A Pure Game

Michael DembyCorrespondent IJuly 3, 2008

 The shot clock is turned off and ten seconds are left on the game clock in this pivotal playoff game.  It’s a tie game.  Five seconds now…he drives to the basket and throws an off balance lay-up that clangs off the rim and the home teams grabs the defensive rebound.  The crowd lets off a collective sigh of relief…but…wait a minute! The referee has blown the whistle!  A foul has been called with 1.5 seconds left in the game.   The home crowd is going nuts…


How many times have we seen this scenario happen?  A game, hanging in the balance, decided by the referee.  Now, it may or may not have been a foul.  It’s a judgment call made in the moment by the official.


Not only are tough calls made in critical points of basketball games, but in other major sports as well. 


Umpires can decide the outcome of games, or even a series, based on calling strikes or balls.  In soccer, a critical goal could be disallowed because the official raises the offside flag.  However, video replay may clearly show the player was onside before the ball was played. 


Don’t even get me started on football.  Pass interference, holding, and down-by-contact calls seem to always fuel endless debates amongst the media, crazed fans (such as myself), and players and coaches.  Hockey is no different. 


Instant replay is utilized in football and basketball on both the collegiate and professional levels in certain situations.  Now, major league baseball is assessing the possibility of using it for home run and fair vs. foul decisions. 


And, even though many tennis tournaments now utilize technology that judges whether balls are in and out, this is not always effective and the chair umpire must make a decision.


Then there’s golf.


I’m not a huge golf fan.  I got a starter club set about four years ago and have been to the driving range about four times total in that time period.  So you know my game, well, it sucks. 


But, when I watch golf (usually when Tiger is involved), I see pure competition.  Referees don’t call suspect fouls.  There are no television monitors needed for instant replay.  There are no coaches or players yelling at an official over a call.


It’s just the player against nature, against pressure, and against the course.  Yes, there are rules and officials that preside over tournaments.  They get involved when a player hits a ball out of play and must perform a ball drop, suffering a penalty stroke in the process.


But, in comparison to the sports I mentioned, golf is as pure as it gets.