Are All Rules Made to be Broken?
written by Laramie:
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Life is made up, to a large extent, of either following or not following rules. Not all
rules make sense, but until changed, most people would agree that it is usually best to follow them in the situations where they apply
until they are shown to be unjust or unconstitutional. Rules can be made up by governments, as in marriage, or large or small groups
that have a common bond or aim, as in sports. Any common bond in most governments is hard to determine sometimes, but that's another
issue, so let's move on. Some people, of course, choose to follow the least number of rules they think they can get away with. The
prisons are full of these people. But without rules, a game, or life for that matter, would be total chaos. Imagine what a football
or a hockey game or a boxing match would turn into without rules. Let's look at a much quieter, kinder game that has more rules than
many think are necessary, many self regulated, and that is the game of golf.
The U.S. Open
is here again, one of the top major golf tournaments in the world dating back to the year 1900. As usual, hordes of golfers from around
the world flock to this prestigious event, as do fans, held this year in San Francisco. It has a lot riding on it for the winner,
namely pride, automatic entry into other tournaments, like the Masters, and of course a ton of money. There will be one difference
this year from all the other Opens of the past except the one in 1998. That year a player named Casey Martin was allowed to play his
rounds riding in a golf cart. No PGA golfer in its history was ever allowed to do that. It was a rule. The PGA felt that allowing
one golfer to ride in a cart would give him an unfair advantage, as riding in a cart eliminates having to walk 18 holes every day
for 4 consecutive days, over 16 miles, a test of endurance as well as golf skill. All golfers have been required to walk the course
since the pro tour began. So the PGA at first disallowed Casey, afflicted with a disease causing chronic leg pain, to ride in a cart.
Casey argued that the Americans with Disabilities Act allowed him to ride. Since the U.S. Supreme Court that year, in their infinite
golf wisdom, apparently felt they had some spare time on their docket, they chose to rule on a rule of golf. Casey won his case. He
rode in 1998, did not play well and finished far back in the field. But he is back at this year's Open, once again the only player
who will not walk. Casey will not be a factor challenging the leaders in the order of finish amongst the touring pros this year either.
He has no chance to win. He is a golf coach at the University of Oregon, but did place high enough in a qualifying round to earn a
berth in the Open, where he rode in a cart. But the caliber of a player has no bearing on the issue of riding in a cart. The main
question is whether it is an unfair advantage.
Casey's decision to try to qualify for The
Open brings out questions about rules, how and why they exist, and whether Casey truly thinks he will be competitive or if he just
wants to be a ground breaker for what he perceives to be an unjust restriction on either handicapped golfers or golfers in general.
I believe Casey wants to "open" the door to golfers who may be good enough to qualify for tournaments, as long as they can ride in
a cart. What would be good for the game as well as good for prospective players in this situation is not an easy issue to solve. A
man in his 50's or 60's for example, may be a good golfer but couldn't handle walking 18 holes of golf for 4 days, even with no obvious
physical handicap, as Casey Martin has. The elderly man may just get tired, but is given no pass to ride a cart in a PGA tournament
just because he is older. One reason being, there is a Champion's Tour for players over 50 years of age, where they can ride a cart
in many tournaments, but even then not in Major championships.
Can anyone who feigns a bad back
or some other disability now ride in a cart? Will the field of golfers include many players walking and others riding? Will any golfer
who just doesn't feel like walking be able to hitch a ride, thus saving valuable energy for a grueling 4 day tournament and possible
playoffs? Should all golfers be required to ride in a cart, which would surely nip the controversy in the bud? Some feared that there
would be a rush to ride carts on the pro tour, but that has not happened.
Of course no one is
advocating that handicapped golfers shouldn't be able to play golf. The question is, if allowed to play in big money PGA tournaments
against the best players in the world, should they be given a hitch-up so that their physical handicap is likely to not just even
up the playing field, but perhaps give them an advantage? Is riding a cart with shade provided by a roof over their head for 4 or
5 hours on a hot day for 4 days, parking in the shade much of the time, an advantage over players who are either walking or standing?
Of course the line between what is and what isn't a physical handicap is not a bright line but rather it is arbitrary and cloudy.
Isn't it obvious that professional golf, like professional football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, and other sports, is designed
for only athletes who are not only talented in that sport, but also are in top physical condition? And to break existing rules and
diminish the requirements for competing, on an equal footing, wouldn't that defeat the purpose of the professional tournaments, which
is to win fair and square. The idea of competing at the professional level is not to see to it that everyone gets a chance to play,
as is the case in some Elementary School league sports, like Little League baseball, rather it is to win. Shouldn't any attempt to
make exceptions to "the rules of the game" that allow for any potential advantage, besides talent, be avoided in order to maintain
the integrity of the game.
I will repeat some views that I have heard of that need to be
well thought out in order to truly understand their intent and to what degree they could solve some of the problems in modern day
sports and some of the controversies that exist. That way the temptation to unilaterally discard them could be offset by understanding
their purpose, which is to remove some of the controversies.
Provisions have been made
for the blind to play baseball by using ropes being strung from base to base that the players hold on to when going from base to base.
And the blind don't ask to play in the major leagues. There are basketball leagues for those unfortunate enough to need to sit in
wheelchairs, and the games can be very competitive, but the players don't ask to play in the NBA and have rules altered to accommodate
their handicaps, and there are no dispensations for short people. There are Special Olympics for qualifying track athletes and they
don't ask to try out for the London Olympics in June. Isn't it possible and perhaps in the best interests of physically handicapped
golfers to unite and form their own association, have their own tournaments, and compete, or at least participate, with other handicapped
players? Golf at the professional level, the PGA, has as one of its aims that no player plays with any unfair advantages, only better
skills. As it is, all professional players in a PGA Tournament must play the required number of holes, with a maximum of 14 golf clubs
in their bag, each club meeting strict manufacturing guidelines. They are not allowed to wear shorts, and they must meet all other
rules of the game of golf. The PGA runs the tournaments, and people who don't like their rules don't have to play. Golf is one of
the few games in sports that relies on individual honesty and integrity and where every rule is always enforced. The attitude that
says "What the heck, it's only a game. If the kid wants to ride around in one of those funny carts, let him, it's no big deal" is
a mindless view and should be treated as such.