Give me examples of gamesmanship in sport or other arenas
July 31, 2011 7:03 PM   Subscribe

Give me examples of tricky strategy in sport or other arenas

Youtube videos would be best, but stories, links, and articles will do too.

These situations often arise in last ditch attempts, but can occur just through effort or thought in any arena.

In a soccer tournament I was in once in high school, one team scored goals on themselves to manipulate the goal differential so they would play the team they thought to be weaker in the next game.

In this video the runner pretends to take off his helmet, only to trick the catcher into thinking he had given up, and then runs by him.

Tipping the ball from out of bounds back in bounds to a teammate to catch.

Intentionally missing a free throw

I have been in co-ed soccer games where two women must be on the field, or you forfeit, we didn't have enough women, so 1 fan just stood on the field for us the whole game, and we went on to win.

I want high level strategy, "heads up plays", gamesmanship, rule loophole exploitation, etc.
posted by Patrick Leo to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (43 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The Flea Flicker has an awesome name, is incredibly risky, and pays huge dividends if successful. Really entertaining (or infuriating, depending on who's doing the flicking) to see it happen in a live game.
posted by codacorolla at 7:13 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

This post from last year describes developments in roller derby - backward skating, for example.

The Fosbury flop was a revolutionary strategy in high jumping when it debuted.
posted by Paragon at 7:14 PM on July 31, 2011

While not exactly a strategy to win the game, Ricky Davis trying to get a triple double any way possible.
posted by mtheshark at 7:16 PM on July 31, 2011

M. Gladwell wrote about a basketball coach who used some unheard-of tactics to win with his daughter's underdog team.
posted by michaelh at 7:18 PM on July 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

Previous metafilter post, "A Leisurely Stroll To The End Zone" about a junior high football trick play.
posted by andoatnp at 7:20 PM on July 31, 2011

Here's a fun trick play in middle school football.

And I have seen Texas Hold-Em players fold likely winning hands when on the bubble and preceded by two all-in shoves, thereby ensuring that they finish in the money.
posted by carmicha at 7:21 PM on July 31, 2011

In 1981, the Australian Cricket team shamefully bowled a lawful underarm ball to avoid New Zealand scoring off the last ball of the match.

Never to be forgotten by Kiwis.

Oh but lets not talk about Richie McCaw cheating at the breakdown eh bro?
posted by wilful at 7:33 PM on July 31, 2011

Tommy Prothro was one of the more colorful NFL football coaches. Back in the late 1960's one time, his team was ahead by 3 points, and it was fourth down and they were deep in their own territory. It was in the middle of the last two minutes of the game, and it looked like their opponent would be easily able to take a punt and return it to within field goal range. Which would tie the game up and put it into overtime.

So he instructed his punter to catch the hike, and run straight back into and out the back of the end zone. That made it what was known later as a "safety". The other team scored 2 points, and Prothro's team was then able to do a standard kick off, putting the ball deep enough into the other team's territory to make any score unlikely.

Prothro's team (the Rams) won that game.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:34 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

The hidden ball trick in baseball.
posted by zamboni at 7:39 PM on July 31, 2011

In the fall of 2010, Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho instructed a couple of players (Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos) to intentionally waste time in their Champions League match against Ajax.

The result was that both players received yellow cards, and were ejected from the match, and would both miss the next match in the competition. However, the next match was a "throwaway" that didn't matter. And both players would start the next portion of the competition with a clean slate.

However, UEFA caught on, and later fined the manager and players involved.
posted by MiG at 7:39 PM on July 31, 2011

hockey example - Vancouver Canucks were in an intersting position at the end of the regular season last year. They had already locked down first in the league, meaning in the first round of the playoffs they would play the 8th seed. Their last game of the season was against the Calgary Flames, who were battling with Chicago for the 8th (and final) playoff spot.

Essentially, the team could choose who they would face. I mean they couldn't just choose to beat Calgary, but they could have thrown the game to let them into the playoffs, thereby facing the weaker team (they didn't, won the game, and played Chicago in the first round).

going by memory here, might be manglling the details
posted by mannequito at 7:47 PM on July 31, 2011

Trick pitch in a Japanese baseball game.
posted by Gilbert at 7:48 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wait a minute, nobody's written about West Germany vs. Austria in the 1982 World Cup?

Last game of group play; two teams from the group of West Germany, Austria, Algeria, and Chile would move on. If West Germany wins by 1 or 2, then West Germany and Austria are the two teams to advance. You can guess what happened: West Germany scored a goal and then they just wasted time.

