Excerpt: 'Mike and Mike's Rules for Sports and Life'

Photo: Book Cover: Rules for Sports and LifeCourtesy Amazon.com
"Mike and Mike?s Rules for Sports and Life," by Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic

ESPN Radio co-hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic bring their morning radio show to the pages of "Mike and Mike's Rules for Sports and Life."

From the NBA draft to why children should not eat French fries for breakfast, the two host debate the rules to live by in their first book.

Check out an excerpt of the book below, then head to the "GMA" Library for other great reads.

Chapter 1

GREENY: What a great game our national pastime is, a sport of skill, athleticism, strategy, explosive action, and great suspense. Every baseball game starts exactly the same, perfect and pristine in those expectant moments before the first pitch, and then it's . . . Play ball! . . . A swing and a miss . . . the diving catch . . . the hard slide, a cloud of dust, and a stolen base . . .

VIDEO: ESPNs Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic talk about their new book.Play
Mike and Mike: 'Rules for Sports and Life'

GOLIC: The peanuts, the Cracker Jack, a beer and a hot dog.

GREENY: Wait, wait, wait. . . . What are you doing?

GOLIC: I'm talking about baseball, helping you out.

GREENY: No you're not. You're not helping. You're interrupting. How long have we been doing the show together?

GOLIC: About four years?

GREENY: Ten years, and during those ten years you've been constantly interrupting me, day in and day out. Now we're writing a book about our rules for sports, and what do you do? On the very first page? I can't believe this is happening. What is wrong with you?

GOLIC: Calm down . . . Okay, I'm sorry. Go ahead.

GREENY: Thank you.

What a great game our national pastime is, a sport of athleticism and strategy, explosive action and great suspense. Every baseball game starts exactly the

GOLIC: Everyone's read that part already, Greeny.

GREENY: There you go again. . . . Look, I've spent a lot of time writing this, and I think they'll like it. It's good, and I should start it from the beginning.

GOLIC: So do that. Just tell everyone about the 2002 All-Star Game and how you came up with the dumbest rule in sports.

GREENY: It's a great rule, Mike.

GOLIC: Here's how it happened: It was the day after the 2002 All-Star Game, the one that was called after 11 innings because both teams ran out of players—no winner, no loser, nothing. Everyone was shaking their heads that morning and asking, What the heck?

But what else could they do? The fans were frustrated—the crowd at the game began chanting "Let them play" just like the fans did in the Houston Astrodome in the second Bad News Bears movie. The way it ended sure was bad news, but what other options were there?

GREENY: I'm disappointed to hear you say that, because I completely agree with you. With every fiber of my being and with every ounce in my soul, I want to tell you that you're wrong. But in this instance I can't. There was simply no other solution.

It's very easy to criticize someone by saying that they should have done something different, but it's much, much harder to come up with exactly what that something should be. The managers of the All-Star Game believe that their goal is to get every player into the game, and they assume that they have nine innings to do it. So if the game goes longer, there will come a time when they simply won't have anyone left. What else can you do? If the NBA All-Star Game goes into overtime, the players might get tired, but who cares; it's not a crisis. Not so in baseball. No All-Star manager wants to inform a team that's in the middle of a division race that its pitching ace is going to miss his next three starts because he's got a stiff arm on account of the All-Star Game running longer than usual. GOLIC: The biggest shame was that it had all the makings of a great night, so to have it end in a tie is a huge disappointment. You go to a baseball game expecting it will end with some kind of conclusion, and it doesn't.

GREENY: But it did have a conclusion: It concluded in a tie. The real shame is that they've been calling it the All-Star Game since the very first one in 1933. You have to define it for what it really is. It is not a baseball game—it's an exhibition of baseball that's played in a format similar to what we're accustomed to seeing the rest of the year. When I first brought this up with you—a whole year before the 2002 debacle, no less—I was laughed at. I was slaughtered for it. Let's go to the tape:

GREENY: Who cares if the American League or the National League wins the All-Star Game? If they want to keep calling it a game, put some juice in it. Make it count for something, like home field advantage in the World Series.

GOLIC: You're an idiot. That's so stupid, I'm going to pretend you didn't say it. It's never going to happen, and you've just wasted 30 seconds of my life.

GREENY: So imagine everyone's surprise—except mine—when Major League Baseball announced that, starting in 2003, the All-Star Game would determine home field advantage in the World Series. I was right! And you know what the best part of it is? That you were wrong.

