Surgical Shopping

And so launches of my campaign to introduce “Surgical Shopping” into the mix for a future Olympic competition.  Frankly, I want a competition I can win.  After all, how many people can try on four blue blazers, settle on a $500 model, and buy it with alterations in 15 minutes?  I can.

Surgical Shopping is the sport of purchasing an item in a public shopping mall or big box store with the appropriate combination of speed, cost, quality, and intangibles.  There are two variations:

  • “Open” Surgical Shopping:  athletes can buy any item they want.
  • “Targeted” Surgical Shopping: athletes all must buy the same item.

Each of these two can also be further clarified by asking athletes to stay within a specific budget or achieve a specific discount off list price.

While Surgical Shopping has female, male, and pairs competitions, I think this will appeal most to the stereotypical male (thanks Dagwood), who’d rather eat pizza and watch sports than go shopping.  Women typically struggle in this sport, due to their inability to focus in a store, especially in a place like Target, where bargains on unneeded items are always in sight.

Once the item is purchased, and the contest returns to the staring line, judges score what we call “the get” based on the following:

  1. Price
  2. Speed
  3. Ability to return the item
  4. Quality (either by experts or carefully pre-calculated tables, as in diving or gymnastics)
  5. Degree of difficulty in buying, based on a number of factors including variety in the category, necessary prep or alterations, need for financing, ability to self-serve or availability of salespeople, body shape and size (for clothing), etc.

For example:

  • Purchasing a Hamilton Beach drip coffee maker for $19.99 in 5 minutes at Target might not score as high as purchasing DeLonghi espresso maker for $166.73 at Williams Sonoma in 15 minutes.  The quality difference is evident and getting the focus of the snooty salesperson in Williams Sonoma is a struggle.
  • If the category is snacks, buying gourmet chips and salsa for $10 might (or might not) beat out Reese’s peanut butter cups grabbed at the register for $1.75.  Depends on the specifics of the competition and the taste buds of the judges.
  • If two men buy the same suit for the same price at the same store in the same elapsed time, but one requires alterations and the other doesn’t, the one with alterations will win every time.

I compete in Surgical Shopping every time I make a purchase.  For example, I bought two pairs of shoes yesterday at Nordstrom in about 20 minutes.  It took five minutes to browse and select the shoes I wanted.  The salesperson took five minutes to find the shoes (which would have really caused a problem in getting a medal).  It took about 7 minutes to find the right pair, as the first size didn’t fit.  Lastly, it took about three minutes at the cash register, slowed by a faulty credit card reader and confusion about the price. If this had been the Olympics, my only hope would have been points for the quality of the shoes, the quality of the store, and the returnability and refundability, which isn’t always available with shoes but is at Nordstrom.

If ESPN 8, “The Ocho” really existed, I’m sure this would be in prime time.  It would open up competition to a whole new set of athletes, who think they are the only ones that can buy a new car during halftime of a football game or a tuxedo with alterations the day before a wedding.

Just imagine Brent Musburger – “You are looking live at the Mall of America just outside Minneapolis where, despite the freezing temperatures, 100 of the world’s best surgical shoppers are ready for what only can be described as the Surgical Shopping competition from hell. May the best shopper win!”

What It’s Like to be a Washington Capitals Fan

It’s now been a few days since the NHL’s Washington Capitals’ season ended without raising the Stanley Cup.  This is the 36th season in a row that this has happened.  In fact, it’s happened every single year of the franchise’s existence.  As fans, we’ve come to expect that.

Unfortunately, for us fans, it’s not just that the Caps have failed to win the Stanley Cup.  It’s how they’ve done it.

Photo Courtesy Yahoo Sports

They’ve made the playoffs 22 of their 36 seasons.  But, in those 22 playoff opportunities, they’ve lost to a lower seeded team 13 times and lost after leading in the series 16 times, include four losses when they were up three games to one in a seven game series.  For more about the futility, you can read about it at Japers’ Rink.

Somehow, we fans keep coming back each year with eternal optimism and hope that “this season” is our year.  We somehow sign up to suffer again.

Yes, it’s just sports.  “At least you have your health,” my grandmother used to say.  We’ve not lost our job, been hit by a tornado or lost our home to a flood.  Being a Washington Capitals’ fan is frustrating and disappointing.

