effects of doing nothing in a sporting competition: a comparative study

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

How long can both sides legally do nothing in a game without inducing a change of game state? How close to "doing nothing" can you get?

The purest examples in a timed competition are evidently football (soccer) and hockey, where I understand both teams can just stand there for the entire duration of play, and matches can end in a draw.

Major league baseball has instituted a pitch clock (eugh). Once a ball is in play, is anyone on either team obliged to do anything? Also, baseball games can't end in ties and have no clock so can conceivably last forever.

Basketball is pretty weak here. There's a shot clock and so you'd get turnovers every half minute.

American football has a play clock, but I don't know if anyone is obligated to do anything after the snap.

Tennis has apparently acquired a serve clock, which is a shame, so you can't just stand there indefinitely, but you could volley forever. A bit less pure, and possibly more of a challenge than trying to win.

In a tournament chess match, nobody has to do anything, but if white never moves, they lose when their time runs out. Not very fair.

Swilling Ambergris, Esq. (silby), Monday, 13 January 2020 20:31 (one month ago) link

In a game of bridge, after the hands are dealt, the participants can just sit and chat until they all agree to serve snacks and go home.

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 13 January 2020 20:38 (one month ago) link

Yeah, it happens all the time in football - real football. Both teams will make it to the next round with a draw, neither team can afford to lose, nothing happens for ninety minutes. There was a great game between Denmark and Sweden a few years back, where both teams could make it, but only if they played 2-2. For eighty minutes it was a tense, riveting match. Then they hid 2-2 with ten minutes to go, and... It just died... It meant Italy was out, and... I still heard complaints about it a few years back vacationing in Tuscany.

Frederik B, Monday, 13 January 2020 20:40 (one month ago) link

is there a time limit on the 100m? once the starting gun goes then so long as they stay in lane...

thomasintrouble, Monday, 13 January 2020 20:46 (one month ago) link

does a football match officially start when the ref blows the whistle or the one team first touches the ball?

mookieproof, Monday, 13 January 2020 20:55 (one month ago) link

game starts with the whistle, which is before the first touch

bidenfan69420 (jim in vancouver), Monday, 13 January 2020 20:58 (one month ago) link

Aren't the team who win the toss under some obligation to start playing? Meaning that doing nothing in a football match would be like a chess match - side that's supposed to start forfeits the game?

just another country (snoball), Monday, 13 January 2020 20:59 (one month ago) link

I could see the following scenario in a baseball game: both teams collude to "take over" a game for an indefinite amount of time, as a protest against something or another. The batter puts the ball in play, rounds first base and just stops and sits. The outfielder picks up the ball and sits as well, as do all of the players on the field. The fans would boo (or maybe cheer, depending on the particular stance) but it doesn't seem like there is much the ump crew could do to get things moving again.

I hope I see this someday! Closest was in The Bad News Bears, where the pitcher fielded a grounder and refused to give the ball up, the batter rounding all the bases and ultimately scoring while the pitcher's team mates vainly attempt to wrest the ball from him. (He was, in fact, protesting the inhumane treatment he was receiving from his father, the coach.)

henry s, Monday, 13 January 2020 21:00 (one month ago) link

great story on a trick play resulting in (almost) nothing happening in a bsseball game for two and a half minutes: https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/20294816/skunk-outfield-how-most-epic-trick-play-history-broke-baseball

if neither team vied for the tip-off in basketball, the shot clock would not come into play. not sure what they'd do if the ball bounced out of bounds untouched, but probably just another tip-off

mookieproof, Monday, 13 January 2020 21:09 (one month ago) link

In NFL football a team that refused to snap the ball would be repeatedly penalized five yards for "delay of game" until they were within five yards of their own goal line at which point the penalty would become "half the distance to the goal line" and this distance would get smaller and smaller down to the subatomic level and then quantum mechanics would be disrupted and the universe would explode.

Josefa, Monday, 13 January 2020 21:36 (one month ago) link

Oh hell yeah.

Swilling Ambergris, Esq. (silby), Monday, 13 January 2020 21:46 (one month ago) link

Though to get to that scenario they'd still have to have the opening kickoff. The kicker could kick the ball to the opponent who could catch it and just stand there but it would theoretically be a live ball for eternity, never ending the first quarter.

Fetchboy, Tuesday, 14 January 2020 01:19 (one month ago) link

Not for eternity because after 15 minutes of the guy standing there with the ball the first quarter would end, and then the opposing team would gain possession at the point where that guy was standing.

