Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Addressing a few comments and e-mails – PGA Tour, Navy, Arenas and women’s basketball topics

I know I’ve said this before but one of the things about the blog that I’ve truly enjoyed is reading the posts and the e-mails. With few exceptions they’re smart and they often raise good questions or make me think about an issue in a way I hadn’t previously thought about it.

An example: Someone reminded me yesterday that in writing about the Phil Mickelson-Scott McCarron square grooves controversy I had failed to point out occasions when golfers had bent the rules to their advantage.

Years ago in Phoenix, Tiger Woods claimed that a boulder blocking his path to the green was a moveable object—even though it took about a dozen people to actually move it. By rule, he was allowed to have a bunch of fans move the boulder for him even though that sort of thing clearly was not the intent of the rule.

In 2004 at The Masters, Ernie Els hit a ball dead left on the 11th hole and found himself under branches and rocks and pebbles to the point where he needed to take an unplayable lie. He called for a rules official believing he had the right to a free drop because that sort of debris is almost always removed before play begins at Augusta National. The rules official, Jon Brendle, who has been with the tour forever told him that there was nothing in the rules requiring the debris be removed and thus, he had to deal with it. Els then requested—as is allowed—a second opinion. This time the rules official was an Augusta member—not a professional but someone who had passed a rules test although he didn’t work on tour week in and week out the way Brendle did. He overruled Brendle, saying the INTENT was to remove the debris and therefore Els was entitled to a drop.

In essence, he made up a rule on the spot. Brendle was so angry about the incident he’s never gone back to work at Augusta.

There have been other moments: Greg Norman accusing Mark McCumber of using his club to improve his lie in the rough at The World Series of Golf in 1995. Norman was so angry he refused to sign McCumber’s scorecard. Mark O’Meara was once accused by a Swedish player (I forget his name) during a tournament in Europe of moving his coin up on the green, which infuriated him—and no doubt still does. And, of course, there are still tour players who will never forget that Vijay Singh was once banned from The Australasian Tour for signing for a wrong (lower) score. I once asked a long-time tour player if perhaps Singh’s three major titles and the fact that he was in the golf Hall of Fame might mitigate in Singh’s favor. The player looked at me, shrugged and said, “once a cheater always a cheater.”

People still talk—almost 30 years after it happened--about the Tom Watson-Gary Player incident at the first Skins game when Watson accused Player of removing an imbedded root in a bunker. Last year, Sandy Lyle caused a stir at The British Open by saying Colin Montgomerie had taken an illegal drop at a tournament in Indonesia in 2005.

That’s sort of the point about golf I was making: incidents like this are so rare that they are still remembered and talked about years later. Players were angry about Tiger and the boulder because clearly someone playing without a huge gallery—or playing in a Saturday morning foursome—wouldn’t be able to move the boulder. Many—MANY—players thought the Golf Gods got it right in ’04 when Phil Mickelson caught Els from behind at Augusta. That’s why McCarron raising the specter of “cheating,” got so much attention. I’m not saying the spirit of the rules is NEVER violated but it’s pretty rare.

Now onto some posts that I really disagree with or, in one case, I have no problem with the issue just the tone in which it was raised.

That would be the guy who referred to Navy slotback Marcus Curry as a “pothead,” and called Navy an “elite bastion of lower learning.” Here’s betting he couldn’t last a day at Navy. (On the other hand, neither could I). He also accused me of “situational outrage,” because I hadn’t commented yet on Curry. Two things: I’ve been a tad busy and, beyond that, I’m not going to get outraged about a college kid smoking pot. I do have an opinion on the case though and here it is:

Curry tested positive, according to numerous sources, for marijuana recently. Navy, as most people know, has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drug use. Curry claimed the marijuana got into his system because he had smoked a cigar at a party that was laced with the stuff. I’m guessing most of you are like me: everyone has a story when they test positive for anything.

Apparently the commandant of the brigade, Matthew Klunder, recommended separation (expulsion) for Curry. Admiral Jeffrey Fowler, the superintendent, has—at least thus far—not followed through on Klunder’s recommendation.

