Day 256. Rules Schmules?

I realize this is old news by now, but what was going on in Boston was so much more important.  So I delayed this post.  But it’s a topic I’d still like to table so, with rulesyour indulgence …

Yeah, I’d like to talk about the whole hullabaloo over Tiger Woods, his ‘drop’ at the Masters, the penalty and whether or not he was punished severely enough.  Whether or not he should have been disqualified or, as some have suggested, withdrawn from the tournament on his own.

Let’s start at the beginning.  The very beginning.

Just twenty-two years old when he won his first major tournament, the Masters, breaking a record to boot, Tiger captured the hearts and imaginations of golfers and non-golfers alike.  By June of that same year, he was already number one in the world rankings.  He dominated the game.

He drew bigger crowds than any other golfer in history.  Even bigger than Arnie’s Army and Jack’s Pack.  He had endorsements galore.  We couldn’t get enough of the young, handsome mega athlete on or off the golf course.  Nor could we get enough of his beautiful, young, blonde, Swedish, wife.  We searched for her in the crowd at every tournament he entered.  And, on those rare occasions when we got to see the odd photo of their two, beautiful babies, news stand sales went through the roof, in minutes.

Human nature being what it is, we didn’t just love how he played golf.  We loved him.  We idolized him.  We worshipped him.

Not that we stopped there.  We just about canonized him.

We put him on a pedestal so high, no mere mortal could live up to the expectations.  To the pressure.

We put him on a pedestal so high, his fall from grace, whenever it might happen, was bound to be extremely painful.  For everyone, including his fans and followers.

And so it was.

Just like his mastery of the game was nothing short of spectacular, so was his ‘denouement’.

The collective gasp could be heard around the world, when the news came out. When we learned he’d cheated on that beautiful, young, blonde, Swedish wife of his.  Numerous times.  Over many years.  With hookers.  And porno stars.  Assorted other bimbos.  Home wreckers, all.  His sexually-explicit text messages and emails were all over the Internet.  All over the airwaves.  On the pages of every newspaper and magazine in the world.

Our hero had feet of clay.  Mud, actually.  Slime.  It was sleazy.  So sleazy.  Tawdry.  Ugly.

How could he?  He didn’t just cheat on her.  He cheated on us.  He destroyed our fantasy, our fairy tale.  The handsome Prince turned out to be a toad.  A disgusting, vile toad.  And the stunning princess, having finally had enough, attacked him with a golf club, causing him to crash the royal coach into a tree and a fire hydrant, in his haste to escape without having his brains bashed in.

Everything he’d worked so hard for was gone.  In an instant.  The fame.  The glory.  The adoration.  The respect.  The hero worship.  The legions of fans.  The lucrative contracts.  The advertisers.  Lots and lots and lots of money.  But worst of all, his game was gone.

His swing was gone.  His drive was gone.  His short game was gone.  His putting was gone.

Gone, gone, gone.

Tiger Woods was a pariah.

Then, after years of embarrassment, humiliation, injuries, therapy and loss after loss, he started getting it together.  He won some tournaments.  Was back to being Number One.  And In March he announced he had a new girlfriend, skier Lindsey Vonn.

When he said he’d play the Masters, it seemed he’d been forgiven.  Fans, once again, were ready to celebrate a victory.

Until Saturday when, on the 15th hole, his third shot hit the flag stick and landed in the water.  When he opted to go back to where he played his shot from, instead of playing from the drop area — which, incidentally, was his right.  Where it started to unravel was when he gave himself a better shot, by dropping a yard or two behind his original divot.

Nobody said “boo” until a TV viewer called in.  The rules committee reviewed what he’d done and determined “he’d complied with the rules”.  And then Woods put his foot in his mouth.  He said he’d deliberately done it, apparently (or so he said) unaware what he’d done was improper.

Now, you’d think a player of his stature would know all the rules of golf.  But what do I know?  You sort of have to believe him, because who’d be stupid enough to admit, out loud, he’d cheated?  That he knew he was breaking the rules.  I mean, that would be beyond dumb.

To make a long story short, in the end he was given a two-stroke penalty.  He was not disqualified.  The reason?  The rules changed in 2011.  Why?  Because the quality of high definition is so superior, viewers watching tournaments on TV can easily spot infractions; and this amendment allows for leniency when players aren’t aware they’ve broken a rule.

To be fair, changing the rule wasn’t Tiger Woods’ idea.  He was just the beneficiary.  Can’t fault him for that.  Or can we?

So.  How do you weigh in on this debacle?

