Friday, June 23, 2006

GOLF'S INTEGRITY -- Recalling Michelson's Meltdown last Sunday at Winged Foot, Daniel Henninger notes a favorable contrast with baseball:
It's just a game. But a game that defines the conditions of its experience with words like "fairway" and "rough" may have something useful to tell the wider world in a time when tradition seems old hat.
We might agree, for instance, that a sense of personal honor, at the most basic level, appears to be an eroding tradition. Enron, Abramoff, Bonds are words that define a new, at-the-edge world of business, politics and sport. Baseball almost surely will admit into Cooperstown several users of steroids because, as any lawyer will tell you, there was no formal rule against it at the time.

Golf, unlike most everything else, is by and large scandal-free. What are golf's secrets? Talk to people around the sport and you get a sense of the structural elements that keep it so intact. It has a lot to do with golf's genetic code, its DNA.

Start with cheating. As in any game it is not allowed. But in golf, a sport in which players keep their own scores, it is unthinkable. Tom Kite, they'll tell you, once called a penalty on himself when his ball moved and no one else saw it. The informal penalties for cheating are worse than disqualification. "Players caught cheating can be blacklisted for the rest of their lives," says Eddie Merrins. And some good ones have. If baseball were golf, the community would have ostracized the guys on steroids.
Perhaps there is a lesson here that extends beyond sport.