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Jewish World Review June 7, 2001/ 17 Sivan, 5761

Marianne M. Jennings

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Consumer Reports

No stroke of genius -- I TOOK two semesters of golf in college for my mandatory PE credit hours. I chose golf, a true lady's sport, because it involved a change of shoes and no sweat. These critical factors permitted me to avoid locker room contact and interaction. Nothing good for the soul or feet ever came from locker rooms.

It is precisely the painless nature of golf that makes me want to grab pseudo-golfer Casey Martin by his Izod collar, "Traipse around the 18 holes, you twit. Just mosey, amble, saunter, Pace yourself. We'll wait." It's not as if NASCAR fans invade PGA tourneys shouting, "Faster! Faster!" Are there hidden strains or pressures in golf that escaped me during a year of study? If Master Martin grows weary during a round he can use the old ploy of lying on the green to size up a putt. Martin is another brat who wants legal rationalization for illegitimate victory.

Be that as it may, I not teed off about yet another disability gutting standards. I leave the intricacies of whether walking is part of the grand game of golf to the experts in locker rooms, bars and Mary Queen of Scot's family.

I also come not to ridicule the U.S. Supreme Court and its majority for a decision and dicta that scream hermitic Souterisms and beg for satire. Defining Martin and other players as "customers" of the PGA Tour was a bit much. Michael Jordan was an NBA customer? Save it be for the dubious art of karaoke, customers don't provide the entertainment.

I address the Martin decision only to defend the right of private organizations to establish their own arbitrary rules. Golf is the perfect sport for the defense of arbitrariness for the gods of the green and "lucky bounces" are the sources of more than an occasional victory. Conversely, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus seem to have more lucky bounces than most. For pars, fores, mulligans and putts, the PGA, not a court of nine scholars, is the body both rightfully and skillfully suited for making the rules between bounces.

Regardless of which side of the green we land upon in our analyses of the Martin case, we surely realize that Marbury, Madison, and Jefferson are twirling in their graves as the federal government, via the Supreme Court, now reaches its tentacles into this indivisible nation's professional golf association and its rules.

One can scarcely imagine Jefferson even tolerating the statute (Americans with Disabilities Act) that has led to this overreaching. The ADA was misconceived in its ambiguity and continues to be misapplied, now to sports. One can hope Congress repairs this damage but one also imagines Daschle whining about the oppression of husky idlers having to walk about rather than ride should they choose to avail themselves of the rewards of being a customer of the lucky bounce.

There is little in which the federal government does not meddle. Now it proceeds to wreak havoc in the one field in which excellence, competition, merit, winners and losers remained: sports. Ill-conceived and misapplied compassion are the driving forces behind ADA decisions that will eventually see all, including the frail and incompetent, declared champions. The bell curve is flattened in sports by a government addicted to intervention and obsessed not with equal opportunity, but equal outcome.

From the time you rise until your body hits a mattress with a warning tag on federal penalties, you are under federal control. The Gettysburg address is 286 words and the federal regulations on the sale of cabbage are 26,911 words. The Declaration of Independence is 1,322 words and the Internal Revenue Code is 6,200,000 words.

When you use the loo in the morning, you have 1.6 gallons of surging waters instead of the pre-1992 3.5-gallons due to federal regulation. The number of fat grams in your low-fat yogurt is controlled by federal standards, which are duly explained on the carton thanks to mandatory federal labeling laws. Your car has a warning on the passenger side about the danger of the mandatory air bag . The government now warns of a safety device it mandated that proved to be a medieval decapitation device for your passengers. To be Grade A, ketchup must flow at no more than 9 centimeters in 30 seconds at 69 degrees F. If you're a parent paying for a child's college education, you can't have access to your child's grades without federal paperwork.

You can't use a pesticide unless the EPA approves. You can't even kill certain pests because the government deems them "endangered." And if your land has federally protected pests, you can't develop it.

Now the federal government gives us "Platonic golf." Indeed, in all professional sports, "customer" athletes can now challenge rules that are "nonessential." The Martin decision makes the federal government the ultimate arbiter of the essential rules of sport. If that doesn't send a chill down the spine, your sense of liberty has been swept away in a minimalist's flush. Let freedom wane. Fore!

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


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© 2000, Marianne M. Jennings