Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Welcome to the LPGA, where not only the ball is white

Michelle Wie was disqualified from her first pro event this weekend when she made an illegal drop and failed to take the two stroke penalty. The ESPN story is here. In golf, when a player fails to take a penalty and then signs their scorecard, they are disqualified. Wie, who finished fourth, was forced to forfeit her $53,126 prize (almost meaningless to a teen who is projected to earn $10 million this year via endorsements) and also relinquish her placing.

I have no problem with the disqualification in a vacuum. If Wie made a wrong drop, rules officials discovered the drop, and then disqualified her, that's bad luck, but a bad luck in the context of a fair competition. Some have said that once the round is over, the scores should be locked in so there are no disqualifications. I believe that works for baseball and other sports, but it just doesn't work for the rules of golf.

The problem in this case is that the officials did not discover the drop. It was discovered by Michael Bamberger of Sports Illustrated, who then decided to tell officials because according to him, "I thought about it more and was just uncomfortable that I knew something. Integrity is at the heart of the game. I don't think she cheated. I think she was just hasty."

Bamberger explained that he didn't tell the officials on Saturday, which would have only resulted in a two stroke penalty for Wie, because "That (contacting officials) didn't occur to me. I was still in my reporter's mode. I wanted to talk to her first."

So Bamberger just happened to take the approach that was most damaging to Wie.

Eric Adelson's insights paint an even worse picture for the LPGA. Adelson explains that the only reason why Bamberger was noticed the drop was that he was specifically assigned to cover Wie. Wie has a firestorm of attention on her because she is a novelty to the tour. She is sixteen, Asian American, and outdrives her competition. That uniqueness has gotten her the huge endorsement contracts, but in this case it warped the competition. If any of the other golfers on the course had made the same mistake, they wouldn't have been disqualified. The rules officials wouldn't have discovered the error and Bamberger wouldn't have been there to point out the transgression.

So if she had been a little older or even better, a little whiter, she would be cashing her check today. This is not the first time that the predominantly white sport of Golf has been embroiled in a controversy that involves race. Two years ago, Jan Stephenson drew fire by proclaiming, "Asians are killing our tour."

The LPGA needs to take immediate action in this case. Otherwise, this situation is not going to change. Regardless whether the officials are color-blind or not, if they continue to rely on spectators to make decisions that deeply affect the competition, they introduce every social prejudice under the sun into their event.

They must change their rules to rely entirely on their officials (and if necessary their competitors) to moderate their competition.

Finally, Michael Bamberger needs to reconsider his approach to "coverage" of the event. If he wants to affect the outcome of LPGA competition rather than report on it, he should put down his pen, get some major surgery and pick up a club.

5 Comments:

Blogger Gar said...

Those comments by Stephenson are straight-up racist and based on stereotypes... "lack of emotion"? BS.

I hope she's getting pressured to apologize; if she doesn't, they ought to drop her ass from the tour.

10:49 PM  
Blogger Ironcheffie said...

Total fuckign bullshit.

1:20 AM  
Blogger xian said...

Thanks for reading guys. Stephenson got a lot of fire for the statements an ultimately was forced to release a Lame White Apology

"By no means did I intend to hurt anyone nor were the statements racially motivated," Stephenson said in her statement. "I clearly understand how these comments could be taken as racial comments and for that I am truly sorry."

Isn't cool how these "apologies" are always a random assortment of the same few words and don't really have any connection with what was actually said. If I get a minute I want to write more on this later.

4:18 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

"So if she had been a little older or even better, a little whiter, she would be cashing her check today."

So, if a mistake is discovered, it should be overlooked because it was found through an environment of pseudo-racist scrutiny?

I actually agree with your post, Xian, except that I don't think the error should be dismissed. Unfortunate, but true.

12:24 PM  
Blogger xian said...

Matt, only if the LPGA has no system of equitable observation of players in place.

If I'm at a golf event, I shouldn't be able to make a choice about which player I support or want to see disqualified and as a spectator make that come true. Whether or not the journalist in this case was motivated to do in this case is not the point--we'll never know that (although his poorly justified behavior which guaranteed the worst possible outcome for Wie suggests that he may have). The fact that it is a variable being introduced into the competition is the problem.

This happens in every other sport--people second-guess officials after the fact, and the officials say, "That was my judgement call and that's part of the game".

1:35 PM  

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