July 23, 2024

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The 103 official, unwritten rules of sports and games

The 103 official, unwritten rules of sports and games

In the world of professional sports unwritten rules are horrible. They’re often invented by the most boring, starchy people in existence that insist on “doing things the right way” and sucking all the fun out of sport.

That said, in our personal lives unwritten rules are critical. They’re the unspoken guidelines we have to follow in order to have a society run smoothly. Whether you’re heading to the court for a game of pickup, tossing a football on the beach, or heading to the course for a round of golf with your friends, we’re here to help you ensure you don’t make an ass out of yourself and ruin everyone else’s fun.


  • If you are throwing a football on the beach you are obliged to say “nice throw” at least three times regardless of whether the throw is good or not.
  • If you happen to know a sportswriter, please never … EVER whip out your phone to show them your fantasy team. This happens all the time, and I promise they don’t care. Even if they feign interest they’re just going to say “looks pretty good,” because we don’t want to hear your justification for picking a QB with the No. 1 pick.
  • If kids are playing football and it happens to roll to you, don’t use it as an opportunity to fire a bullet pass into their chest and show off.
  • If you are playing quarterback in any capacity (flag football, beach football, whatever) and a receiver drops a pass, you are obligated to do the “tap your chest/that’s my bad” gesture. No matter what. Even if it was a throw right into their hands. You’re a good teammate after all. You missed the throw.
  • Of course, you are then under no obligation to throw to them ever again. But still … you are a good teammate.
  • If you can only throw ten yards on the fly using a running start, you can still play QB. Even All-Time QB. Just … understand your limitations and stop sending everyone deep.
  • Unless you are playing in some sort of competitive flag football league, stick to man coverage on defense. Maybe Cover 1, using a single safety deep. You aren’t teaching your teammates Nick Saban’s Cover 7 on a summer Saturday at the beach.

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  • If another group arrives to the court you have to move your pickup game to half court
  • Basketball more than 3 on 3 is made for full court
  • Pickup basketball is always make it, take it
  • The person who brings the ball ALWAYS plays. As long as they want. They never leave the court. Deal with it.
  • Nobody cares about your high school stats. If you’ve over the age of 25 then reciting them is just sad.
  • As always, know your strengths and weaknesses. Maybe you are the pickup version of a “three-and-D” wing. Maybe you’re gonna be the one setting picks and rebounding. Know your role and play it well. If you can’t handle the ball, do not insist on bringing it up/playing point. If you’re 5’2”, stop posting up.
  • Call your own fouls, but if you’re always complaining in pick up basketball about getting fouled, grow up.


  • If we’re playing beer league softball, you aren’t “working the count,” you’re being a jackass. And absolutely no bunting. There’s a commercial for some cholesterol medication where this guy gets up and drops down a bunt. I’m coming down the baseline from third and we’re throwing hands if you pull that shit.
  • NEVER mention a no-hitter
  • Playing in a beer league is innately chill. Don’t be the asshole who chews out a teammate for an error. You’re taking it too seriously.
  • Besides, odds are you are making an error before you know it.
  • Unless a championship is on the line for your beer league softball team, no sliding. You’re wearing shorts anyway, and let’s face it, there’s a non-zero chance that if you go down to slide, you are not getting back up anytime soon.
  • Lose the eye black and just learn how to use your glove to block the sun. This isn’t 10U baseball.
  • Also, lose the wristbands. If you’re sweating so much in beer league softball that things are slipping out of your hands, that might be more of a “medical situation” than it is a “performance situation.”