GOLIC: Every sport has rules that are known for the people who were responsible for the rule change. Like the Sean Avery Rule in hockey. In football, you've got the Deacon Jones Rule outlawing head slaps. Now baseball has the Greeny Rule. But that doesn't mean I have to agree with it. I don't. I still think it's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. It's like the Mendoza Line—nothing to be proud of.

GREENY: Major League Baseball heeded my advice, so the new format for the All-Star Game will forever be known as the Greeny Rule—kind of like the Pythagorean theorem in geometry, but different. All the credit goes to me because I say it does.

Do you realize how hard it is to get baseball to change anything? Granted, no major professional sport does history better. It's baseball's place in our society. It's a part of our culture. Show me a clip of Willie Mays or Hank Aaron or Joe DiMaggio, and it's impossible not to feel the swell in your chest. But baseball does not do the present well. Take video review. All the other major sports have been using instant replay for years and with great success (for the most part). But baseball? Stuck in the past.

GOLIC: Baseball purists can talk all they want about the charm of the human element of the game, but what's the advantage in having a team lose because of a blown call? They already have cameras in every ballpark.

GREENY: A couple of years ago, we brought Bud Selig on the show, and we went on and on about this with him. Clearly, he was against the use of video replay. "But there are certainly a lot of voices on the other side of it," he said. He was referring to the two of us, obviously. Several weeks later, he reversed course and announced that baseball would start using video review on a limited basis for home run calls only. What changed his mind? We did, of course, and the Mike and Mike Rule was born.

GOLIC: Well, what also helped was the fact that within a single week there were three horrific calls on home runs that were just blatantly wrong. On a Sunday night, Carlos Delgado hit a shot that bounced off the left field foul pole, but the umpires incorrectly ruled it a foul ball. The next day, Geovany Soto of the Cubs hit a home run, but the umps couldn't see if the ball had actually cleared the wall or not. It did, but the ruling on the field was that it had not. Two days after that, they took a home run away from A-Rod. So there it was—three blown calls in four days. But we'd been going off on it for a while, too.

GREENY: For years we've been getting on baseball's case about video replay. In fairness to us, they should put up signage in every major league ballpark that reads, "The Mike and Mike Replay." We should take it a step further and have them put my face in fair territory and your face in foul and start referring to a ball as either "a greeny" or "a golic." From now on, they'll say, "Dustin Pedroia golicked off seven pitches before he greenied one down the left field line for a triple."

Clearly I should be fair, because I'm known for being fair. And as anyone who's ever been around you knows, you can be somewhat foul, especially during the warmer summer months.

GOLIC: You're right. I can be foul.

GREENY: But the Mike and Mike Rule, which we've been screaming about for years, isn't just for home runs. There's a lot you can easily catch on tape, and instant replay should be used to correct the obvious missed call. Overturning it would take about five seconds. Five seconds! If they look at the play from several different angles and they're still not sure—if, to borrow the term from the NFL, they can't find "indisputable visual evidence"—then the call on the field is close enough. It's not the end of the world. Either it's a home run or it's not. He's safe or he's out. He caught the ball, or he trapped it. Make the right call and let's get on with life.

Look at how well it works in the NFL. Everyone's going to point to the one call in the NFL where it didn't work—like Ed Hochuli's infamous call in the Denver game in '08—but how many bad calls have been overturned by instant replay on whether or not a player has possession of the ball? And you could have the same thing in baseball.

GOLIC: In the Hochuli play, instant replay didn't work because they weren't allowed to use it. He'd blown the whistle.

GREENY: That's what I mean. There was one small instance that instant replay couldn't correct the call, but that's compared to the hundreds of calls that instant replay is able to correct.

GOLIC: Look, I'm as much a proponent of instant replay as you are. Do I want them to dive in with both feet and replay everything? Absolutely not. But what I think baseball could do is try replay out in the spring training games for more than just home run calls. Doesn't mean you have to put it in place once the regular season starts, but I think that's where you need to start trying. Try it. It can't hurt.

GREENY: Those are two good, new rules. But our work is not done, because there are other rules in baseball that I wouldn't necessarily want changed, I simply want them clarified. I want them to make sense. Take the rule on tags, for example.

GOLIC: What's your problem? Everyone knows what a tag is.

GREENY: Let's look at what the official rulebook of Major League Baseball has to say about it.

