monday, April 25, 2011

Computer Problems Cont'd

The small problem turned into a big problem and then back into a small problem. I still won't be able to put up a full post until tomorrow afternoon though.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunday Filler

Due to a small computer problem and a lack of sleep, I will not be posting today. I'm sorry.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

What Am I Talking About?, Part 4: Legislation

I have shown how rules are like laws and in a government  a legislative body enacts the laws, so who in sports has the power to legislate? Every sport or game has a governing body with a legislative arm. As an example, in basketball the governing body can be as simple as two people in a pickup game agreeing to a set of rules or as complex as a major international federation, like FIBA.

Just as the body itself can take many forms, the nature of the legislative arm can vary between different governing bodies. These often closely model the different forms of legislatures that exist in politics.

There is anarchic rule by consensus, such as the pickup game example. There are also parliamentary systems such as the NFL, which requires a rule to be proposed and evaluated by the competition committee, published, and then voted upon by the owners to be enacted. Finally, there are autocratic systems in which a single member or a small board simply evaluates and modifies the rules as it sees fit or necessary, such as the NASCAR competition committee. It should be noted that unlike in government, none of these systems has shown itself to be better or worse in terms of abusing power or the quality of the rules produced.

Some governing bodies, like the USGA, produce model rules that can be adopted or modified for use by parallel or smaller bodies. As in any federal system, the rules of an international federation serve this purpose for the smaller bodies under its jurisdiction in addition to serving as competitive rules at the highest level.

As they are less formal and usually governing societies much smaller than governments, there is often a fair amount of overlap accepted between the different branches of governing bodies. The legislative arm is usually the most independent branch, as few sports have a judiciary that is truly independent from the executive.

Friday, April 22, 2011

What Am I Talking About?, Part 3: Competitive Rules

We all know intuitively that a ball falls when dropped, but we can’t understand the mechanics of gravity until we learn physics. In the same way, it may seem like a simple analogy to say that competitive rules are to a sport what laws are to a society, but just because we understand the concept intuitively that doesn’t mean we understand why they are so similar.

As I explained yesterday, and R.S. Rogers illustrated nicely in the comments, we derive competitive rules from the same sources as laws, though on a smaller scale. There are natural rules, the ones that make the game possible; and there are positive rules, the ones that make the game more fair or accessible to players. However, this is not the only similarity.

After all, its source is not the only defining characteristic of a law; the legal process is a complex one that requires input from all branches of government. In the United States, laws are administered in three ways: they are enacted through legislation, they are enforced through execution, and they are interpreted through judgment. This is where the three branches of our government come from and why their separation and regulation are controlled by the Constitution.

Sports, while following the same general format, are much less formal than the government, and so have a lot more crossover among the three branches of lawmaking. Rules are legislated through some process that can be as informal as an agreement among the players in a game of pickup basketball or as formal as the process used by the NFL Competition Committee, which gives notice of its intentions and takes public reaction into account when considering new rules. The rules are executed by players and referees, and outside the game by the enforcement arm of the governing body. Players, referees, and some part of the governing body also must interpret the rules as part of execution.

Over the next few days I will go into more depth about each of these branches of the sports rulemaking complex, starting with the legislative, then the executive, and continuing with the judicial. I will finish with a look at referees, who often must act as arbiters, both interpreting and executing the rules on the fly.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What Am I Talking About?, Part 2: Natural and Positive Law

Ask any attorney where the law comes from and that lawyer will tell you that we use both natural law and positive law to create our society’s rules. Sports are no different in this regard, and often are more dynamic even from a Naturalist stance. So now that we know what the sources are called, what do these terms mean and how do they apply to sports?

Natural law is law that comes from some external pressure guiding the situation. No matter whether you believe that outside source is a higher power, a cosmic force, or simply common sense, natural laws are ones that exist simply because without them our society would not be worth being a part of. These are laws prohibiting things like theft and murder, as well as more dynamic things like some environmental laws.

Similarly, natural laws for sports are rules that promote safety. These are rules like those requiring helmets or pads in sports where a person is likely to get hurt. They can also include dynamic rule changes that do not affect the overall competitive balance of the game, like the NFL’s various bans on certain dangerous moves, like horse-collar tackles, blindside blocks to the head, and the head slap.

Positive law, on the other hand, is law that comes from an internal societal force. The purpose of a positive law is generally to promote the society’s overall values among its members. Zoning laws, which do not derive from any natural source, but promote what a city believes is the best possible layout from an economic and public safety standpoint, are positive laws.

For sports, positive laws are those that promote fairness, rather than safety. Positive laws can fundamentally change some aspect of the game, like the introduction of instant replay, but don’t necessarily have to as long as the purpose is to level the playing field, like rules banning techniques considered unfair as opposed to dangerous. An unfair technique that was banned would be the use of tearaway jerseys by football players to thwart tacklers.

Now that we have an understanding of what natural and positive laws are, tomorrow I will show you how competitive rules of a game are analogous to the laws enacted by a government.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What Am I Talking About?, Part 1: Overview

I picked the worst possible time to start this blog. Law students don’t have cumulative grades throughout the semester; we have exams, one for each class, at the end of each term. I start my exams today, continuing through the 27th, so for my first eight real posts I won’t be able to really analyze anything too deeply. I’ll be too busy either studying or actually taking my finals.