  • Do you think he made an honest mistake?
  • Do you think he was arrogant enough to think nobody would notice?
  • Do you think he knew there was a possibility he’d get caught, but he could plead ignorance and, thanks to the new rule, he’d get away with it?
  • Do you think the blame rests on the rules committee who MUST know every rule? The minute they reviewed the footage, you’d think they would have noticed what he’d done and called him on it immediately.  Don’t you think?  For that matter, where were the officials when he played the shot?  There are officials and marshals all over the golf course during tournaments.  Why didn’t he get stopped ‘in the act’?
  • Do you think if this had happened to any golfer, other than Tiger Woods, there’d be the same hue and cry?  Do you think fans and press and even other pro golfers would be questioning the appropriateness (or lack there of) of his punishment, with the same fervour, if at all?

No.  No.  No.  I am not trying to organize a Tiger Woods pity party.  Nor am I defending him or condoning what he did.  It’s questionable, to say the least.  I’m merely asking some questions.  Because honestly, I don’t think there’s a simple answer here. What do you think?  And before you say “I couldn’t care less” if, indeed, it’s what’s going through your mind right now, think about the bigger issue for a minute.

Yes, he cheated on his wife.  Yes, he has often reacted badly when things haven’t gone his way on the golf course, pounding clubs into the ground and getting angry and petulant.  Yes, he’s kept to himself and often refused to give interviews.  But he’s never, ever been accused, or suspected, of cheating on the golf course.  Here then, is what I’d like to know:

Do we judge people more or less harshly based on whether or not we like them?  It bears thinking about, because you never know when you might find yourself in the jury box.  Or worse, a defendant.  And even if your ‘crime’ isn’t the kind that has you sitting in a courtroom,  I’m assuming you’d want to be judged fairly, and on the facts.  Not because you’d behaved very badly once upon a time.

Do you find it odd, or disconcerting, that nobody has said a word about the rules committee and their culpability in this affair?  All the attention, all the scrutiny, all the disgust seems to be directed at Woods.

14 thoughts on “Day 256. Rules Schmules?

  1. The question you ask toward the end of your post really gets to the heart of the matter: “Do we judge people more or less harshly based on whether or not we like them?” When it comes to teaching, I’m hyper-aware of this issue, since I can always see which students are working hard and which students have a tendency to phone it in. During the crunch-time at the end of every semester, those who have been phoning it in inevitably come to me asking for help with topics they don’t understand. Though my first instinct is to cut them loose — it was their slacking, after all, that put them where they are — I remind myself that I’m a professional and that I need to treat all of my students equally. In other words, I need to give the slacker students as much of my time, attention, and effort as I give the students who have been working hard all along. I suppose I’m judging them in my mind, but I think my actions need to be held to a higher standard. (Not sure how this applies to Tiger… Maybe if he were a student of mine, I’d give him the two-stroke penalty and wish in the back of my mind that I could have disqualified him — but never say it aloud!)

    • Exactly my point. That’s why I asked that question and, in fact, wrote the post. Because we’re faced with situations in our everyday lives where we need to remind ourselves this has nothing tobdo with whether or not we like the person. And it’s not always easy to do.

  2. I don’t pay much attention to golf but based on what you said two things come to mind. Number one is he’s looking for advantage and trying to come from behind generally but it seems desperate. Number two we definitely are subjective overall when it comes to competition and our fallen “idols”. If his game was where it should be he wouldn’t have gotten himself in that situation in the first place.

  3. In answer to your question about judging people, I think it’s true that we will judge them less harshly if we like them. It’s a protective thing. If we want to go about it biologically, it’s thought that we help others out in the hope it will be reciprocated should we be in their position.
    But at the same time…what they have supposedly done may dictate whether or not you like them; it could be so over reaching that it could decide it for you.
    It’s an interesting thought.

  4. I’ve met Tiger and worked with him. Right or wrong, I had my preconceived notions about a young celebrity athlete and what his behavior would be like on set. He confirmed my assumptions immediately with his words and behaviors. So unfortunately, I wasn’t surprised when his artfully constructed image unravelled. It was too lofty for anyone to measure up to, especially someone with a wandering eye and the ability to get anything he wanted at pretty much any time.

    He did a wonderful thing for the game of golf by bringing it to new audiences and inspiring many young people. Hopefully he will be remembered for that vs his tabloid exploits.

      • Absolutely. Our value system is out of whack. And to be fair, I think we have no idea how difficult it is to be ‘obscure’ one minute and a superstar the next. You wake up one morning and your life is completely different. Suddenly you can have everything and everyone you want.

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