Want to understand?  Being a Caps’ fan feels like:

  • Drinking a delicious McDonald’s egg nog or mint shake on the last day of their short Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day availability, knowing you have to wait 11 months to get another.
  • Getting a front row ticket for the last show of a limited run musical or play, only to have the understudies perform and ruin it.
  • Driving from Miami to New York on I-95 at 10 mph over the speed limit and making the best time you’ve every made, but then getting a speeding ticket in New Jersey for going 56 in a 55 mph zone.
  • Attending a mid-season baseball game and being stuck in a beer line while your team comes back from 10 runs down, but then returning to your seat just in time to watch them let the other team win by committing three errors in a row.
  • Buying the latest DVR to record a show you’ve been dying to see and isn’t on again for a few months, then returning home to learn a sudden thunderstorm ruined the satellite signal.
  • Finally getting reservations at the best restaurant in town just before it closes for renovations, getting dressed up with your spouse, and then busting a fan belt on the way there.
  • Buying an upper-deck seat to a concert, slowly moving towards the stage occupying empty seats, but then getting kicked out by security after the seatholder arrives 90 minutes after the concert starts.
  • Waiting all summer with you group of best friends to visit your local amusement park on the last weekend of the season, then finding out that all of your favorite rides are closed for the season already.
  • Watching a fantastic, suspenseful movie on DVD, having the DVD crap out 10 minutes before the end, and not having another copy when it’s already too late to run back to the store.
  • Getting hours or days deep into World of Warcraft or Portal 2 or Halo, only to have the Internet die and realize that none of your progress had been saved.
  • Waiting four years of college to ask out the girl you first saw freshman year, having her say yes, planning out a spectacular date on the last night before you fly home, but then being forced to cancel because your mom needs you to take her to the doctor to get her boils lanced.

But, wait!!

Now imagine if any of those things happened to you, not once, but over again in 22 of the last 36 years.

That, my friends, is what it’s like to be Washington Capitals’ fan.

A Tweeting Ovechkin is a Happy Ovechkin is a Winning Ovechkin

On January 30, 2009, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals stopped tweeting.

Ovechkin's Last Tweet for 14 Months

Suddenly, on March 2, 2011, he returned.

Yes! A Tweeting Ovechkin!

In just under two weeks since this tweet, Ovechkin has tweeted another 65 times.  Since his return to Twitter on March 2, the Capitals have won 5 games in a row.  Scoring in each of these 5 games, Ovechkin has 2 goals and 5 assists, a game winning goal, and the only shoot out goal in a victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

After Beating the Blues 3-2 on March 3

Going back a bit farther, the Capitals have won 9 of their last 10 games, and Ovechkin has 4 goals and 8 assists in those 9 victories.  If it wasn’t for a 6-0 beat down at the hands of the New York Rangers, Ovechkin might very well have a 10 game point streak on its hands.

After Beating the Lightning on March 7

Statistics show that the Caps have improved this season on defense, but statistics also show that Ovechkin is having a bad year (or at least one less productive than earlier years).  Pundits say that Ovie is weighed down by the Capitals’ playoff failures and Team Russia’s Olympic failures.  They say that he isn’t himself, and that he might be hurt.

Now, Ovechkin’s point streak and the Capitals’ success are leaving some of these critics with nothing to say.  When other teams see a happy Ovechkin, an Ovechkin slamming against the boards after scoring, an Ovechkin enjoying himself, an Ovechkin tweeting again, they are scared.  Nothing appears to be weighing him down now.  Whatever “himself” is, that’s what Ovechkin is now.  And that’s good for the Caps and their fans.

Thanks for Letting Us Know!

The Cheerleading Competition

Last weekend I drove with my wife and daughter to a cheerleading competition in Duluth, Georgia. My daughter’s team is the “Burn” from Spirit Elite in St. Peter’s, Missouri.  We were able to watch the Burn compete, but also able to visit with two of my sisters and their kids, all of whom live in the Atlanta area.

This is cheerleading as in ESPN2 late night or as in the movie Bring It On and its four direct-to-video sequels. (Who knew there were four sequels to Bring It On?)

It’s loud music, dance, and tumbling. There are also lifts and the tossing of “flyers” high in the air. The teams perform and compete after weeks of practice.

When I watch my daughter, I’m very engaged. The atmosphere at a competition, however, is nearer to  “Toddlers and Tiaras” than a football game.  There are hundreds of girls (and some boys) dressed in similar uniforms, with similar lipstick, glitter, and bows.