Curry’s a very important member of next year’s football team. He is by far Navy’s best slotback, dangerous as a runner and a receiver and he’ll only be a junior next season. I’d hate to see him gone. That said, I don’t think Fowler has a choice: zero tolerance doesn’t mean zero tolerance unless you’re a star football player with an excuse. The ONLY way Fowler can justify such a decision is if there is precedent; if there are other Mids—non-athletes—who have been given a second chance because Fowler or the disciplinary board has found some credibility in their explanation. Marijuana isn’t a steroid or cocaine or heroin but it is against the law and against academy rules. My guess is—and that’s all it is—that one way or the other, it will be difficult for Curry to return next fall. That, sadly, is as it should be based on what I know.

Post number two was from a guy upset because I wrote yesterday that Gilbert Arenas’s lawyer wrote his Washington Post op-ed. He somehow saw the comment as racial—referring to Tony Kornheiser and I as “old white guys,” who didn’t think Arenas’s remorse was completely genuine.

Good God, this has nothing to do with race. In fact, the example I used of famous people in jockworld not ever believing they were truly wrong was Bob Knight. I would expect anyone—including a politician—to have his lawyer or lawyers or lawyers and a speechwriter, put together something like this. My point was that even with a lawyer putting it together Arenas (and the lawyers) STILL tried to point the finger at the media. As for the guy writing in about the initial, overblown New York Post story—yup, that was inaccurate. Gilbert’s response though was to the whole notion of him bringing guns in the locker room: it was no big deal, something to be laughed at. Sadly, he got that wrong.

Finally, someone wrote in claiming I was being unfair to women’s athletics when I made fun of two women’s basketball coaches a week ago. The first was Terri Williams-Flournoy, who tried to defend The Big East’s ridiculous decision to not release the names of three players (two from Georgetown, one from Louisville) suspended for a pre-game fight. Putting aside the fact that anyone with eyes could see who was suspended, she claimed the players were, “children,” and thus entitled to privacy. College students aren’t children. They can vote, they can go into the armed forces and they better be able to act like adults or they won’t get through college. What’s more, the incident took place in a public forum—an arena where tickets had been sold and TV cameras were present.

The poster, in claiming the “double-standard,” pointed out that Georgetown had refused to let any players talk to the media after its men’s team lost at Syracuse. I don’t doubt that for a second. That said, I think if anyone checks my record on the subject of Georgetown basketball, they wouldn’t exactly accuse me of protecting the Hoyas on any level. Remember the phrase, “Hoya Paranoia,” back in the 80s? That was me. One reason I generally avoid Georgetown games is because access to the players is so ridiculously guarded.

John Thompson (the elder) and I had more than a couple of screaming matches about access to players years ago. I remember saying to him one night, “if I could, I’d look you right in the eye and tell you that you’re full of s----.” Thompson’s 6-10. Fortunately he thought the line was pretty funny.

The other comment that upset this poster was me making fun of Maryland Coach Brenda Frese for saying, “this proves we can play with anybody,” after her team had lost at home to a Duke team that had lost by THIRTY-THREE to Connecticut a few days earlier. More double standard said the poster, I’d never make fun of a men’s coach that way. Go back and read what I wrote. I said, “It seems to me that coaches in all sports do this, throwing things like this out on the assumption that no one will challenge them on it.”

Sorry pal, no double standard here, just two coaches—regardless of sport or sex—being called for saying dumb things.

Keep those posts and e-mails coming everybody!


Ray F said...

I am the poster who reacted to your comments about women's athletics in general, and about Georgetown and Brenda Frese in particular. Would you care to address this statement: "And finally, from the category of why it is often tough to take women’s sports that seriously..." I think it does a disservice to girls and women who play sports, whether in rec league, high school, college, etc. Sounds like a generalization to me, but I'd be eager to hear your response to it.

Dana King said...

What bothers me most about Mickelsen's wedge is the manner in which he thumbed his nose at the spirit of the rule. If he'd been using one of those old Ping wedges and just continued to use it, I'd say fine, he's essentially been grandfathered in. The club is exempt, he can use it. But, based on what I've read, he went into the closet and found an old wedge he hasn't used in years, just to circumvent the new ruling. That's classless.