Now the last two games of group play in each group of the World Cup are played simultaneously, so this doesn't happen.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:52 PM on July 31, 2011

Bill Belicheck's pulled off the intentional safety trick in American football before, including once when losing, to set up a comeback win.
posted by stevis23 at 7:56 PM on July 31, 2011

I know of a case where (to simplify) team A wanted to beat team B at nationals, but was likely to tie with them in event 1 and lose to them slightly in event 2, so they subsidized extra training of team C for event 1, because if C could beat B in event 1 (which was C's strongest event), then on points A would have a heavy win and a small loss against B (instead of a tie and a small loss), so the rankings would make A the winners, with B second and C third.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:59 PM on July 31, 2011

Bodyline bowling in cricket. Basically bowling the bowl directly at the body of a particularly strong batsman. Then they have to defend themself from injury rather than give it a solid whack.

Was eventually banned as a tactic.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:00 PM on July 31, 2011

There's two basketball plays that come to mind. One is the "Barking Dog" trick, where a player got down on all fours during an inbound play to distract the other team. Very amusing, if a bit cheap.

I'm guessing it was in a high school game, as was the one where a player bolted out of one exit on one side behind the basket, and came back through the one on the other side, and promptly got a pass and hit a jumper.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 8:02 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

In baseball, you sometimes see a manager send out a pinch hitter to the on-deck circle - usually the opposite handedness - trying to get the other manager to pull the pitcher and call on the pitcher warming up in the bullpen. When the on-deck hitter's at-bat comes up, he'll just send out the batter whose spot it is in the order.
posted by milkrate at 8:04 PM on July 31, 2011

Timothy Ferriss, self-help author, won the 1999 USAWKF sanshou (Chinese kickboxing) championships by exploiting a rule that said that anyone who pushes the opponent out of the ring wins by default. So he did a lot of pushing and won the championship. (Search for 'sanshou' in the link to see the text description in his blog)
posted by storybored at 8:09 PM on July 31, 2011

In Super Bowl XXXII The Broncos had the ball in easy field goal range with less than 2 minutes to go on the clock. Rather than let them take the clock down and use their timeouts The Packers head coach (Mike Holmgren) told his defense to let the Broncos score a touchdown on the next play.

This gave them enough time to try and get a touchdown to force over time.

It didn't work but it was ... inventive.
posted by Bonzai at 8:17 PM on July 31, 2011

Best answer: Oh, wait, for soccer examples you can't beat The Weirdest Soccer Game in History where each team legitimately had a rational reason for kicking the ball into their own net. It was Grenada vs Barbados in the Shell Caribbean Cup. As described by Prof Mike Shor of Vanderbilt University:

"Barbados needed to win the match by two goals to advance in the tournament. If they failed, either losing the match or winning by only one goal, their opponent Grenada would advance instead.

A very poorly-conceived though well-intentioned rule governing the tournament stipulated that any goals scored in overtime (and, by virtue of a sudden-death rule, there could only be one) would count doubly. The idea was to reward teams in close matches, so that an overtime victory would be as if a team won by two goals. This simple rule led to a very strange match.

Barbados needed to win by two goals. With less than ten minutes left in the match, Barbados led by exactly two goals and began to play very defensively. In the 83rd minute, Grenada finally scored, making the score 2-1. Barbados tried to answer but, with only three minutes remaining, was unable to score. Members of the Barbados team contemplated their options. To advance, they needed either to score one more goal in the last three minutes (winning by two), or force the game to extra time where a goal would count as if they won by two. Barbados scored on their own net, tying the game at 2-2.

This is not yet the odd part of the match. The Grenada players, initial shock abating, developed their own strategy. If they could score on Barbados in the waning minutes, they would win the match and advance. But, if they could score a goal on themselves, they would lose by one goal which was still enough to advance. For two minutes, Grenada tried to score on either goal, with Barbados players split between defending their own goal and that of their opponents!

Normal time ended in a tie and the game did go to overtime, in which Barbados scored a game winner and advanced (though was eliminated from the tournament in the next round). No penalties for the players' actions in this game were handed down since both teams were earnestly trying to win their group, and the farce was the result of silly incentives."

The above link also gives another example where an own goal was the rational thing to do, the 1998 Tiger Cup.
posted by storybored at 8:22 PM on July 31, 2011 [10 favorites]

Legendary hockey coach Rodger Neilson:

"Neilson was well known for closely reading the rule book looking for loopholes. During one particular game in the OHL his team was up one goal, but was down two men in a five on three situation for the last minute of the game. Realizing that more penalties could not be served under the existing rules, Neilson put too many men on the ice every ten seconds. The referees stopped the play and a faceoff was held relieving pressure on the defence. After this display, the rule was changed so that a call for intentional too many men on the ice in a 5-on-3 situation in the last two minutes of regulation or in overtime resulted in a penalty shot.

Neilson also discovered that if he put a defenceman in net instead of a goalie during a penalty shot, the defenceman could rush the attacker and cut down the latter's angle of shot, greatly reducing the chances of a goal. Today the rule states that a team must use a goalie in net for a penalty shot.

