Absurd Calls Make Absurd Games

This article is more than 17 years old.

Sports will not end with a bang or a whimper, but with a hearty gaffaw at the absurdity of what our games have come to.

To some extent it will be television's fault. At last weekend's Canadian Open Golf Tournament, Paul Azinger, in contention at the time, was penalized two strokes because somebody watching the tournament on TV noticed that Azinger's caddie had moved the flag stick at an inappropriate time. Azinger's playing partner, Fred Funk, had chipped a shot past the hole. Azinger's caddie pulled the pin from the hole before funk's ball had stopped rolling. This gross breach of rule 17-2b had so little bearing on the proceedings that neither player nor anybody in the large gallery took notice of the outrageous infraction. But some guy called in from his TV room and, remarkably, whoever took the call didn't assume it was a prank.

Only in golf. Literally. Try calling the ballpark the next time you think the umpire's missed a call.

The National Football League's opening weekend offered foolishness of another sort. The golf establishment's rules are old. Stupid, in some cases, but old. Some of the rules that render the NFL silly are new. On an otherwise delightful Sunday afternoon for fans of the Buffalo Bills, the home team was penalized fifteen yards for malicious ball spinning.

Following this bizarre call, the announcers took turns explaining in tones they somehow managed to keep solemn that spinning the ball on the ground after the play wasn't, in and of itself, a violation of the rules, but maliciously spinning the ball constituted "taunting," an offense which the league regards as grotesquely inappropriate...somewhere between wearing the wrong color shoes and possession of explosives with intent to incinerate the huddle.

Malicious ball-spinning? If the game in which that shameless violation occurred had been close, perhaps Buffalo would have appealed the call. Then the gaggle of officials would have had to watch a replay in order to try to detect signs of maliciousness in the ball-spinner's demeanor. What if no one among them had the appropriate string of degrees to make the determination?

One day we will all walk away from our games laughing, won't we? Won't we? Please?

This program aired on September 10, 2003. The audio for this program is not available.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.