But don’t kid yourself about the niceness of competition.  It’s hard-core.  Each team finds out their score within minutes after they perform, and the score is announced in front of the entire room.  They are told at that time whether they are in 1st, 2nd or 3rd or worse.  If they are in first, they are allowed to sprint across the stage and sit in the “Leaders’ Lounge.”  There is nothing better than sprinting to the lounge to displace the squad that was in 1st up to the moment your score was announced.

Just as you might see at football or hockey games, parents are dressed in team colors and team paraphernalia. Some dads wear shirts with their daughter’s name on the back. I make fun of those dads a lot, but I understand the pride with which they wear it.  These girls work hard and deserve the rewards.

The Burn finished second in their age and level group.  They were less than a tenth of a point from first.  They were disappointed, but they made their parents proud.

The Main Stage and Award Area at Right

Ready to Go

Individual Lifts

Full Extension!

Finding Out the Results

Watching the Next Team from the Leaders' Lounge

One Man’s Obsession – The NHL Trading Deadline

Yesterday at work, I was preoccupied with something of incredible importance:  the National Hockey League trading deadline.

Of course, I’m being snarky about the “incredible importance.”  At the same time, for hockey fans, the trade deadline is an amazing time of anticipation, prognostication, jubilation, and humiliation (see what I did there?).

For you uneducated — this deadline marks the last time in the season that teams can trade players or draft picks.  After the deadline (February 28 at 3:00pm EST), NHL teams only have a limited number of roster changes they can make for the rest of the season, typically by calling up players from their top minor league affiliate.

I’m already an obsessed hockey fan, but this day qualifies as the most obsessive.  This obsession is fed by the media, but enjoyed by the fans.  TSN (Canada’s ESPN) started wall-to-wall coverage six hours before the deadline.  Twitter was awash with special hash tags, massive speculations, and made-up stories.  Japers’ Rink, a board for Caps’ fans that I frequent, had over 4,300 posts from early morning ideas through to evening commentary.

As fans, we were faced yesterday with questions of global importance  such as whether the Washington Capitals will add a center for their second line, whether the Dallas Stars will trade their soon-to-be-free-agent superstar, and whether the Florida Panthers or Ottawa Senators will begin to dismantle their teams by trading players for draft picks and minor leaguers.

(The answers, by the way are:  yes, no, yes, no.)

To get these answers, I had to stay connected all day.  Twitter was on the iPhone and iPad, as I went from meeting to meeting.  The browser was open on my desk, tuned to Japers’ Rink and twitter.  I watched a ticker from TSN, as I was on conference calls in my office.  I then caught wrap up shows on XM Radio driving home and on NHL Network when I got home.  I relived every moment.

For fans like me, the trading deadline is what election day is to political folk, Oscar night is to movie fans, and the American Idol or Dancing with the Stars finale night are to some television watchers.  It’s a day to revel in fandom and the excitement of the moment.

It is indeed an obsession, but an enjoyable one.

Sports League Relegation in the U.S. – I Can Dream, Can’t I?

With seven games to go in the 2010 Major League Baseball season, fans of the American League are focused on the race between New York, Tampa Bay and Minnesota for the best record in the league.  Just one game separates all three as we head into the last week of the season.  The team with the best record gets home field advantage for both the American League Division Series and the American League Championship Series.

At the other end of the spectrum, just four game separate Baltimore, Seattle and Kansas City from having the worst record in the American League.  However, no one is really watching those teams.  There’s no interest there.

Should Durham Be Promoted to the Major League?

Imagine, however, if the team with the worst record in the league at the end of the season were demoted, or “relegated,” to AAA the following season?  That would make the “race” not to be last more interesting and more impactful on the teams involved.

Imagine, if, correspondingly, the team with the best record in the AAA International League was promoted to Major League Baseball the following year.  For 2011, we would welcome the Durham Bulls, who finished the season one game ahead of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.

Fans of European, South American, and Central American football experience such a system every year.  In English football, three teams in the top-tier Premier League are relegated each year to the Championship Level, and four are promoted.  The British system is so robust that this trickles down seven levels to regional leagues.  Similar systems exist in Italy, Brazil, Germany, Portugal, Argentina, Mexico and others.  This system is clearly designed to give smaller teams greater opportunity, although some leagues do have requirements for promotion in terms of financial stability, stadium capacity, and other factors.

The concept is not entirely foreign to the United States.  We take part in several sports world championships with relegation systems, where by only the top flight teams can really compete for the world championship.  For example, in the most recent ice hockey world championship, the United States team, based on its performance, was forced to win games to prevent relegation for 2011.  Tennis’ Davis Cup has a similar system.  The eight teams that lose in the first round of the 16-country tournament must then play the winners of regional competitions for the right to compete the following year for the Davis Cup.

