It is a promotional spot that has appeared over and over on the MLB TV network. In the feature, former outfielder Cliff Floyd is seen counseling Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton on wearing “bling” during games. With gold chains wrapped around his neck, Floyd advises, “You’ve got to look good, but you have to be careful not to wear too much because the reflection from the sun may cause you to miss a fly ball.”
Stylin’ has become a big thing in sports these days, from the professional level all the way down to youth levels of play. For some, ‘looking good’ is just as important as playing good.
MLB has probably the second-most lax laws when it comes to wearing bling, which is why you see baseball players showing off their gold chains on the field. Baseball players can wear basically any type of jewelry they want, as long as it’s not deemed distracting. But much like beauty, it’s is in the eye of the beholder — what may be distracting or not can be another matter.
In a recent article in the Cincinnati Enquirer, writer Bobby Nightengale provided this account of a somewhat bizarre distraction offense by Cincinnati Reds rookie pitcher Graham Ashcraft.
“Graham Ashcraft wore a look of disbelief when first-base umpire John Tumpane told him to remove his wedding ring during his foreign substance inspection in the first inning. Ashcraft was sporting a black silicone ring on his left hand.
“He goes, ‘you have to take your ring off,’ said Ashcraft. I was like, ‘no, why do I have to take my ring off? I shouldn’t have to. Apparently, it’s some new rule they came up with yesterday.”
It’s not a new rule, but it is something that umpires are now enforcing. According to rule 6.02 c-7 in the MLB Rulebook, pitcher “may not attach anything to either hand, any finger or either wrist.” Umpires determine if it should be considered a foreign substance, “but in no case may the pitcher be allowed to pitch with such attachment to his hand, finger or wrist.”
“When Ashcraft returned to the dugout, he chatted with manager David Bell, who remembered receiving a memo that the rule would be enforced that week. Ashcraft moved his silicone wedding ring to his necklace chain for the remainder of the game.”
Come on. I get it. There are safety rules to consider. But, how silly is this. A pitcher can’t wear his wedding band on a finger covered by his gloved hand, but he can wear that same ring on a necklace around his neck that often comes flying out of his shirt on nearly every pitch.
Some traditional wedding vows include the statement, “Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder.” Apparently, MLB rule 6.02 c-7 doesn’t want a pitcher’s symbol of that vow to be 60 feet, six inches from the batter. Could it mean MLB umpires could be referenced as an ‘asunderer?’
As for the other professional sports:
NHL – Since most of the players’ body is covered on the ice by their uniform, skates, gloves, socks, and helmet, the NHL does not have any rules pertaining to what type of jewelry can be worn during a game.
NFL – The league has some of the strictest requirements when it comes to uniforms, to the point that it sometimes is referred to as ‘the no fun league.’ Refs even re-watch games to double-check that no uniform requirements have been broken. Players are scrutinized from the socks they’re wearing to the brand of shoes they choose to wear.
Ironically, there are no actual rules about what type of jewelry is permitted on the field.
NBA – By far, the league has the most restrictions for jewelry on the court. Players are not allowed to wear any type of jewelry. This means earrings, bracelets, rings, and necklaces are all no-nos. The only accessories allowed on the court are knee and elbow braces, headbands, and, of course, tattoos.
Anyone who has coached or played in PIAA events is familiar with the pre-game meeting. During these meetings, the PIAA game officials remind and warn participants to remove any jewelry they are wearing. Under this rule, the first player caught wearing jewelry is restricted to the bench along with the head coach. If a second player is found wearing jewelry, the head coach is then ejected from the game.
Without question, the safety of all participants should be paramount in all sporting contests. Enforcing the rules is the job of all sports officials and making exceptions can lead to heated confrontations.
Webster defines common sense as “the native ability to make sound judgments.” But, rulebooks are written in black & white.
Several years ago, I witnessed an occasion where an umpire’s common sense ruled over the written rule, which the umpiring supervisors would most likely have frowned upon.
In the first inning of a game, a batter swung, and a necklace he was wearing popped out of his jersey. The umpire called time and was about to enforce the written rule. The coach explained to the umpire that the player’s mother had just passed away, and the necklace he was wearing was a heart locket containing his mother’s picture.
The umpire allowed time while the necklace was pinned to the inside of the player’s jersey. The game continued. Nobody complained.
Common sense, not all bling is bling.