Anonymous said...

I believe the Els incident you describe happened after he hit his drive left on either No. 10 or 11, not right on 13. I agree with your take wholeheartedly.

Gordon said...

I'm no Phil fan. In fact, I think he's as much of a phony a Tiger is a skumbag. But the reality is that the eye 2 clubs, not all Ping clubs but only the Eye 2s are exempt. That was the legal agreement reached between Ping/Karsten Solhiem and the USGA/David Fay. Scott McCarrons claims are baseless. But so to are Phils slander claims.

The reality is that Phil used a perfectly legal Ping wedge. Given that he is sponsored by Callaway I question Phils loyalty. I find it hard to believe that in his Callaway contract that Phil has a leeway to use PING clubs in a PGA sanctioned event. If Im Callaway I'm less then pleased that one of my players is bringing so much positive attention to my biggest competitor.

Anonymous said...

John: Unless there are mitigating circumstances that the Superintendent knows and will reveal, Curry has to g. The military academies are for better or worse institutions where rules are fixed and actions have consequences.

One of engaging aspects of following the service academies' football teams is that the players are also real students. Athletics has not taken the driver's seat as the public face of the institution. If Curry stays then USNA is just another bowl division football team.

By the way, I think you meant to say heroin not heroine. Getting married will get a cadet expelled but I think you were referring to drugs.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comments posted yesterday about Curry being a pothead and the Navy's apparent double standard for black football players versus other midshipmen! And once again Mr. Feinstein, your sheltered background and limited life experiences comes to the forefront. I hate to be a spoilsport, but the "mission" of the USNA is to produce competent commissioned officers for the U.S. Naval Service; not football players for the NFL! And, yes, character does count!

FOTB Staff said...

Readers- thanks for pointing out a few details to go back and re-check --- we'll update as warranted.

FOTB Staff

HenryFTP said...


Before launching into your ad hominem attack on Mr Feinstein's "sheltered background", you might have profited by actually reading what he wrote, namely that "I don't think Fowler has a choice: zero tolerance doesn't mean zero tolerance unless you're a star football player with an excuse."

You might also consider that concluding that Midshipman Curry is a "pothead" and that the USNA applies a "double standard for black football players" before Curry's case has been decided by the Superintendent is premature, to say the least. Unless you think that "black football players" shouldn't have the right that any Midshipman has to appeal a separation recommendation by the Commandant of the Brigade.

JoeGish said...

Anonymous, Have you been sampling the evidence? Remember one of the biggest cases of so called USNA double standards was the nepotism(the original affirmative action program) fueled Duke Ingram case in the '90s that finally got the then-2 Star Sup Sacked. The wheels of justice can turn slowly, but the NAVY eventually gets it right.
The Brigade has always had a love hate relationship with the Team beginning with Plebe summer. Football players miss out on alot of the 'fun' and are resented by some in the Brigade especially during losing seasons. Everybody needs to grow up and take care of their own business. Stop blaming others for their shortcomings.
From what I have seen after more than 25 years of service, USNA Football players are some of the finest CO's this NAVY MAN(a non football player) ever served with. They may not have had high class rank, but absolutely understood how to lead men and women into battle. Using that as a measure, I think USNA can claim, "Mission Accomplished"

ACushing said...

John, it may not be about race, but it is about family clan. Like you have said before about writers, our background determines the filter we view events. You are the only journalist to admit this on numerous occasions. Please remind your colleagues at the Wash Post. One clan forgives Mark MaGwire while condemns Barry Bonds and can't understand why the Bonds clan is so forgiving. One type of New Yorker loves the Yankees and another the Mets. Why? We like who we like, and will defend them to the death. Some folks still think Shoeless Joe Jackson was a hero with the help of the revisionist 'Field of Dreams', but HE TOOK THE MONEY. One man's cheat is another man's tragic hero in a grand Greek Epic. So all that being said,....Put Pete Rose in the HOF!!

Anonymous said...

JoeGish, please tell us about a single Naval Officer who has led sailors in a naval battle at sea in the past 40 years? And, no, the U.S.S Pueblo and U.S.S Cole don't count!