So, why doesn’t this system work in the USA?  Baseball, hockey, and soccer have thriving leagues at lower levels.  Basketball has the NBDL.  Football has the Arena League, the United Football League, and other regional leagues.  Secondary leagues, therefore, aren’t a problem.

The problem lies in how the leagues are historically structured.  Owners buy teams, sign players, build stadiums, and operate based on expectations of revenue and prominence.  Correspondingly, players choose teams based on the team’s ability to compete for the championship and pay them commensurate salaries.  Baseball, basketball and hockey minor league teams are not independent competitors in a lesser league, but are fed teams by the big league clubs.  In soccer or football, the leagues are completely separate and owners are unwilling to consider demotion and relegation.  Based on the current system I don’t blame them.

Changing the system would be a multi-year process, and, in my opinion, is theoretically possible.  It would involve setting requirements and standards for each league level.  It would involve baseball and hockey teams dissociating themselves from the minor leagues, including player contracts.  Rules around developmental squads, drafts, free agents and signing from one league to another, including transfer fees, would be established.  Players associations/unions would have a say in the matter, for fear that salaries would diminish considerably.

Unfortunately for me and many other fans, there is no way that US sports team owners will ever agree to this system.  We can argue that relegation and promotion is more egalitarian and more capitalist and should be in America, the Land of Opportunity.  Unfortunately, sports leagues aren’t equal opportunity.  They are controlled by a tight group of owners who want to maintain their profit base.

Until that changes, we’ll never see the headline “The Hershey Bears win the Stanley Cup,” and we’ll continue our disinterest in the Orioles, Mariners and Royals the coming week.

I’m Trying to Like College Football, But I Don’t Just Yet

Eight years ago, we moved from suburban Washington, D.C. to St. Louis.  As we did so, I moved from college basketball territory to college football territory.  Unfortunately, I just can’t get into college football.

I grew up in and lived in Maryland, which is not a hotbed of college football.  Yes, Maryland has a team and is a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, which is a major football conference and a member of the Bowl Championship Series.  But the ACC was and is, in my opinion, a basketball conference.  I grew up a huge Maryland basketball fan, and I still am.

Hung Outside My Neighbors' Home, But No Pull for Me Yet

I went to Williams College for undergrad, a Division III school, where our home games attracted over 2,500 fans at Homecoming and exam schedules took precedence over sports schedules.  The Williams football field was certainly second or third class when compared to some high school stadiums in Texas and Arkansas.  I did go to a home game in Ann Arbor once to see Michigan-Notre Dame.  Being among 105,000 people was fascinating, but, for me, a one-time event

So I moved out to Missouri, and I noticed Mizzou flags hanging from homes and cars on Saturdays.  I noticed the prominence of Mizzou on the local news.  I talked to new friends who routinely made the 90-minute drive out to Columbia for home games and some who also made road trips to Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas,  For me, this was a whole new phenomenon.

It was a phenomenon, but not a bug.  I watched my friends, not understanding how they could be interested in college football.  This is a sport that has so much going for it, but four things in particular have always driven me away:

AJ Green Sits for Getting Money, But Georgia Takes All It Can Get

  1. The sport makes massive amounts of money, but none goes to the players.  The recent episode with A.J. Green, a University of Georgia wide receiver, is indicative of the problem.  The kid sells his jersey for $500 or so and is suspended for four games.  His university, of course, sells his jerseys on their website.  See Michael Wilbon’s article pointing on the hypocrisy of this.
  2. There is no mechanism to decide a legitimate champion.  Every other sport and football in every other division has a way to determine a champion.  Why no playoff?  See #1.   More money in the bowls.
  3. The sport has been and, in my opinion, always will be corrupt.  You know that players are paid under the table to matriculate and then attend.  You know that they receive preferential treatment in their academics.  Why does this happen?  See #1 above.
  4. It just takes too much time to watch.  Too many players on each team.  To much changeover each year on the players.  Too many games to follow.

Over our time in Missouri, I have enjoyed watching Mizzou games with friends.  I have gotten used to the Monday morning conversations about college football.  I have started watching and started trying to enjoy it.  It’s growing on me.  The Michigan-Notre Dame yesterday was very exciting, but I got bored by the Boise State-Virginia Tech game the week before.

We’ll see where the evolution goes.  No Mizzou Black & Gold just yet.  I’m trying,  but it will be a long road.  At this point, NHL training camps are more interesting.