  • You aren’t reaching the green in two Tiger, there’s no reason to wait for the green to clear.
  • Same goes with lining up your putts. Unless there’s a bet with a comma involved, let’s keep it moving.
  • Unless you are a card-carrying member of the PGA Tour, the LPGA Tour, the LIV Tour, or on a college golf team, no one is going to benefit from your mid-round swing tips. What you saw on TikTok is not saving me from pulling everything into the weeds, trust me.
  • Because I spent three hours before the round watching those same TikToks.
  • If your tee shots are consistently failing to reach the forward tees, stop playing from the tips. If you do not want to listen to us, listen to Jack Freakin’ Nicklaus.
  • Have some courtesy for those you are playing with, and those behind you, when looking for a lost ball. Give it a few minutes, then take the L and drop another one nearby. If you’re constantly spraying brand new Titleists into the woods and you don’t want to eat the cost, then maybe play with some cheaper balls?
  • Along the same lines, when someone in your group is looking for their lost ball, do help them if you can. Sure, if your shot landed on the other side of the fairway that’s okay, but if they are searching in the woods and you’re taking dozens of practice shots standing over your ball nearby, you are not helping anyone.
  • Know what ball you are playing with, as well as what balls your partners are playing with. That is going to help everyone. Better yet, you can even mark them? There are all sorts of handy devices you can use, some that even help you line up your puts, addressing a previous point.
  • Stand behind but not right behind those in your foursome while they tee off so you can help watch where their ball went
  • Just because the new carts play music doesn’t mean you should turn it on, not everyone on the course wants to hear it
  • Start clearly communicating around hole 6 what your plans are for the turn. Don’t need the rest of your group waiting on the 10th tee while you are sitting down to eat a second breakfast
  • Don’t sit down to eat on the turn


  • Unless you’re actually competing, using a drop shot in a rally is just a dick move.
  • The same goes for an overhead smash.
  • Most people just want to hit around. Don’t rush the net like you’re Andre Agassi.
    (For our dear friend JP Acosta, Andre Agassi was an exciting tennis player back in the day. You can look him up on Google.)
  • Are you playing on Centre Court? You can grunt. Otherwise … don’t.
  • Great spin shots are fun every once and a while but if your opponent isn’t up to your talent level, cut them out. No joy in making your friend look stupid all the time

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  • If someone had legitimate experience playing keeper then they’re the keeper, no questions asked.
  • If you don’t know what you’re doing: Play defense.
  • You’re not Lionel Messi. Screaming “man on” to people isn’t going to make them listen to you.
  • If you’re kicking around with kids and the ask you to play goalie you’re obligated to let a few go through to make them feel good.


  • If you’re not swimming in a lane you lose all right to being pissy about kids having fun near you.
  • This goes double if your pool has dedicated “Adult Swim” time each hour. The kids are gonna go crazy for their 45 minutes, so know what you’re getting into if you’re just wading in the pool during that time. You’ll get your 15 minutes soon enough.
  • You can’t pull off a speedo. We’re never going to tell you what to wear and you should be happy with your body. But if there’s even a 1% chance you need to ask if you can pull off a speedo, you can’t.
  • Don’t pee in the pool. I can’t believe we have to tell people this, but no … gross. Get out and go to the bathroom like an adult.


  • More than two people wide is so rude. Share the path
  • Announce when you’re passing someone, something simple like “on the right”
  • If you’re running on a track and going slowly, use the outside lanes.
  • If you’re running on a track and working on your start out of the blocks you better be: Training for an upcoming meet, or coaching someone who is. Otherwise, well, you might hurt something


  • At the gym, always be willing to spot someone.
  • Along the same lines, do not be afraid to ask for someone to spot you. People are willing to help, and it’s much better — and easier — to ask before your lift begins, than it is when the bar is on your throat.
  • The only time it is ok to curl in the squat rack is when the squat rack is located in your basement. Any public gym squat rack is for leg day, not bicep day.
  • Wipe down your machines and equipment.
  • I get it. We all check our phones while we’re at the gym. But if you’re at the gym during peak hours, try to limit it as much as possible, because someone might be waiting on what you’re using.
  • Re-rack your weights.
  • No, seriously. Re-rack your weights. All of them. Plates, dumbbells, clips, everything.
  • Along with re-racking weights, put them back in the right order. Nobody wants to sort through the 35-lb plates to get to a 45, dude.
  • Tennis rules apply here too. Don’t grunt, you neanderthal.
  • PR or ER, always. If you’re maxing out without a spot, you either lift the weight or you end up spotting Samson in heaven. No in-betweens.

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Games and misc.