Anonymous said...

Hey John,

As I sit at my computer and have your favorite TV network (rhymes with RE-SPN) on in the background. I am wondering your thoughts on a network spending so much time on high school recruiting and 'national signing day'?

Wonder where all these athletes get the sense that they're above the law and more important than everyone else and are never wrong...

Not sure I've ever seen a high school valedictorian give a press conference to announce the college he or she is going to.

Also heard on one of your radio interviews that you were in (my hometown) Vero Beach last week working on the documentary... Hope you had a nice stay and ate at 'The Ocean Grill'... Oops, gotta go, the number 13 Defensive End is about to announce.

Take care, love the blog,
Dan Egan

Anonymous said...

To the Anonymous poster who said "JoeGish, please tell us about a single Naval Officer who has led sailors in a naval battle at sea in the past 40 years?" I read Mr. Gish's comments closely, and don't see the "at sea" limitation. I'm not Joe Gish, but let me respond. Since 9-11 at least three former Naval Academy football players have been killed in action. I beleieve that happened while they were leading sailors and marines in battle. Also at least one Naval Officer (not a football player but still a Naval Officer) received the Medal of Honor during that period for leading sailors (Navy Seals) in action in Afghanistan. Finally, every day Naval Officers fly off carriers "at sea" and lead men and women into harm's way. Check your facts before making inane comments.

Anonymous said...

Memo to all USNA Apologists: Instead of circling the ships and defending the indefensible, why not man-up and admit that the so-called honor code at the Navy's knife and fork school is a farce! For the record, pilots don't "lead men and women into harm's way!" They just fly airplanes. Marine and Army SNCOs do that!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous of a few minutes ago -- First of all, why in the world do you find it necessary to take any shots at one of the service academies, for what they do or don't do 'in battle'? I don't quite get this.

Secondly, what is the indefensible that people are circling the wagons on? Seems to me, with what little info anyone has on the Curry situation, it will be handled as all cases are. And neither John nor the commenter seem to be defending anything, really. If you are talking of comments outside of this blog, you are largely just speaking to yourself.

Anonymous said...

Sports fans, patriots and passersby, the USNA, USMA, USAFA, USCGA and the USMMA are no longer the fabled elite institutions of yesteryear. Sadly for American taxpayers, today’s service academies have turned into bastions of mediocrity which for the most part, turnout average officers. Nowadays, many of their graduates are routinely passed over in favor of ROTC and OCS officers. And to make matters worse, the USNA, USNA and USAFA have all dramatically lower their academic standards in order to admit D-1 level "student-athletes,” in a feeble attempt to compete with the big boys on a national level. As a result, today's military academies not only suck at intercollegiate athletics, they graduate "officers" who aren't very competitive within the real Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force!

Brian Sullivan said...

The commenter that accuses Phil of being disloyal to Calloway is way off base. The entire reason he did what he did is in anger over the USGA's treatment of Calloway, and the millions of $$ that it has cost them to comply. As far as his deal with Calloway, he has to carry 12 clubs from them - leaving exceptions, 1 usually being a putter.

The other poster that thought that the grandfathering was somehow more fair if only those players that were still using Ping Eye wedges from pre 90 could continue to use them - nobody on the PGA tour is using 20 year old clubs continuously until now - they get new clubs almost every year. Any player that obtains one can use them, and it is equally legal. John's description of how long the accusations of cheating lingers is the exact reason why Phil got so mad at McCarron - when he was clearly not cheating. Finally, John you keep on sort of giving Phil a hard time on the "publicly slandering" thing. Legal definitions aside, don't you think he might be drawing a distinction between club-house or intraPGA talk, (non-public slander) and going to the SF Chronicle ?

Love the blog btw

Anonymous said...

To anonymous; I don't really understand the service academy bashing but would be interested in where you found your entrance standards information for USNA or the data supporting ROTC/OCS commissioning sources over service academy commissioning sources. You'll find that these 3 commissioning sources are well represented throughout the Navy. Having sat on multiple selection boards commissioning source is not even factored into the process. It's unfortunate that you have such an axe to grind with the service academies.