A tag is the action of a fielder in touching a base with his body while holding the ball securely and firmly in his hand or glove; or touching the runner with the ball, or with his hand or glove holding the ball, while holding the ball securely and firmly in his hand or glove.
Official Baseball Rules, Rule 2.00 Definition of terms

GOLIC: Man, that's a lot of words.

GREENY: For you it is, so I'll translate: If you hold the ball securely and touch the runner with it or touch the base, he's out.

GOLIC: See, that isn't always true. Take a collision at the plate, like Pete Rose blowing up Ray Fosse in the All-Star Game. If that is indeed the rule, then Pete Rose and every other runner should be out if the catcher has the ball—"firmly and securely," like the rulebook says—even if he gets blown up as he makes the tag and loses the ball. If the umpire calls the runner safe, then according to the exact words in the rulebook, it's the wrong call.

GREENY: I think in that case, an argument can be made that the runner jarred the ball loose.

GOLIC: It doesn't say that in the rules.

GREENY: I understand that, but if the runner jars the ball loose, did the catcher really have the ball securely when the tag was being made? If I am tagging you, and I've got the ball securely and I touch you with the ball, and in my touching you, you knock it right out of my mitt, then I didn't really have it when I touched you, did I?

GOLIC: If you're the catcher and I'm coming around to score, you really think you're holding on to the ball? Or are you curling up in a fetal position before I round third?

GREENY: That's not the point.

GOLIC: Okay, but let's say—just for the sake of argument—that there's a play at the plate, you have the ball in your mitt, you get completely run over but you somehow manage to hold on to the ball "firmly and securely." You hit the ground, and then the ball comes loose and pops out. What's the call? The runner is safe. Always.

Don't get me wrong—that's the correct call. But it seems that if you go by the exact words of the official rulebook, you're not so sure.

GREENY: Rules should be easy to understand and simple to follow, and one obvious advantage of the Mike and Mike Rule is its clarity. Nine simple words. What's more, rules should be written down. No doubt baseball has more unwritten rules than any other sport, but they only serve to complicate things, which is the exact opposite of what good rules are meant to do. Which unwritten rules am I supposed to follow? Which ones is the other guy following? Is he getting pissed off at me because I broke an unwritten rule that he's keeping and I'm not? Which rule? It's maddening.

GOLIC: Most unwritten rules are plain stupid. I've heard that batters aren't supposed to celebrate after hitting a home run—they should just put their head down and circle the bases. Get real! I'm not saying you should taunt the pitcher or start jumping up and down when your team's down by 10 runs, but what's wrong with showing some emotion?

GREENY: Another unwritten rule is that you shouldn't try to bunt your way on during a no-hitter. That's what Ben Davis of the Padres found out after he bunted his way to first base in the eighth inning of Curt Schilling's bid for a perfect game in 2001. Schilling, who was pitching for the Diamondbacks then, was livid, and so was his manager, Bob Brenly. But the Padres were only down 2–0 at that point, and if Davis gets on base, the tying run is at the plate. You're trying to win the game! And for some reason that's not right?

GOLIC: So if I'm leading off a game—it's a no-hitter at that point, and a perfect game, too—I can't try to bunt my way on?

GREENY: Gee, I don't know. Let's look it up. Oh wait—that's an unwritten rule. Never mind.

But there is one unwritten rule that I think everyone can agree on, even the both of us. It's this: If your pitcher has a no-hitter going, don't mention it to him. Better yet, don't even talk to him. Wouldn't you agree?

GOLIC: No. When I was playing in the NFL, I wouldn't bug a kicker who was about to kick a field goal—I'd just leave him alone. Let him do his thing. But if someone else from the team walked over and started talking to him, I wouldn't start freaking out. It's no different with baseball and pitchers.

GREENY: It is different, and you're clearly a lunatic. What you're telling me is that it's okay to spit in the face of the baseball gods.

GOLIC: That's not what I'm saying at all, because there's no such thing.

GREENY: Mike, it's one of the oldest, most respected traditions in baseball. You simply cannot mention a no-hitter. Now, I've heard it suggested that even announcers shouldn't bring it up during the broadcast, but I totally disagree. As an announcer, it's your job to tell the story of the game to people who may otherwise not know it (with one exception ). Outside of that, don't mention it. Don't confront the pitcher with it—in any way. In June 2009, Cliff Lee of the Indians was pitching a no-hitter at home through seven innings against the Cardinals. As he was taking the mound for the top of the eighth, a trivia question flashed on the scoreboard: Who was the last Indians pitcher to throw a perfect game? On the next pitch—the very next pitch—Yadier Molina hit a solid double off the right field wall. So let me ask you: Wasn't the scoreboard operator wrong to put that question up?

