Unwritten Rules

When I saw Angry Birds in the Field of Dreams, I chuckled (laughed quietly) to myself, thinking that Jeff had come up with a clever (unusual, interesting) title for something that had happened in a baseball game earlier that week. Well, it was a clever title, but about something else. That means I get to tell the “other” story about anger on the field of dreams (in baseball)!

Let me start with a little Sociology 101 (an introductory class in college often has the number 101). Beginning sociology students are usually introduced to norms – rules that identify behaviors (actions) that are acceptable or required in different situations. Norms tell us how to act when we’re together with other people. But norms are rarely written; they’re learned by experience and example as we live with a group of people. They’re what we call rules of thumb (general ideas from experience) for how to act with other people.

Let me give you a couple of (two) examples of norms. When you get into an elevator, you’re expected to turn around and face (look toward) the door, away from the other people in the elevator. If you walk into the elevator and face the people, we’d say that you had “violated (disobeyed) the norm.” You didn’t do what you were supposed to do in that situation. Here’s another example: in the U.S., you are expected to look at someone when you talk with them. If you look down or somewhere else, we’d consider you (think that you are) impolite.

Back to the field of dreams. You don’t need to know all about baseball to follow the story, but if you’d like to learn more about it, the Wikipedia baseball article is pretty good: read the first paragraph, then go down to the part called Rules and gameplay. And this article, What is Baseball, is helpful, too.

A couple of weeks ago the Anaheim Angels played the Detroit Tigers. The game featured (included as a special part) two of the best pitchers (players who throw the ball to players, called batters, who try to hit it) in baseball. Everyone expected the game to be a duel (contest or competition) between two pitchers who throw the ball so well that most batters have trouble hitting it. Many of us expected a low-scoring game, maybe even 1-0.

In baseball, one of the most exciting plays (actions) is the home run. A home run happens when a batter hits the ball so hard that it goes over the fence and out of the baseball park. When a batter hits a home run, he’s expected to drop his bat and run around the field, being sure to step on each of the four bases.

Near the beginning of the game, Magglio Ordonez from Detroit hit a home run. While he was running around the bases, Angel pitcher Jared Weaver shouted at him because he thought Ordonez wasn’t running fast enough. Bad mistake! Weaver broke (didn’t obey) the unwritten rule that says you have to show respect for the other teams’ players. He would argue (say), of course, that Ordonez’ slow running didn’t show him respect. If that’s true, Ordonez broke the same rule.

Weaver’s shouting at Ordonez angered Carlos Guillen, another Detroit player. So, when Guillen hit a home run later in the game, he stood and watched the ball for a while, then danced slowly for a few steps toward first base, looking at Weaver the entire time, before he ran around the bases. More disrespect! Another bad mistake!

One of the unwritten rules in baseball says that if a player does something bad to you, you have to retaliate, you have to do something bad to him or to one of his teammates, and that’s exactly what Weaver did: he threw the ball at the head of the next Detroit batter. Fortunately he missed, but he was ejected from (thrown out of) the game and has been suspended from (prohibited from playing in) six games. The suspension is bad news for the Angels, who are trying to get into the playoffs (the competition at the end of the regular season): Weaver is their best pitcher and they need him to play.

Every sport seems to have its unwritten rules. I’ve seen them in American football, soccer, baseball, and basketball. And it seems to me, unfortunately, that they often make young men act like little boys. What do you think?

~ Warren Ediger – creator of Successful English, where you can always find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo used courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

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19 Responses to Unwritten Rules

  1. Ethan says:

    When it comes to sports, certain norms definitely seem immature. But I think that’s what makes game more entertaining. For instance, you can easily be emotionally connected/attached(?) to the player who gets angry because of his/her opponent breaking a norm or two maybe. And then you get to be involved deeper and deeper. Something like that..

  2. Eugene says:

    In my opinion, breaking the unwritten rules is part of any sport game. It makes any game more interesting and exciting. game becomes more memorised for people. it’s important! there are unwritten rules that allow to show respect to opponent team. For instance, in the soccer game when the player gets the trauma and he needs help of doctor, the players of opponent team almost always pass the ball into outside the field so that the game will be stopped and the player gets necessary help. After the player gets help and the game can be continued , he or his teammate gives the ball to opposite team although the official rules don’t require to do it. this is principle of “fair play”

  3. Agenobarb says:

    The most known unwritten rules in sport I believe is something called “fair play” (but I am not sure if this rule is known in English this way). The best example of this rule would be when one of players gets in trouble (he is injured or something) but the referee doesn’t stop the game because the rules were not violated, the opposite players stop the game in order to give a chance to the injured rival for getting help immediately.

