PB’s Rant: Lawyers and TV – the lunatics are running (ruining?) my asylum

Got up early Monday morning to exercise on Day 3 of my alcohol/sugar free regime (no wonder I am so cranky).  Turned on Foxtel for the last round of the first women’s golf major of the year – the “Dinah Shore ANA Inspiration” (not quite the same ring as the Open or the Masters).  I like women’s golf because it is less brute strength than the men’s game and hence only 5 light years removed from the game I attempt to play.


The willowy American Lexi Thompson and the athletic Norwegian Sandra Pettersen are having a shoot-out several shots clear of the field.  I am barracking for the Scandinavian but Lexi is 3 shots clear coming to the 12th hole and appears to have her measure.


Then one of the most ridiculous and unfair things I have seen in professional sport happens.  The commentators announce that an hour ago a “fan” contacted the organisers about Lexi placing her ball down in the wrong position on the 17th green – YESTERDAY.  The tournament officials have reviewed the video and decided that she must be penalised 4 strokes under the rules.  Two for the incorrect placement and two because it happened yesterday so she signed for an incorrect score (even though no one knew that for nearly 24 hours).


The NBC affiliate Golf Channel commentators show the video of the “incident”.  Her ball is a half metre from the hole on 17.  She marks it with a coin and picks it up to clean it (which is the nervous obsession of all pro golfers that only contributes to slow play).  The coin is hidden behind the ball when she picks it up.  When she puts the ball down the coin is partly visible.  Presumably she put it down a centimetre to the side of where she picked it up.


Not closer to the hole (the putt was a “gimme” anyway – for all but JTH and me).  Not on a better lie or a flatter piece of turf.  An inadvertent mistake (if it even was one) that created no advantage and caused no harm to opponents.  And “the rules require” a four stroke penalty with six holes to play in a big money tournament (US$405,000 to the winner)?


Can the Rules Officials be sure that the ball moved and not the camera?  Have they not heard of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle?  Has any golfer ever replaced a ball on exactly the same blade of grass they collected it from?  How far is incorrect placement (a golf ball is 42.7 mm in diameter) – 10mm; 1mm; or the micron width of the number of angels on the head of a pin?  Couldn’t common sense application of justice not law have said “nothing to see here; move along please”?


Lexi bogies the 12th – no doubt the looming dread of the LPGA Grim Reaper Rules official already casting its voodoo spell.  Lexi is now two behind instead of two ahead.


I aim a full seven iron at the TV in disgust (fortunately I hook it again and miss wide left).  Even heading off to work is more attractive than this festival of anal retentivity masquerading as sport.


I watch sport for spectacle, entertainment and the thrill and uncertainty of competition.  It is supposed to reflect the best of society – not its worst.  Excellence under pressure.  Character as much as skill.


Top sport makes me want to strive and achieve more – as a person – not just a passable public course hacker.


The Internet later tells me that Thompson rallies with three late birdies.  Pettersen collapses – no doubt from embarrassment at not wanting to win in that manner.  Thompson catches Korean So Yeon Ryu to force a playoff, but loses on the first hole.


If this was just about professional golf I couldn’t be bothered writing about the big noting, stupidity and sycophancy of the people who run the game.  Beholden to TV networks, commercial sponsors and equipment manufacturers for so long that they live in a parallel universe to my friends and I playing our Saturday comp.


Golf has form for this sort of stupidity.  Last year’s women’s US Open was lost because an ultra-slomo replay showed four grains of sand being moved before a bunker shot.  Dustin Johnson was penalised a shot (but still won) when his ball quivered on the marble staircase greens that the USGA always provides for its men’s Open.  There are many other examples I could cite.


What makes me so angry is that all sport is being progressively infected by the same American disease of TV dominance of the sporting narrative and po-faced official’s black letter law, literal interpretation of “fairness” according to arcane rules that make no allowance for context and the objectives of the game.




I am at the Eagles – Saints game on Saturday night enjoying a ripping contest.  We are standing in a crowd in the shade on Level 2 on the walkway behind our usual seats at the eastern (city) end of Subiaco.  The AFL insists on playing “twilight” games at 4.40 in Perth early in the season at an old ground (stupidly) aligned east-west.  I guess no one thought about 40,000 spectators a hundred years ago when the oval was built.  The new stadium should remedy that next season.


Players and spectators (like us) squinting into the low angle of the western setting sun have no chance.  The blinding sun means we can’t see anything beyond the centre from our premium $65 seats.  The sun will set at half time, but the AFL is too beholden to TV schedules to start the game at 5.40pm in the first six weeks of the season.


Four minutes before half time Weller snaps a “goal” to put the Saints 25 points clear.  I curse but they deserve their lead.  The goal umpire raises two digits and the ball and players transfer back to the centre.  And stand there.  And stand there. And stand there.


Ah – this must be a goal review.  Eventually the goal umpire’s decision is overturned and the Eagles kick two late goals to trail by only nine points at the half.


I don’t need a TV or radio commentator to tell me what is happening in a footy game.  I have my Record; 50 years of experiences and family and friends to debate with.  But this is Marcel Marceau interpretive dance – not football as I know it.


Watching the replay that night the miked-up commentator immediately says that the field umpire called touch off the boot.  Countless replays show Barrass’s fingers waving from the impact – or was it the breeze?  Expressive finger fluttering will soon be coached for all attempted smothers near goal.


My point is that if the controlling field umpire said touched off the boot, what happened to the old system of immediate overrule of the goal umpire and set up for the kick-in?  Even in cricket the umpire does have to make an explicit on-field decision that can only be overruled with clear and definitive video evidence.