  • “On fire” is a bullshit beer pong house rule. I will fight this ‘til my death
  • If you’re throwing cornhole bags at a bar don’t give people fucking tips about how to throw a flat spin. I don’t care how into cornhole you are. They don’t give a shit about cornhole outside of wanting something to do with a beer in their hand
  • The same goes for bowing advice, pool advice. Literally any unrequested advice
  • Beach volleyball. unless you’re Karch Kiraly or Misty May-Treanor, let’s just go with the underhand serve. Your jump serve that rockets off the back of a teammate’s head is embarrassing for us all.
  • I’m not going to like your “thing” more if you lecture me
  • Sure you are welcome to experiment with forehand and hammer throws when playing with a frisbee. But there is a time and place for that. In the backyard on a summer weekend? Sure. Next to the water at the beach? Only if you’re willing to go into the waves when you screw up.
  • Speaking of the beach, if you’re going to try your hand at bodysurfing/bodyboarding/”boogie boarding” take careful note of your surroundings and the overall situation. The family of six building castles in the sand right by the shoreline might not appreciate you barreling into them repeatedly.
  • If you suggest playing a game at the beach and there’s no enthusiasm, don’t keep forcing it. People want to sit in the sun and drink. Just take the L and move on, rather than keep suggesting it over and over again.
  • Unless you’re at a dedicated pool hall, don’t bring your own cue. You look like a total tool.
  • Don’t try behind-the-back shots in pool when you don’t need to. You look like an idiot.

Video Games

  • If you’re at the arcade and a kid is playing a fighting game, you NEVER challenge them.
  • If they challenge you, then absolutely wreck their world to teach them humility.
  • NEVER throw someone else’s controller.
  • Whoever owns the system gets first dibs on the sticks.
  • Don’t use a different player in NBA2K. Play on the ball defense, coward.
  • If people aren’t on your level in Smash, play an alt. Don’t body them just because you can.
  • You don’t play OddJob in Goldeneye … ever
  • If you do not know who the weak link is in your CoD/PUBG squad … it’s you.
  • If you are the aforementioned weak link, then do the little things for your squad. Call things out. Communicate. Make sure everyone has what they need, whether it’s ammo, a loadout, plates, etc. If they’re going to be carrying you, make sure you make their jobs easier.
  • Don’t eat while squadded up. Sit out a round if you have to. No one wants someone hammering away at an Uncrustable — as delicious as they are — mid-game.
  • Don’t say you can snipe if you can’t snipe. You know if you can snipe.
  • If the squad is relying on you, put down your damn phone.
  • Don’t hog the ball in any sports game. If you’re with other people then you pass.
  • Don’t destroy a child just because you can. Unless they’re being annoying, then body them.
  • Talk like a normal person unless you know the other players know your language. Yelling “215” doesn’t mean anything if your teammate doesn’t know you are using the nav bar numbers to call out opponent locations

Watching sports

  • Choose your shots when it comes to heckling visiting fans. Don’t try to start beef with a family just because they’re in an opposing jersey.
  • It’s absolutely fine to call for a high-five from strangers after a big play, especially if they’re matching your energy.
  • NEVER fight opposing fans. Don’t be that person.
  • If you accidentally spill someone’s drink or knock over their food you’re obligated to replace it.
  • Don’t try to start a wave. It’s not going to happen.
  • Whoever’s house you’re watching the game at controls the remote. No questions asked.
  • If you bring beer to watch the game and there are some left, they are surrendered to the house as tribute.
  • Don’t get sloppy drunk watching the game at someone’s house. You just become a burden to their afternoon.
  • You should always bring at LEAST a bag of chips to a gathering. If they’re not consumed, they’re surrendered like the beer.
  • Don’t offer your recipe for a food a host has made. It only sounds like you think their food is ass.
  • It’s perfectly acceptable to use the barter system at a tailgate and try to exchange beer for food.
  • If you’re cooking chili or wings for a crowd it’s not the time to show off your spice tolerance. Make the food relatively plain and let people add to it.
  • On CFB Saturdays and NFL Sundays, the host’s team has priority on the main TV.
  • If the host’s team is not playing during a given window, then the most important matchup has priority, followed by the most exciting game.
  • Only after all other options are exhausted can a game reach the main TV for fantasy or betting purposes.

If you have any more unwritten rules that should be added to this list, please drop them in the comments. We’d love to add them as a service and will credit you for your contribution.