Three Quick Observations About Sports in Beijing

I write this on a Monday morning in Beijing, just as the United States is settling in for what’s bound to be a long night watching the Emmy Awards.  This is my seventh trip to China in the past year, although it’s my first since March.

I’m afraid that I can’t go into a deep analysis of sporting life in China.  That is likely a topic of a PhD dissertation somewhere.  Instead, let me make a few observations about sports here.

Sports is More Global Than Local

Beijing Guoan F.C. - Did Anyone Notice They Won the Championship?

On an earlier trip in March, the local Beijing soccer team, Beijing Guoan F.C., played for and won the championship of the Chinese Super League.  If the buzz in cities is said to be “palpable” for big events, then the buzz in Beijing at the time was, well, “unpalpable.”  There was no talk of it among our Chinese colleagues and little mention in the English-language newspaper, China Daily.  Imagine Manchester United or Olympic Marseilles or even Real Salt Lake winning a championship and no one noticing.  Can’t happen.

There is a local channel, CCTV 5, which is dedicated to sports.  It shows mostly international fare, from what I can tell.  I watched USA-Croatia live in the basketball world championships Saturday night. As I write, it’s showing a replay of China-Germany from the 2008 Olympics.  (The cynic in me says that China wins, but I’ll have to wait and see.)   Back in February, this channel broadcast the Super Bowl with Chinese announcers.  They returned late from halftime, and we missed the onside kick by the Saints, but that was the only glitch.

There was a buzz last spring when Stephon Marbury came over to play basketball in Shanxi in the Chinese Basketball Association, but that died down after a while.  I think that’s the way it is with local sports leagues here.  The interest rises with news and then dies out.

The expat communities in major cities, however, keep the buzz going about English football, American basketball and other sports with regular gatherings to watch the games at local watering holes.

ESPN is not ESPN

Satellite television available in western hotels and in western apartments has a channel called ESPN.  This is not your mother’s ESPN.  The goal of ESPN is not to push American sports on the rest of the world, but is to bring the model of sports broadcasting outside the US.  Thus, it broadcasts mostly sports of relevance to Europe and Asia:  soccer, auto racing, and motocross.   This morning, ESPN ran a 20 minutes loop of “ESPNews” showing soccer, golf and auto racing over and over and over.  I did get to watch Yankees-White Sox on Sunday morning (Saturday night), but those games aren’t regular, except for the weekly Sunday night game.  Right now, ESPN is showing a tape of a Little League World Series game between Hawaii and Texas.

If you want to catch highlights of your favorite MLB, NHL, NBA or NFL teams, your best bet remains, by far, the Web.  If you are going to be over here for an extended period, you may want to consider either a) subscribing to one of the league’s online broadcast packages; b) getting a Slingbox to connect from home;  or c) getting knowledgeable about free online broadcast feeds.

Expats – Have Sports Will Travel

The cover story of September issue of The Beijinger, the local journal for expat activities, is about sports.  Always good at covering the city’s restaurant and bar scene, the Beijinger showcases the breadth of sports available to expats, from cricket to softball to Australian rules football to croquet.  I know from searching before, that there are some local pick-up ice hockey games.

As some of you may know, when you put a bunch of expats in one spot, sports leagues are bound to start up.  The global phenomenon that is the Hash House Harriers is a great example.  Back in the early 1990’s, Mrs. Spidey and I lived in Moscow and played in the broomball league, a full contact version of that game you played in college, played on flooded tennis courts at the foreign embassies in frigid Moscow.  Expats, as you know, can’t exist without sports leagues, and I’m ecstatic that br00mball is alive and well in Moscow.

At the same time, perhaps as part of Beijing’s continued emergence as a global city, I see health clubs sprouting up and more and more joggers out in the pollution.  There is a Beijing Marathon and a Beijing Triathlon.  In The Beijinger, they highlighted “The Great Wall Charity Challenge.”  This team event involves sailing 40KM, running 12KM and then “scrambling” up the Great Wall for 2KM.  Sounds intriguing to me – except for that sailing part.

What If Clemens Had Apologized in 2007?

Roger Clemens Testifying Before Congress in 2008

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens was indicted last week for obstruction of justice, making false statements, and perjury based on testimony he gave to the U.S. Congress in February 2008.  Clemens had appeared voluntarily to answer questions about his possible use of illegal steroids and human growth hormone.  If found guilty, Clemens could face up to five years in prison per perjury charge.