GOLIC: No, he wasn't. It had nothing to do with the scoreboard operator. If you're looking for the person who's responsible for breaking up the no-hitter, start with the guy who had the bat in his hands.

GREENY: It's absolutely the scoreboard operator's fault. If it's in your own stadium and you've got a no-hitter going, you don't ask a no-hitter trivia question. It's a rule. Let me be clear: I am not saying that the scoreboard operator should have been fired. I'm saying that he should have been arrested.

You know, our inbox has been getting lots of messages. People seem to have strong opinions about this.

TO: mikeandmike@espnradio.com

This is different from mere superstition. If you put it on the board, then the pitcher sees it and now he knows that everyone realizes it, and he feels extra pressure.


GOLIC: You're right, Tim. Cliff Lee saw the trivia question and thought, "Oh my God! Now everyone knows!" In fact, nobody in the entire stadium realized it before then, and they were all completely stunned. Lee had no choice but to throw an 82-mile-an-hour fastball that Molina smacked for a double.

GREENY: Timothy may not be the best advocate for my side.

TO: mikeandmike@espnradio.com

It's one of the major unwritten rules of baseball, you never let the words "no-hitter" or "perfect game" leave your mouth. I was lucky enough to see David Wells pitch his perfect game for the Yankees. I didn't even let it cross my mind while the game was going on.

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

GOLIC: I hope David Wells sent you a big fruit basket, Tyler, because without you, he would've never thrown a perfect game.

TO: mikeandmike@espnradio.com


You're playing for the Eagles and your kicker is standing over a 50-yard field goal to win the game. They put a trivia question on the board asking who was the last Eagles kicker to make a game-winning field goal of 50+ yards. Your kicker hooks it left and you lose. Would you have a problem with that?


GOLIC: It's not the scoreboard's fault, nor the guy who put it on the scoreboard. It's not what the announcer said or didn't say, or whether you were sitting a certain way, standing on one leg, holding a beer in your left hand, whatever. It has nothing to do with the kick. Jeez! It's like I'm slamming my head against a wall.

GREENY: You're wrong, though, and I'll tell you why. Obviously, Cliff Lee knew he was throwing a no-hitter. But anything that takes you out of the mind-set of concentrating on your next pitch can affect your performance. If Cliff Lee saw the trivia question, I really do believe that it could have gone through his mind that they probably shouldn't have put it up there. There's a whole tradition in baseball that strongly believes that. And all of a sudden, instead of making sure that your slider is breaking two feet off the plate, you've got a million other things going through your mind.

GOLIC: I don't care if Lee walked off the mound, climbed up to the stadium announcer's booth, got on the mike, and said, "Hey, I know—it's Len Barker, and he did it on May 15, 1981," and then threw his next pitch. He's not a seven-year-old who's going to mentally disintegrate because he sees something on the scoreboard. And if he did get rattled by that question, then that tells me a hell of a lot about Cliff Lee.

GREENY: What about this? No one will dispute the fact that Tiger Woods is one of the greatest golfers the game has ever seen, if not the best. He wears red on Sundays. For whatever reason, he's decided that it makes him feel comfortable. It helps him. Is that a superstition? You don't think there's any correlation between him wearing red and playing better?

GOLIC: It's called a routine. If you do something a bunch of times and you have success with it, why change it? It's one less thing to worry about.

GREENY: If you're trying to tell me that you don't believe in any of this stuff—the gods of baseball, the golf gods, kismet, fate—then why is it that every time you're driving somewhere and you're making great time, if you dare mention it, you're sure to find yourself backed up in the worst traffic jam ever.

GOLIC: You're nuts.

TO: mikeandmike@espnradio.com


Mike & Mike,

Athletes like routines—staying in the same hotel, who's the last one out of the locker room. Those can be considered superstitious, because it gives them a comfort zone. But if superstitions were true, Sidney Crosby and the Penguins would have never won the Stanley Cup in 2009 after they broke tradition and hoisted the Eastern Conference trophy.