  4. Peter says:

    Dear Warren,
    Very educational,informative ,and as usual interesting topic
    You came up with the best definition ever for he term”rule of thumb.”
    Kudos to you on that
    In all honesty,I don’t know the first thing about Baseball.
    Totally fogy to me. Thanks for lifting the mist,and clearing the fog a tad:)
    How ever, One question comes to mind ?
    Would you kindly explain to us what it means when we say “it is your sweet home run”
    It has nothing to do with baseball ,has it?
    To my best of knowledge,It is an expression.
    Yet,I couldn’t make head nor tail of it
    I didn’t know what home run means till you explained it just now on this very post
    Would you kindly extend your graciously appreciated favour with explanation of the terms above on this very blog, so everybody has the luxuary of taking even more new material home. the aformentioned terms :” sweet home run ,and “pace yourself” are the kind of terms one can’t look them up ,since there is no dictionary eneries on them. In fact ,I m looking for the concept like you did on “Rule of thumb .”
    No dictionaries out there come up with suc a clear-cut explanation
    Dictioneris just give us general ideas about words and expression
    The concept always comes out of a native speaker like yourself.
    So ,indulge us ,would you

    So be a pal and educate us.

    Best regards


  5. Peter says:

    I have one confession to make
    For a short while,I was deluding my self that I am over the hill in English language, alas that I was sadly mistaken.
    Yesterday ,I attended a conference. There were to speakers who addressed the audience,In different time slots of course
    At the end of their speeches, I came to realize that I know nothing about the language and that I have a spacious room to advancement.
    Those public speakers set the bar at an unachievable level,another words ,set the bar too high up and I don’t see myself up there.
    One might console me by taping me on the shoulder and murmur: “hang in there lad. You will get there. ” my only rational,plausible, logic answer would be: “I would not get my hope high”
    It is sad ,but it is true.
    Pals,the fact that we need Eslpod around for eternity is more palpable than ever to me.
    So,let’s keep it up



  6. el comandant says:

    I disagree with the article when it says “One of the unwritten rules in baseball says that if a player does something bad to you, you have to retaliate, you have to do something bad to him or to one of his teammates, and that’s exactly what Weaver did …”. I think completely in the opposite way, that is, if one player do something bad to you or someone else of your team, you must ignore him and his action too. Even so, I think if you have the opportunity of retaliate, you mustn’t do it.

    I think this is the true rule unwritten of any sport game. I’m sure that this way you would teach him that you have more class than him and even you would achieve he feel ashamed because his bad action.


  7. Dan says:

    I have found the video and watched it, interesting and in a way funny.

    One of the unwritten rules at my work place, is that if one after using it, forgets the key for the vending machines in the key hole, the one who comes
    after him and finds it discharge the key buying something for every one else. Usually one keeps 5 Euro in it.
    After that the owner gets the empty key.
    It is not right, but is funny(not for the key owner), and morover it teaches you a lesson: pay more attention on what you are doing..

  8. emiliano says:

    I know so few about sports that my opinion is worthless, but as some of the friends have said above
    “fair play” is necessary in all aspects of life and spots is another side of humans activities.

    Our education is full of unwritten rules but some people have more than other and just here could
    be the conflict.

    Thank you Warren the article have lots of new words and expressions.


  9. Peter says:

    I guess ,it is your home sweet run,
    I m confused

  10. Peter says:

    Eslpod is the only place that you can go against the grain and get away with that. Because I m this outlandish ,knucklehead who is still around:)))
    Thanks for the patient chief
    I know I m trying your patience.

    Bonehead,Peter :))

  11. Peter says:

    However we are here to learn
    It is all that matters

  12. For Peter and everyone:

    When I can’t find the meaning of a phrase in a dictionary, I use a Google search. Here are two suggestions for a successful search:

    (1) put the phrase inside quotation marks, like this: “home sweet home”; the quotation marks tell Google to look specifically for the phrase, not just the words.

    (2) use the “define” command, like this: define:”home sweet home”; the “define’ command – be sure to use the colon (:) without a space – tells Google to look for a definition on any web site.

    Peter asked about a phrase – sweet home run – that he thought he remembered. The only phrase I know that comes close to that is “home sweet home.” That’s the title of a song from 1823 that has these lines:

    Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
    Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.

    We might paraphrase the lines like this:

    Even though we enjoy many pleasures and visit fancy places,
    there’s no place like home even if it’s simple and poor.