I’ve wondered for some time whether admitting drug use and apologizing makes any difference at all in the perceptions of the fans, the baseball community, and the Hall-of-Fame voters.  I think it can, but for Clemens it’s too late now.

Imagine if, in December 2007, Clemens had held a press conference, surrounded by his family, and said this:

I am embarrassed by the facts released in the Mitchell Report, but they are true.  In order to compete against stronger batters in my career and to stave off the effects of age, I knowingly took steroids and human growth hormone.  I have no one to blame but myself.  I wish it had never happened.  I respect the opinions of the fans and the baseball community.  I honestly did what I felt was necessary to compete.  I now understand this was very wrong.  For all the young kids and baseball players, I urge you not to follow my example.  Let your natural talent take you where it will.  For other players named in the Mitchell Report, I urge you to step forward and admit what you’ve done, if you are guilty.  Let’s not continue the sins of the past.

Had Clemens taken this course of action, it might have changed things.  Clemens could have been viewed as a sympathetic figure.  He could have been given further opportunities to rehabilitate himself through speaking engagements and interactions with baseball players.  Clemens could have started down the path towards improving public opinion and, possibly, a spot in the Baseball Hall-of-Fame.

At the same time, it might not have mattered at all.  Pundits would have vilified Clemens for his actions.  He would have been ostracized from baseball for at least a short time.  But, at least the issue would have been put to rest once and for all, opening the door for longer-term rehabilitation.

Timing is critical in the apologies.  Mark McGwire apologized in 2009, eight years after his career ended.  Too late.  The anger built up over the years by fans and writers is too great.  His chances of getting into the Hall-of-Fame are generally believed to be zero.

Had Clemens Listened to One Republic's Lyrics, History May Have Changed

Andy Pettite and Alex Rodriguez apologized during their career, and the issue became a non-story, coming back up only on occasions of milestones or Hall-of-Fame discussions.  No longer can a reporter ask either whether they did steroids.  Question asked and answered.

Clemens, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, and Sammy Sosa have let the denials go on too long for apologies.  Unless exonerated by a higher court, they have no opportunity to undo sins of the past.

Ironically, One Republic had a massive global hit in 2007 with “Apologize.”  The chorus of that song?  “It’s too late to apologize.  It’s too late.”  It’s a shame Clemens wasn’t listening.

Lance Armstrong – Do you have One Republic on your iPod?

$h*! The PGA Says

The disqualification of Dustin Johnson in the 2010 PGA Championship this evening is just ridiculous.  Just absurd and a darn shame.

I am sometimes golfer, and I understand the rules.  I understand how the rules were applied in this instance.  A player cannot (allow the club to touch the) ground in a sand trap.  If the player touches his club to the ground in a sand trap in any context, it is a two-shot penalty.

Does This Look Like a Sand Trap?

Spectators Standing Around the "Sand Trap"

Hmm. Aren't Bunkers Usually Raked?

My problem is the way this rule was applied this afternoon.  It was applied as black-and-white, with zero interpretation.  Mark Wilson, the gentleman from the PGA whom Peter Kostis of CBS interviewed, said, and I paraphrase, “We told all the players that there were a lot of bunkers out there that would be trampled and probably wouldn’t look like bunkers, but they are bunkers.  Dustin read the rules, and he should have known.”

Dustin Johnson really had no choice but to comply with the rules.  He said in an interview with David Feherty that he never once thought it was a bunker (and Feherty agreed).  And I don’t believe anyone watching did either.

There was no flexibility and no consideration of the reality of the situation.  That’s where I think the PGA is full of you-know-what.

Giving Johnson the two-shot penalty is similar to:

  • Giving someone a parking ticket when the “No Parking” sign is missing from the spot they parked.
  • Failing a student on a test for using a pen instead of a pencil, or vice versa, when it’s not a scantron, and the answers were legible.
  • Not allowing a high school player to play in a Friday night game when they did not meet the Friday school attendance requirement due to a family emergency.
  • Not giving someone a reduced sales price because they arrive an hour after the sale ended due to obvious weather conditions that limited driving.
  • Punishing a 14-year-old for driving, when it was the only option to get an injured person to the hospital.

The PGA should be embarrassed for its lack of flexibility.  “We warned you” is their answer.  I guess the county has warned me to watched out for No Parking zones, but it’s fair of me to expect those zones to be well marked.

Congrats to Martin Kaymer for his victory.  In the end, however, this tournament will be known for Johnson’s penalty and, I hope,  for a liberalization and newly applied flexibility of golf’s rules to square them up with reality.

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