Josefa, Tuesday, 14 January 2020 04:14 (one month ago) link

Or wait, maybe the receiving team would retain possession, but it would have to start from a snap from where the guy was standing at the end of the first quarter

Josefa, Tuesday, 14 January 2020 04:16 (one month ago) link

If the ball is live when the clock runs out it remains live until the play is over.

Fetchboy, Wednesday, 15 January 2020 07:45 (one month ago) link


Frozen Mug (Tom D.), Wednesday, 15 January 2020 10:40 (one month ago) link

I wouldn't say it's "doing nothing", as it is part of the strategy, but the surplace in cycling deserves a mention. Specifically the 'longest lap', where "doing nothing" is the sport: you lose if you can't stand still.


Le Bateau Ivre, Wednesday, 15 January 2020 10:57 (one month ago) link

The jury will now put a stop to cyclists standing still for too long, but this didn't used to be the case. As psychological warfare in a race against each other, Antonio Maspes and Jan Derksen in 1955 stood still on their bikes for over 32 minutes before they finally started their race.

Le Bateau Ivre, Wednesday, 15 January 2020 11:04 (one month ago) link

No mention of cricket yet? Batsmen are often complimented for not playing the ball, prompting appreciative shouts of "Well left!".

Frozen Mug (Tom D.), Wednesday, 15 January 2020 11:31 (one month ago) link

In cricket, a batsman leaving a delivery that has been bowled is still a choice and an act of participation. What you should be wondering is what happens if the fielding team refuse to bowl a ball. I think what happens is that the umpires give penalty runs to the batting side and in extreme cases can announce the game forfeit (as happened to Pakistan in around 2010)

opden gnash (imago), Wednesday, 15 January 2020 11:35 (one month ago) link

The most famous example in football is probably 'the Disgrace of Gijon' where Germany and Austria colluded to get the only result (a 1-0 win for Germany) that would see them both qualify for the next round of the 1982 World Cup. Germany scored after ten minutes and they just noodled about for the remaining eighty.

There was an argument at the time that this constituted match-fixing, which is against the rules of the sport, but the authorities decided that they hadn't done anything illegal. However, there was at least the pretense of playing a game - they weren't literally standing there and doing nothing.

The only way two teams could not touch the ball after kick-off would be through agreement between themselves - which would probably provide enough evidence of collusion to bring it within the scope of match-fixing, unless it was done as some kind of protest. A referee can suspend / abandon a match at their discretion if they feel the laws of the sport are not being adhered to. It's not absolutely explicit that suspected match fixing would be covered but the likelihood would be that the game would be called off by the ref earlier than the full 90 minutes.

ShariVari, Wednesday, 15 January 2020 11:45 (one month ago) link

Though to get to that scenario they'd still have to have the opening kickoff.

i assume there's a play clock on the opening kickoff, meaning you could go into the zeno scenario with no one doing anything or the game clock ever starting

mookieproof, Wednesday, 15 January 2020 15:28 (one month ago) link

In NFL football a team that refused to snap the ball would be repeatedly penalized five yards for "delay of game" until they were within five yards of their own goal line at which point the penalty would become "half the distance to the goal line" and this distance would get smaller and smaller down to the subatomic level and then quantum mechanics would be disrupted and the universe would explode.

yea I've pulled this off in Madden before

frogbs, Wednesday, 15 January 2020 15:47 (one month ago) link

Slightly derailment but, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_team_in_Tallinn

The match was abandoned after three seconds because the Estonian team were absent from the Kadrioru Stadium due to a dispute over its floodlights.

Frozen Mug (Tom D.), Wednesday, 15 January 2020 15:59 (one month ago) link

It does raise an interesting question for football / soccer - if a player goes over to take a corner / free kick and spends too long taking it, to slow down the game, they'd get booked for time wasting and, with repetition, sent off. If nobody goes over to take the corner / free kick, who'd get booked and how would play re-start?

ShariVari, Wednesday, 15 January 2020 16:01 (one month ago) link

I don't know much about UFC history, but there was this:

In high school and collegiate wrestling, competitors are warned for stalling and after a fourth warning get disqualified, so I guess both would be disqualified if neither attempted to wrestle during a match.

I think the rules are similar in boxing -- neither fighter boxing would produce a double disqualification and a result of no contest.

Brad C., Wednesday, 15 January 2020 16:38 (one month ago) link

at some point somebody is going to post this video, and it might as well be me


like, I’m eating an elephant head (katherine), Wednesday, 15 January 2020 23:30 (one month ago) link

You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.