Because of this, for my first several posts I’m going to write a series of short explanations of what I mean when I say pseudolaw. Today I’ll give a short overview and after that I’ll give a more in-depth explanation of each type of pseudolaw that exists in sports.

So what do I mean by pseudolaw? Pseudolaw is the use of legal concepts by an organization other than a formal government. This is any situation in which the rules have the force of law, but only to the people who consent to be constrained by those rules or the governing body that issues them.

As you may have guessed, these pseudolaws don’t only apply to sports. They apply in any situation where people consent to be governed by someone other than the government. Clubs have bylaws, religions have dogma, even organized crime syndicates have some kind of rules they follow outside the actual governmental laws.

But sports are special. Secret societies, organized religions, and crime syndicates are all closed off to outsiders to varying degrees, but everyone does something for fun and we all naturally impose restrictions on that fun so it doesn’t eventually become boring or too dangerous to pursue. Because of that, we can all relate to sports in some way and that makes it a perfect engine to explore these extralegal restrictions.

Over the next week or so I will briefly explain how sports organizations handle the different aspects of these pseudolaws. Tomorrow, I will start with an explanation of basic natural and positive law and how they apply to competitions. On Friday, I’ll explain the most basic sports-legal concept, the laws themselves, the competitive rules of a game.

After that, I will discuss the deeper issue of how a governing body relates to a government. On Saturday, I will talk about the legislative powers of governing bodies, then the executive powers on Sunday, followed by the judicial powers on Monday. Tuesday, I will discuss the special case of the referee, who takes on both executive and judicial powers within a game. I will finish my overview on Wednesday with a brief discussion of collective bargaining agreements and how they tie those powers together.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

RANT: Corn Syrup is Not Kosher For Passover (Strong Language)

Since this is supposed to be about sports law, I shouldn't be starting my blog off with a piece about Jewish law, but I am, and for three reasons:
  1. A large part of this blog is about pseudo-law, the creation and execution of things that look, taste, and sound like law but are not only because they aren't actual, government law. The NFL rules are laws within the context of an NFL game and this is a similar situation;
  2. Wanting to rant about this is what inspired me to get off my ass and actually start this blog; and
  3. This is my blog and I can go off track if I want.
Okay, so tonight is the first night of Passover and I was eating some Joyva ring gels, one of my favorite Passover candies, when I looked on the back of the box and saw that they have corn syrup in them. I got pissed off that something saying it was kosher for Passover had corn in it, since corn is a grain and Jewish law is clear on the subject that any grain, legume, or leavening other than matzo is not kosher for Passover.

Then I looked over and I saw another label that says:
What kind of bullshit is this? The Orthodox Union decides that it’s just too Goddamn hard to make food that doesn’t have corn syrup or soy-based emulsifiers in it, so they make them kosher for Passover this year? That’s a cop out and they know it. That’s why they have that little mincing, sheepish, apologetic label on there; because they know it’s wrong but they’re doing it anyway. THAT IS BULLSHIT.

Their rules are arbitrary; there's no good reason for the change. They serve no purpose other than to get people to stop complaining that they have to read ingredient labels for one week out of the year. I’m following Passover the right way and doing everything I can to avoid corn syrup and soy. If they can’t that’s their fault. Just because they don’t want to have to read labels, that doesn’t mean they should make it easier. The point of the Passover fast is that it’s hard. It’s supposed to teach you humility, not just be a minor inconvenience.

Now, because of their arbitrary rule change I have to be even more careful about what I get, because I can no longer trust brands like Joyva, or Manischewitz, or Streit's to actually be kosher for Passover. THIS IS BULLSHIT. THE OU SUCKS AND PEOPLE SUCK FOR GIVING THEM THE POWER TO MAKE RULE CHANGES THAT MAKE NO SENSE.

Monday, April 18, 2011

My First Post: Introduction

This is a blog dedicated to the unique aspects of law that exist in sports. I've found that most people tend to be fairly knowledgeable about sports and law separately, but know next to nothing about the places where the two coincide. I'd like to fix that.

Okay, so who am I? I am a law student at Washington & Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia. I'm finishing up my first year in about ten days and presumably I will have my J.D. in 2013. I'm originally from Cleveland, Ohio and I went to college at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

What is this? This is my blog. Ultimately, I want it to become a blog about the legal side of sports. This is definitely the summer to try that experiment, since the NFL is in a labor situation and the NBA will soon join it. I also want it to be about the internal laws of the sports world, from rule changes and application in-game to disciplinary action outside the game.

I will give you fair warning though: it's pretty likely that I will occasionally post as a fan or simply rant about some aspect of my life on here instead of doing actual legal analysis of sports. When I do that, I'll label the post. For example, later tonight I'm going to rant about something that truly pissed me off earlier and it will have RANT before the post title.

I'm also not afraid of using explicit language in some circumstances, so take this as a warning that most posts will likely have words that some may find offensive, but are FCC-legal. If a post has very strong or explicit language, I will put a warning in the post heading.

Stay tuned. Tomorrow I'll have something, probably a brief overview of how legal analysis applies to what I call pseudolaw, the use of legal processes and structures outside a purely legal field.