"You can't do that!": A salute to aberrations in strategy that somehow haven't ruined sports

With all due respect to Cassandra McClellan and her appeal for a return of sanity and the prevailing of cooler heads, I don't think it's over, not by a long shot. "It" being the hubbub (not quite an uproar...but stay tuned) raised over the Philadelphia Flyers' attempt to thwart the 1-3-1, Tampa T, trap-not-a-trap defensive scheme of the Tampa Bay Lightning when the two teams met the other night in a game won by the Lightning (2-1, in overtime).

Considering the fact that the media, particularly those in town from Philadelphia, were undoubtedly distracted by the events unfolding around the Penn State scandal that night, this situation didn't get the attention it might have under normal circumstances. That's not likely to be the case if it happens again. It's a copycat league, as is the case in all sports, and we have a long way to go this season. Which means it's really more of a question of when, not if. No, I'm afraid we have not seen the last of flailing arms, gnashing teeth and jerking knees over this.

I do agree with her when she points out there is no conspiracy in place. To think otherwise requires believing that the crazy idea of granting Tampa Bay an NHL franchise in 1992 was so a then-21-year-old Guy Boucher could be groomed as an agent of destruction and eventually destroy the league from the inside out. That's awfully impressive long-range planning for an organization that doesn't seem to know what to do with the Phoenix Coyotes.

No, Cassie's right when she says this was simply a case of two teams trying to outfox each other, aberrant only in that it deviates from the way we've all come to expect the game to be played. It's not the first time it's happened in hockey and it certainly won't be the last. Such occurrences aren't even unique to hockey.

Baseball: The Intentional Walk
"Hey batter, I don't think I want to risk you generating offense by hitting the ball a long way with your bat. So how about if you just put it down and go right ahead and take first base and we'll move on to the next guy." "You're just going to let me have first base, with the knowledge that I may eventually score anyway?" "Oh yes, it goes against everything we've ever learned about baseball in regard to keeping runners off base and we're fully aware that someone else could drive you in. But we think this is going to work out." "You're telling me I can generate offense and I don't even have to do anything?" "You got it, my friend." "Sounds too good to be true. Tell you what, you throw four pitches but throw them waaaaay outside and if you do, I promise I won't swing." "Okay, deal."

Football: The Onside Kick

"Okay men, we're in a tight spot here. We just scored but we're still behind and time is running out. We need that ball back!" "But coach, the rules say we have to kick it to the other team. What are we gonna do, coach?" "Oh we'll kick it to 'em, all right. But just a little. Not to the speedy, skinny kid way down the field but to the slow, fat guys right up front. If they miss it, I figure we have at least a 50/50 chance of one of you guys getting it." "That's actually a pretty solid plan, coach. Why don't we do it every time we kick off?" "Ready, BREAK!"

Basketball: The Intentional Foul

"Okay men, we're in a tight spot here. We just scored but we're still behind and time is running out. We need that ball back!" "But coach, the rules say they get possession of the ball after every time we score." "That's why I want you to commit a foul when they try to pass it inbounds. Just grab the guy who gets it." "You...want me to break the rules?" "It's not enough to just break the rules; you need to get caught doing it. That will stop the clock." "But they'll get to shoot free throws, coach. If they make them, that's more points for them." "Well...they might miss!" "Coach, we're down by 33 with :45 left in the game." "Ready, BREAK!"

Soccer: That Thing They Do Where They Pretend To Be Seriously Injured In Order To Draw A Penalty

"Owwwwww! My knee! It's shattered! I'm in agony! Did you see what my opponent did? Argh, the vile treachery! I'll probably never walk again without years of expensive and painful therapy! This transgression can not stand! I demand justice on behalf of my team before I die from pain, internal organ failure and blood loss! Did you see it? Did you?!? No? Well, bollocks then."

See? Other sports survive their weird deviations, some even thrive because of them. Hockey will be just fine.

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