The Laws of October


I would like to take a moment to thank my readers for their incredible response to last week’s column. Reader Paul Boswell was so impressed he offered, “Top Drugs For You! Best Prices! No Perscription Required!” I was also invited to join in the “Law School Advisory Panel,” which I can only assume is a great honor. But the most flattering response came from Ruth Maoela, who has trusted me, I suppose on the basis of my column, with transferring “US$15.0 M” from the estate of her late husband, who was a prince or an oil executive or something. She has promised me 40% of the total for helping her, which should allow me to pursue my dream of retiring at 26.

So, thank you to all for the support. Often, this column will deal with the interaction between sports and the law, and how the law affects the world of sports. But, this is Harvard – who cares what the law is? We should be talking about what the law should be. As the month of October approaches, and with it the baseball playoffs, some ground rules need to be laid down, for the health and safety of all sports fans and those that love them. So, without further delay, I give you my proposal for the Laws of October.

Law #1: Playoff sports always take precedence over regular season sports: October offers a wealth of great sporting events, but often this leads to problems. Battles for television control in these dire times have ended friendships and resulted in many “torts” being committed. In order to prevent such conflict, Law #1 promotes a clear hierarchy for televised sports. Now, those wearing “burnt orange” (so named because of the attempts to burn all evidence of this hideous color out of existence) and those that worship “Touchdown Jesus” may take offense to such a policy. They may scream that their mental health depends on changing the channel away from the baseball play-offs. Kindly suggest that they visit Best Buy and purchase a TiVo. And while they are out, can they also get some pretzels?

Law #2: If baseball is not on, football should be: Of course, postseason sports are not always on television. In fact, Major League Baseball has taken great steps to ensure that most playoff games do not begin until well after most school children have gone to bed. Thus, during the daylight hours and any time that baseball is not on, football should be. A little known clause in the ESPN/ABC deal a few years back is that during the season, there must be a football game on television twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. This is why ESPN Classic was invented – to fill in the gaps. Sure, sometimes the game features Boise State and is played on some sort of a blue playing surface. But it is still football and so it deserves our attention.

Law #3: Every baseball fan should cheer for a Cubs/Red Sox World Series: The Cubs have already wrecked this by pulling off an incredible collapse and failing to qualify for the postseason. But as long as the Red Sox remain a viable hope to win the World Series, everyone should cheer for them. Seriously, who doesn’t want to stop hearing about the Curse? With one winning streak in October, sports fans everywhere would be rid forever of the Greatest Whine in history. I know the Astros have never won a championship and the Braves fans have suffered through countless near-misses, but isn’t another loss worth it if it means Red Sox fans stop crying about the Bambino?

Law #4: You cannot cheer against your friend’s team just to spite him, unless that team is the Yankees: There is nothing worse than the friend who says, “Oh, you live and die with the fate of the Cardinals. Go Dodgers!” This person roots against your team mercilessly, sitting with a smug grin while you hyperventilate over the latest pitching change. Presidents have invaded countries with less provocation. So, Law #4 mandates that you support your friend’s team, unless of course that team is the Yankees. A smart man once wrote that cheering for the Yankees is like rooting for the house in blackjack. In fact, you are only allowed to cheer for the Yankees under 3 conditions: (1) you grew up in New York, and thus we all feel bad for you anyway; (2) you can name one player from the 1989 team whose name does not rhyme with “fattingly”; or (3) you have recently woken up from a coma and you believe that Mickey Mantle is still playing centerfield. Any other “Yankee fan” is desperately clinging to the bandwagon and deserves to have everyone rooting against him.

Law #5: Despite what a roommate or significant other says, it is impossible to watch “too much sports”: October gives us the heart of the football season, as well as baseball playoffs and the start of basketball and hockey. It is the greatest of sports months, rivaled only by January’s collection of football playoffs and prime college basketball. All sports in October are meaningful and should be watched. The complaints of “too much sports” should be saved for July, when the sports-lover in your life is torn between bass fishing and the 1993 edition of the World’s Strongest Man competition. But for now, sit back, relax and enjoy the great sporting events October has to offer.

Greg Skidmore is a 3L who writes about law and sports at

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