GREENY: When you were playing at Notre Dame—I realize that they didn't have the "Play Like A Champion" sign up then, that the sign and the tradition of touching it as you're heading out onto the field was brought back later by Lou Holtz—would you have touched the sign?

GOLIC: You know, I probably would have, but not because of superstition. Let's say I forgot to touch it before a game; there's no way I'm going to head back into the locker room and start taking my pads off because, hey, how in the world am I going to shake off a block after I forgot to touch the sign? Stop it. I would touch the sign because it's a tradition that builds unity among the players on the team, and I'd want everyone to feel that. It could come in handy during a goal line stand late in the fourth quarter.

GREENY: Some traditions are important, but many of them are senseless. For example, in baseball, you have managers wearing uniforms. Why? And why does the league even concern itself with this? Terry Francona, the manager of the Red Sox, got into the habit of wearing a pullover, but a couple of years ago during a game against the Yankees—I repeat, during a game, with the Yankees batting and Derek Jeter on second—a league representative came into the dugout, pulled Francona aside, and checked under his pullover to make sure he was wearing a uniform. Needless to say, Francona wasn't happy about it.

GOLIC: I'm with Francona. Do it before or after the game or, at the very least, do it between innings.

GREENY: I can just imagine it. "Terry, what are you wearing under there? Under where? Ha ha!" It must have made all the kids laugh. But I'm taking this a step further: Why do managers wear uniforms anyway? Phil Jackson doesn't have to wear a tank top and shorts on the sidelines. Bill Belichick isn't wearing shoulder pads. But in baseball, there are 70-year-old men walking around in baseball pants, stirrups, even cleats. Why is Joe Torre or Charlie Manuel wearing a uniform? It looks nonsensical. I've never been to a sumo wrestling match, but I'd love to know if they make sumo coaches wear the big diapers.

GOLIC: I don't know if there's another sport where the coaches have to wear the uniform.

GREENY: It's pointless. Right in the middle of a game, the league went and checked on something that makes no sense to begin with.

GOLIC: In the NFL, the fashion police check before every game, usually during warmups, to make sure everything is legit.

GREENY: Check who?

GOLIC: They check the players.

GREENY: The players!

GOLIC: Yes, they check coaches, too, especially these days. They have to make sure that the coach is wearing the right product, like an officially licensed ballcap. It's ridiculous.

GREENY: I hate to say it, but I can understand that. The team or league signs a clothing deal, so there's a financial reason behind it. But with baseball, how many people run out and buy a Tigers uniform because they've seen Jim Leyland wearing one? Put him in a suit and sell that.

GOLIC: I wouldn't want to see managers in the dugout in their Sunday best, not with all the spitting that goes on. They should be casually dressed. Or they could wear a lot of the cool, team-related stuff that's not part of the uniform.

GREENY: I've heard nine million reasons why managers wear uniforms. For example, it's because they have to go on the field. Does that mean that it would trip everyone up if Joe Torre makes a pitching change wearing a pair of khakis?

Another reason: Because there were player-managers historically, baseball managers wear uniforms today. Sure, if you're going to play and manage at the same time, go ahead and wear a uniform. I get it. Pete Rose playing and managing? Fine. In a uniform. Lou Piniella? Put on some normal clothes, for heaven's sakes!

Maybe Peter Gammons could shed some light on this. Peter, was there any good reason why the league was so adamant about checking Terry Francona's uniform during an actual game?

PETER GAMMONS: It was a disgrace, Greeny, and someone should be fired over it. Terry Francona has a circulation problem, and he doesn't want to wear the uniform belt because of his illness. If you want to check him, do it before the game.

But the whole thing is silly to start with. If you want to talk about historical precedent—which is very popular these days—then consider Connie Mack. He did okay managing in a suit. But to be interrupting Francona when there's a runner on second base and they think he might steal—that just shows a total lack of understanding for the game.

GREENY: What do you think, Golic?

GOLIC: I think Peter Gammons should be the next commissioner of baseball.

GREENY: He'd make a great commissioner, for sure, but what about me?

GOLIC: You as the next commissioner?

GREENY: If I'm commissioner, Lou Piniella will be sitting in the dugout in a polo shirt, or maybe a nice cashmere sweater for the playoffs. It's just one of the changes I'd make if I was given the privilege of serving as the commissioner of baseball, which I hope to do one day. Seriously.

Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic with Andrew Chaikivsky
Copyright © 2010 by Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic
All rights reserved.

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