One game during a time-out, Neilson told his goaltender, “...when we pull you, just leave your goal stick lying in the crease.” When the other team gained possession, they sent the puck the length of the ice toward the open net, only to deflect wide when it hit the goal stick lying in the crease. The rule was changed the next season so that a goal would be awarded in such a situation.

posted by ghharr at 8:31 PM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: yeah here is the link for storybored's 1998 Tiger Cup own goal on purpose.

From the wikipedia article

This tournament was marred by an unsportsmanlike match between Thailand and Indonesia during the group stage. Both teams were already assured of qualification for the semi-finals, but both teams also knew that the winners of the game would face hosts Vietnam in the semi-finals, while the losing team would face Singapore, who were perceived to be easier opposition, and would also avoid the inconvenience of moving the team's training base from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi for the semi-finals.

The first half saw little action, with both teams barely making any attempt to score. During the second half both teams managed to score, partly thanks to half-hearted defending, resulting in a 2-2 score after 90 minutes, but during injury time, and despite two Thai defenders attempting to stop him, Indonesian defender Mursyid Effendi deliberately scored an own goal, thus handing Thailand a 3-2 victory. FIFA fined both teams $40,000 for "violating the spirit of the game", while Mursyid Effendi was banned from domestic football for one year and international football for life.
posted by Patrick Leo at 8:33 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Little League Baseball used to forfeit games in the International Tournament (the one whose finals air on ESPN from Williamsport, PA) when a player failed to play his or her mandatory minimum amount. A few coaches, apparently wily enough to concoct a scheme but not clever enough to get kids one damn at bat in a six-inning game, would find themselves needing to get a kid an at bat but inconveniently leading in the top of the 6th (and final, barring extras) inning, with no way to get the kid to the plate unless the game became tied.

So, they'd have the kids throw the ball away, pitch semi-intentional walks, etc. until the game was tied. Sometimes, the losing coach would join in, and order his kids to swing at everything, abandon the basepaths, commit interference, etc. to get out, end the game by "losing" and immediate protest the mandatory play violation, and get the win.

Little League doesn't issue automatic forfeits anymore, just suspends the manager who doesn't get the mandatory play met. And suspends with extreme prejudice if any of the above shenanigans are attempted.
posted by stevis23 at 9:00 PM on July 31, 2011

My favourite story is Jens Lehman (German Football/Soccer Goal Keeper)

The highlight of Lehmann's international career came in the quarterfinal match (30 June 2006, Olympiastadion, Berlin) against Argentina. The game remained tied 1–1 after 90 minutes and extra time. The game came down to penalty kicks and Lehmann carried his team through. He made two critical saves of Argentinian penalty kicks, one from Roberto Ayala and another from Esteban Cambiasso. He managed to pick the right direction for all the penalties, and came close to saving a third. Meanwhile, the Germans made all 4 of the necessary penalties to win the penalty shoot-out 4–2. Lehmann's prowess in the shootout was aided by notes given to him before the kicks – an idea from Germany's chief scout, Swiss-born Urs Siegenthaler – with Lehmann keeping the paper in his right sock. Before the last shot from Cambiasso, Lehmann looked at the paper for a long time even though Cambiasso's name was not even on it. The story around the paper features in the film Deutschland. Ein Sommermärchen. Lehmann was considered a hero by the German public after these saves, and he received praise even from long-time rival Oliver Kahn.
posted by missmagenta at 9:55 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I believe there was a famous incident from minor league baseball in which a player had stashed a peeled potato in his uniform. At one time when the ball was hit to him, he deliberately threw the potato away wildly, then tagged the advancing baserunner out with the ball which he had kept in his glove where he had caught it. This was widely held to be unsporting.
posted by Rumple at 10:24 PM on July 31, 2011

I was just about to post about that potato play. The catcher was fined and fired, and the run was ruled to count, but his team was inspired to come back and win the game if I remember correctly.
posted by cali59 at 10:27 PM on July 31, 2011

Thanks cali59. I had no idea that potato had become a relic on display.
posted by Rumple at 10:55 PM on July 31, 2011

In this basketball play, Jason Kidd deliberately runs into the opposing coach, forcing the referees to acknowledge that the coach was on the court (illegal, but widely overlooked).
posted by piato at 1:18 AM on August 1, 2011

Trick pitch in a Japanese baseball game.

No way was that pitch in the strike zone.

Video of the aforementioned hidden ball trick in baseball. In Lacrosse.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:13 AM on August 1, 2011

Bill Belichick, who is widely considered the best coach in the NFL, once took an intentional safety in a brilliant piece of manipulating probabilities vs Denver.

