Sorry, Chris Collinsworth: the NFL Rulebook is Nothing Like the IRC

November 30, 2015

It's long, complex, and no one's really sure what it says. It's the NFL Rulebook, at least according to Sunday Night Football analyst Chris Collinsworth during last night's broadcast. Struggling with the excess timeout rule (Rule 4, § 5, art. iv), Collinsworth opined, "The [NFL] Rulebook is like the IRS Code right now. Who knows what's all in there." In reality, taxpayers only wish the Internal Revenue Code had the complexity of the NFL Rulebook. Let's compare:

Word Count

NFL Rulebook: 55,000 words

Internal Revenue Code: 3.9 million words

These being federal statutes, much of the word count is internal citations, appendices, enactment clauses, and the like, but a reasonable estimate with all this stripped away is still over 2.4 million words. Add in case law, guidance, and other supplementary material needed to actually understand the tax code and you wind up with CCH's 74,000 page Standard Federal Tax Reporter. The NFL Rulebook, including tables and diagrams, runs 79 pages.

People Who Know What's All In There

NFL Rulebook: "Who knows what's all in there," but officiating crews, presumably?

Internal Revenue Code: Nobody.

Adequate Explanation of What Constitues a Catch

NFL Rulebook: No.

Internal Revenue Code: No.

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