AFL umpires have been so neutered that they just shrug their shoulders and wait for the phone call from AFL HQ to tell them when to fart.  Messenger boys.


In this case the eventual decision was probably right, but why the delay and the confusion for paying fans at the ground?


AFL like cricket has sold its soul and integrity to the TV broadcasters who have found that arguing decisions in the commentary box is more compelling entertainment than much of the on-field action.  Understandable for much Test cricket – but not for a high scoring, rapid action game like AFL.


TV reviews falsely promise the reduction of “error” but create two new problems for every 1 rectified.  Three dimensional action is distorted by distance and perspective when reduced to 2 flat screen dimensions.  So we have multiple angles and more gimmick technologies that add data rather than information.  Are goal line video reviews of a jumble of bodies, posts, lines and rotating descending/ascending oval spheres really improving decision-making or just giving Bruce and BT more to rabbit-on about?


Does cricket DRS really tell us the precise angle the ball diverts in the 10 centimetres it spins or seams before hitting a thrusting pad?  Was that ball really rising above stump level in the three metres from pitching to the stumps?


Other than for two-dimensional decisions like run outs and stumpings – DRS adds no net value to cricket – only to the debating material for Clarko and Haydo.  It disempowers umpires and makes captain’s calls a new tactical discipline.  Play is slower, more fragmented with frequent referrals from timid umpires, and notably more bad-tempered and ill-disciplined (the stain on the brilliant recent series in India).




Which above all brings me back to what I love about sport and hate about lawyers, politicians and media.  They claim to protect us from unfairness and uncertainty, but mostly take a $50 note from our back pocket to lend us $20 when we are struggling.  They foster a culture of complaint rather than self-reliance and learning from our mistakes.


Sport serves us best when it develops character and teaches us that error is an essential by-product of freedom.  So long as it is not systematic and biased – we are all better served to learn to accept adversity and move on.


The saddest people are those so mired in their disadvantage that they have lost sight of their potential.  “Poor me, poor me, pour me another one.”


There will be no cameras at Royal Maylands on Saturday nor miked-up umpires in the WAFL at Bassendean.


I’m getting sick of big sport that thinks it’s the game we’ve come to watch.



  1. Earl O'Neill says

    Marcel Marceau interpretative dance – wish I’d thought of that line!
    With you on self-reliance.

  2. PB – yes agree. The dreaded (and non-existent) level playing field. It drives me mad. Its like trying to grasp water from a flowing tap.

    Nothing is fair. I’m born here, you’re born there.

    And if I hear one more commentator say “I’d hate to see a grand final decided by that decision” I might actually turn the footy off. No game is decided by a decision, they are decided by 100 minutes of effort involving a million decisions. And whilst a bad decision causes me grief and anxiety, I’d rather have human input than artificial “intelligence”.

  3. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    ‘Error is an essential by-product of freedom.’ Love this PB.
    Love the whole piece.

    Dips, I agree that no game is decided by a single poor decision, but I suspect a game can be decided by two or three.

  4. A wonderfully enjoyable rant, PB.

    I cannot help feeling that golf jumped the shark (no pun intended) on the weekend. Allowing a viewer to phone in? Talk about opening a can of worms!!
    In the words of JP McEnroe: “You cannot be serious!”

  5. Dave Brown says

    Yep, over it. Spending the winter watching local footy of varying levels of localness

  6. Absolutely nailed it PB.
    That golf penalty to Lexi Thompson and the manner in which it was administered was the nadir…..I am with you, keep it local and real – I will be at Glenelg oval this Friday night to watch the SANFL opening round. No microphones, or cameras at every angle, no slo mo replays over and over…. and absolutely no chance of a local resident ringing SANFL HQ to point out any “technicalities” in the process.

  7. Rulebook says

    Ditto above spot on PB wow I had heard rd about the golf penalty but not the details that is absurd to say the least ( makes the poppy free kick look good ) drs for cricket should be only re 3rd umpire when they see a howler it hasn’t worked re the system in place which was also highlighted by the stinker,Smith got against,SA in Perth any further forward and he would have been in Melbourne.The Afl is being ruined by absurd rule changes and interpretations and like Jags I will be at the SANFL Friday night I will be at the

  8. Colin Ritchie says

    Well said PB! You put into words so eloquently what many are thinking.

  9. Peter Crossing says

    Enjoyed the rant. Well said.
    I totally agree with your comments re cricket’s DRS in particular. It hasn’t really protected cricket “from unfairness and uncertainty”. It is manipulated by the players to the detriment of the game and there is also a perspective problem I reckon. I would like to hear/read the opinion of a top level Test umpire about the system.

  10. Punxsu.... Pete says

    White hot, Pete. Love a good rant. And I pictured your typos up 1000% as you hammered away at your laptop. Thanks god for ‘Word’s’ spellcheck. The Ranters of this world would come off as lunatics if not for it.

  11. Of course, the TV executives having direct input into DRS, goal reviews etc are the ones who also say, “Yeah mate, let’s get this Married At First Sight series up and running. Viewers will love it, and it’ll generate much social good too!”

    Well ranted PB.

  12. Agree with every word you say and that is part of the reason I go to more SANFL than AFL games. I think in cricket the DRS has made the umpires so gun-shy they will no longer make a decision – blokes can be run out by 3 yards and the ump calls for the replay. Puhleez.

  13. Luke Reynolds says

    I can’t think of a single sport that has been improved/made more enjoyable by the use of technology.

    You’re a brave man writing on a no sugar/alcohol regime. But you nailed it. Well said.

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