The Patriots were down by 1 point late in the game. It was 4th down on their own 1 yard line with 2:49 left. The conventional choice here would be to punt, and hope your defense could hold them and force them to punt the ball back to you. You'd then have a long drive to do with very little time left to kick a field goal for the win.

However, in this situation it is difficult and dangerous to punt because the punter is pressed up against the back of the endzone... he doesn't have as much depth as he's used to having. It's a shorter distance for the defense to get to and it results in a lot of blocked punts, which would have been disastrous as it would have probably led to a Denver touchdown, which would have put the game totally out of reach.

In addition, even if you successfully punted 40 yards from the back of your own endzone Denver would only have to get about 8 yards to be in field goal range, which would put them up by 4... making you have to score a touchdown to win. Denver had a good kicker as well.

So what Belichick did was have his snapper snap the ball over the head of his punter and out the back of the endzone, resulting in a safety.

Denver gets 2 points, and is now up by 3.

The Patriots however, now get to kick the ball BACK TO DENVER from their own 20 instead of the back of their own endzone (a gain of 35 yards of field position, and the punter can now kick without the danger of rush).

Belichick gambled that if he traded 2 points for 40+ yards of field position, and his defense held Denver, his offense would be able to, at the very least, kick a field goal and tie to force overtime.

As it was, Denver misplayed the kick, and the Patriots pinned them at their 15. They were able to force a punt and got the ball back with a short field, and drove for the game winning touchdown with seconds left.

Truly a masterful bit of gamesmanship and strategy.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:48 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Flea Flicker has an awesome name, is incredibly risky, and pays huge dividends if successful.

The Flea Flicker is actually one of the LEAST risky trick plays in football.

Compared to some other plays which give the option of non QBs throwing the ball, or a reverse where you can easily get dropped for a loss of 10 yards, the Flea Flicker is actually a pretty safe trick play, relatively speaking. I visit a lot of football math nerds sites and the general consensus is teams don't run the Flea Flicker enough. I think it got the rep of being a "risky" play because of what happened to Joe Theismann.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:57 AM on August 1, 2011

In ultimate the "Greatest Play"

It's where the disc is going out of bounds, and a player jumps from inplay, grabs the disc while in the air (from out of bounds), and throws it back in bounds before hitting the ground.
posted by MechEng at 7:04 AM on August 1, 2011

Another example of greatest play. (from ultimate)

In baseball, I don't know the official rules for it anymore, but you used to be able to run the catcher over, and if he dropped the ball based on umps discretion, the runner would be safe.

This guy decides to go over the catcher.
posted by MechEng at 7:08 AM on August 1, 2011

Response by poster: Lebron James trips while shooting, so throws it off the backboard to himself. I think this one is better than the normal backboard to self plays because it is impromptu out of necessity, not for style points.
posted by Patrick Leo at 8:47 AM on August 1, 2011

Response by poster: Similar to MechEng's "go over the catcher" but this guy does a front flip kind of, caught from two angles, and the guy in the stands missed a fun play.

(P.S. Play wouldn't have worked if the catcher hadn't fumbled the bad throw, [watch closely])
posted by Patrick Leo at 8:50 AM on August 1, 2011

Response by poster: For the Ultimate "greatest play hilites, the #1 on this highlight video has the best greatest ultimate play :).
posted by Patrick Leo at 9:00 AM on August 1, 2011

My favorite is in basketball - the old "inbound the ball off another player's back" trick.

Here's one:'s_Back (sorry, I can't link at work any more, dammit).

Gary Payton did this while he was still at OSU, I think. I was in 5th grade and it made a huge impression on me at the time.
posted by peep at 10:42 AM on August 1, 2011

Tennis: Michael Chang's underhand serve in his 4th round match against top seed Ivan Lendl in the 1989 French Open. He went on to win the match and tournament. Here's the video and an article written about the event.
posted by yawper at 7:44 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

No way was that pitch in the strike zone.

Well, it's clearly some kind of light-hearted exhibition. The "pitcher" looks a little long in the tooth, and there's no one in the stands.

Surely there must be good examples of poker gamesmanship, but I can't think of any right now. Other than maybe pretending to act out of turn to trick an opponent.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 1:30 AM on August 2, 2011

A lot of gamesmanship in poker is frowned upon as bad manners or outright cheating. Acting out of turn (especially if your table-mates realize it's a deliberate ploy) in a real casino could get you dirty looks, and maybe kicked off the table.

Other things, like hiding large chip amounts underneath lesser chip amounts to fool your opponents into thinking you have less money (and are less threatening) is also bad hat.
posted by codacorolla at 6:47 AM on August 2, 2011

Well, the chip hiding is a more blatant one. My example wasn't great, but people do act out of turn all the time, and I'd guess it's not always by accident. But there's a lot to the human interaction aspect of poker that goes beyond just the cards. And of course, a lot of it gets televised now.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:03 PM on August 2, 2011

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