  13. Peter says:

    Another weekened we the Great Eslpod.
    How does it feel ?
    A click away and bingo tons of practical, uptodate enteries for us to have our way with them.:)
    Jeff,I know you ate saying :
    ” Petet, take a pause for the cause. Jezz ,my page is blotted by your gibberish comment. It is evident that you don’t know when to stop.”
    Cut me some slack. the thing is English is all I have left the rest is a house of cards ( a plan ,a financial situation ,and so on that is shaky and weak and prone to fall apart)
    I have grown fond of This Program big time

  14. Peter says:

    Dear Warren ,
    I really appreciate the response,
    But with due all respect , I know what home sweet home means.
    I heard the exact term it is your sweet home-run more often that not.
    Factoring in the context in which I heard the expressions from fellow Americans, my Guess is that the term means: it is what you want to happen but it never happens
    A whisfull thinking or so
    Believe you me Warren , I heard the term like it is awfully common from newyorkers that I made acquainted here in Tornto. I never dare to ask what it means. I don’t want them to think lees of me. It is the price you pay for an unplausible pride

  15. Sergio says:

    Dear Warren,
    when I studied at the university I would have paid I don’t know how much to have got “The nature of Thermodynamics”, a book
    written by Percy William Bridgman, a really great physicist – even though at that time I knew English more less than now – please don’t laugh!
    Yesterday, after around 30 years, I found it on the website and downloaded in a few minutes. Now I can read it in my Kindle and I can’t say what I felt…
    Thank you very much for your instruction about how to search in Google… (how do you say “motore di ricerca” in English? search engine?
    oh, don’t mind, I’m only joking mentioning last English Café…). However, what can we really find on the internet? All the human knowledge? Absolutely not,
    not… yet! A day, perhaps or… likely. And then, I believe in the future what will worth will be what nobody will be able to find on the web! (Mamma mia,
    what a run-on sentence! oops, another quotation!). So, I don’t know what could mean “home sweet run”. But we know literature isn’t a given, well-defined
    language, literatuare needs to be not totally straightforward. So, I would think about these words not included on the internet virtual world, something like:
    “casa dolce andare”, “home sweet… go away, leave” because, I agree with you that nothing could be better than our own home, however don’t we appreciate
    our home after a short or a long period af time… “over the hill and far away”?
    And eventually, once again I say I really like every time the “subtext” in your cogitations…

  16. sara says:

    Dear Warren thanks for being here again and for letting us to learn many new and interesting things.

  17. Peter says:

    Dear Warren,
    I really appreciate the response,
    Thanks for the care

  18. emiliano says:

    Well, now it is clear that “Home, Sweet Home” is a song but also a feeling
    that defines there is not a place to me, to you or to every body
    like home despite it could be humble, not rich or not a palace.
    Every one could be fed up living in a palace that is not their place, their

    But what defines “Home”?

    The house?
    The village where we live and the house in it?
    The place where we work?
    The place we were born and have our relatives and friends?
    The new city where we are living after leaving the city or village
    we were born?
    The place, or house where our lover lives which ever site it could be?

    Well I think it would be a good subject to think about and just
    know what is our personal feelings about our “Home, Sweet Home”.
    Personally I do not think every one of us have the same idea or feelings
    about Home, our sweet home….
    There is another song “The Green Sleeves of Summer” from the movie “The Alamo”
    what is singed by “The Brothers Four” that I like very much and said something
    about Home.
    “The Brother Four” is an incredible very old group from the 50/60 years that made
    good very good music with quite good English pronunciation.
    Listening to them is a big pleasure for English students, just the same as to
    The Platers, or Roy Orbison, Perry Come, etc…
    Congratulations Sergio, at the end you have something very important that was
    apparently lost but not in your memory. This little things make the web something
    very precious for us.
    Recovering treasure books or songs, pictures, videos of our youth it is
    absolutely nice.
    Congratulations again Sergio.


  19. Johnny says:

    I was so repentant that I didn’t keep up learnning English for past a couple of months after reading Peter’s posts,

    because he said that “he thought he was over the hill in English language”, in my mind , peter was a diligent person and

    work hadr everyday in learning English, each time when i was browsing his posts here they all always with varieties of vivid

    description and polished expression. In some extent he was our learners’ hero model , and of couse emilinao and betty they are too.

    For some period of time , I lost my direction and enthusiasm on learnning English well as wel as lack of patience , I have to confess

    those are my the bigest drawback to obstruct me from achieving where I want, but now I found, I just don’t want to be confused any more.

    so here I vow that I will bound to leave some message when each time Jeff and Lucy ‘s get their blogs released. I will never give up again.

    I love Englihs very much from my deep side.. Thank you all of you.

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