Ghana vs. Nigeria.
Ghana vs. Nigeria.

We all know, and possibly even love, the game of football. It provides ample lessons, not the least of which is its propensity to serve as a metaphor for life.

To this end, we can consider two forms of football: rules-based football and laws-based football. The latter, laws-based, is the form with which we are most familiar and in which we find most comfort. In either case, several tenets govern the nature of play.

In laws-based football, the game is ninety minutes. The game clock runs continuously. There are halves, each with extra time to account for any lost time due to idleness or injury. Referees enforce the rules to the great extent that there are strict penalties when laws are broken. Each player, coach, and—on occasion—rowdy fan, must abide by the principles of football or else face steep consequences—penalties, cards, or ejections—for transgressions. Points are allocated for each goal, so long as the goal fits within the parameters of the laws and not a millimeter outside of them.

Participants in laws-based football study the discipline of football and they endeavor to commit to them. At times, like in almost all endeavors, the players or their trainers might try to skirt the laws of the game, to bend and twist them to their favor. Still, the distinguishing factor is that the laws exist, are agreed upon, and are held as standards for everyone to follow. While there might be some level of debate regarding whether a call is fair and if a change should be made to the order of play, it remains that no player, coach, or rowdy fan is above the law.

Now this overview might have appeared rather long-winded for the proponents of rules-based football, as they are unaccustomed to no such litany of commands to which they must conform. Under rules-based football, there are no such standards agreed upon by the majority interests. The nature of how the game is played is governed by a few all-knowing entities who can decide, at will, to change the game on a whim. There might be halves for some games and quarters for others. There might be three substitutions for some games and seven for others. There might be eleven players for some games and ten for others. There might be penalties in or outside the box; corner kicks may arise from off the field. The referee might become part of the play—he might score a goal here and there; a trainer may pick up the football under his armpit, like a vituperating child on a playground, and he may run away with it, bringing the game to an abrupt end. The red card might be shown for allowing the football to bounce off the two cheeks of the same ass.

In rules-based football the powers that be have no mandate to discuss the rules with other participants beforehand, by simply insisting that these rules are not just their own but that they are shared rules by all humanity to make for a more peaceful game. That the rules favor them over others is equally none of their worry, and should others overcome that lopsided game, and actually emerge victorious, the rules might be upended that very moment to thwart the unexpected outcome—for the betterment of the game, of course!

No doubt that rules-based football is a popular delight of the very few and an unpopular choice for the majority of players, coaches, and fans, who believe that a law-abiding football arrangement would more aptly suit their liking. To this dissatisfaction—the few who are the powers that be—who govern the rules-based football order provide a canned reply.

To address your grievances with rules-based football, there will be committees formed, hearings convened, and conferences organized. After this point, disagreements with the rules will be duly noted, written formally with inked signatures, stamped in red marker as confidential, and filed away, to be handled at an indefinite point in time, but certainly in due time. Where agreements are signed, newer agreements ought to be made and signed again, and again, and again in like manner as the back and forth of the ball in a football game—all making for quite an amusing spectacle.

While the governing committee is seriously taking your input into consideration, and signing one futile agreement after another, bear in mind that your opinion about the rules in the rules-based game will remain simply—yours—and will have no impact on the sport. Unless you are the governing body, one of the few, you have no authority to challenge the rules, much less make decisions. You must unequivocally accept the game of rules-based football as it is presented to you on this day, or any subsequent day, in the manner in which it is presented to you forever and ever, herein and wherever.

In life, as in football, the order of the day determines the state of play. This is why it is, in both, ever important to defend the game that we love.


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