Imagine that the St. Louis Cardinals avoid an epic collapse and claim one of the two National League wild card berths.
Suppose that they sneak by the Atlanta Braves in a one-game playoff and go on to duplicate the run they made last year to get back to the World Series.
Say they square things up with the American League champions in another “one for the ages” Game 6 to knot the series up at 3-3.
Now imagine that in place of a Game 7, the Cardinals simply retain their title.
This could never happen of course, for baseball fans (and sports nuts in general), would not stand for it. The uproar over the whole thing would make the fervor felt by the NFL replacement referee situation seem like a pebble tossed into the ocean. There would be rioting to rival that of Vancouver following the Canucks' Game 7 loss in whatever American League city got screwed over.
Even Bud “It’s been two years and I still can't decide if the A’s can move or not” Selig would recall the disastrous ending to the 2002 All-Star Game and realize that this would be a thousand times worse and would say no can do, no way, no how. To his credit, Gary Bettman, in his long-standing effort to drive hockey fans to loony bins across the world, would at least consider the idea.
So why then, is the greatest (or second-greatest, depending on your view of The Masters) event in all of golf allowed to end in a 14-14 tie?
I’m talking, of course, about the way the Ryder Cup ended yesterday.
Or rather the way it should not have ended.
Sure, the PGA record books will hold that Europe heroically stormed back from a late Saturday afternoon 10-4 hole and emerged with a 14.5 to 13.5 victory on Sunday at 5:27 p.m. (that’s central time, Rory!)
Unfortunately, that paints about as accurate a picture of the event’s ending as the NFL record books saying that the Seattle Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football on September 24, 2012.
The 2012 Ryder Cup was a tie and anyone who watched it knows it.
Do you really believe that Tiger Woods, the best pressure putter who has ever lived (sorry, Jack), would have missed a three-footer on the 18th hole with the fate of the Ryder Cup hanging in the balance?
Well, than you were also probably in the minority of people who expected anything different when Tiger stood over his slippery fifteen-footer on the 72nd hole at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Look how that turned out.
This is not to take any credit away from the European team, especially Ian ‘Crazy Eyes’ Poulter, who went into “Put the Team On the Back” mode with five straight birdies in the last match of Saturday four-balls to shift the climb the Europeans had to make from insurmountable to climbing-Kilimanjaro-without-a-harness proportions. The way they played on Sunday, they deserved to win.
We’ll just never know whether they did or not.
The most frustrating part about the whole thing is that it is a uniquely terrible practice, not just in all other North American professional sports, but in all of golf as well.
Bubba Watson does not get to don the green jacket again if he finds himself knotted at the top of the leaderboard in the 2013 Masters with someone else. No, he must trek back to the 18th hole and play it once more against his competitor. That is how it should be. The past does not influence how we decide the outcome of the present in sports.
If the sporting public is ever to believe that golf is a sport and to come to the realization that the Ryder Cup is the greatest team competition in all of sports—and I am proud to admit than I am firmly entrenched in both these camps—then there needs to be a more decisive outcome than a 14-14 tie where the champion from two years ago gets to take the Cup on home again.
Baseball has extra innings.
Basketball has overtime, as does hockey come playoff time.
Heck, soccer decides its winner come the knockout round of the FIFA World Cup in the dubious manner of forcing a series of mano-a-mano showdowns between player and goalie—a scenario that organically develops roughly never in a real-game situation—and even that is better than telling Spain they get to move on to the next round because they won the tournament held full four years ago.
Golf, in its signature biennial event, has nothing.
Don’t get me wrong; there is a time and a place for champions keeping their crown in the event of a tie. But that time and place is in championship boxing and mixed martial arts, where going another round could have major implications on the fighters’ health.
Golf, even Ryder Cup golf, is not championship boxing or MMA.
Surely each captain can pick a player to trudge back to the tee and play until one of them emerges victorious. You know, like they do in the President’s Cup. Who would say, "Nah, I don't want to see that?" Who flips over to an NFL game while Poulter or Rory McIlroy duke it out shot-for-shot with Woods or Keegan Bradley?
Imagine how much fun the talking heads would have debating who Captain Davis Love III should have picked for this…wait, did I just write a segment of tomorrow’s ESPN First Take show? Noooo!!!
Instead, we got to see Woods, his heart clearly no longer in it, scoot a three-footer on by and then watch him concede the hole to Francesco Molinari.
Great theater that was.
Now, I know this might sound like good old-fashioned sour grapes by an American who may or may not have spent much of Sunday afternoon yelling at the TV in vain as he watched the exact guys he wanted in pressure situations fade down the stretch. But it’s not, I promise you.
Everybody knew the rules, flawed as they may be, heading into the event, so it’s silly to complain about them now. I don’t even want to change the rules before the Ryder Cup two years down the road.
What I want, is for the U.S. to go over to Scotland and beat Team Europe (a score of 20-8 in favor of the U.S. would be most enjoyable), and then, and only then, for the rules to be changed to eliminate the dreaded 14-14 tie. (I’m okay with individual matches being halved, just as I’m okay with a regular season English Premier League game ending in a tie.)
That way Europe can’t complain that Americans are trying to change the rules to make it easier for us to win the Ryder Cup back.
And that way golf fans could finally get the sort of outcome they deserve.