Anyone care to defend the honor of the ancient game


Los Angeles Times business writer Dan Neil offered up a brutally harsh accounting of how the Tiger Woods’ scandal diminishes all of golf in a story Tuesday.

It’s a prickly offensive sure to make those of us who love the game bristle.

Here are a couple particularly troubling stabs from his story:

Tiger's failure is golf's summary bankruptcy and indictment.

Camelot fell when Lancelot sinned against the realm. Same deal here.

Neil, who won a Pulitzer prize for criticism in 2004, goes much further in arguing that the entire game’s integrity is damaged:

The illusion that professional golf was somehow a sport with a higher calling, a game of honor and ethics played by fundamentally decent men, has been shattered. This isn't about counting strokes you took while nobody's watching. Tiger's trollop-taking is precisely the sort of thing we've come to expect from pro basketball and football players -- and, shamefully, our indifference implies consent. For the most dominant golfer of all time to be so caddish seems to be a signal that lesser golfers transgress in lesser degrees. In any event, the safe harbor of golf's presumed decency has been drained.

Neil argues that Woods radically alters the nature of the way the world outside of golf views the game:

A common refrain -- tellingly, among men, especially -- is that Tiger's womanizing has nothing to do with golf and is personal and private. Wrong. It has everything to do with golf, because he is the very embodiment of the game for millions of fans who would be otherwise indifferent to it. Tiger is the human corollary to the game's marketing and monetary value.

The story reads like a challenge to golf’s royal guard, a dare to defend the game’s honor.

I would argue that Neil is confusing illusions and ideals. Golf aspires to a higher calling, but it's played by men, who are flawed and who do, in fact, cheat. The consequences are more severe for doing so in golf  because the standard is so much higher than most other sports.

There's no more grievous sin in golf than cheating, but that doesn't mean men don't cheat. The virtuous ideal is what has always made golf different. It isn't the purity of the man who plays golf that makes the game different. But there's a purity to the game that can make a difference in a man, though it won't make a man perfect.

There will be vacuous knee-jerk reactions to Neil’s story, witless insults and name-calling that only serve to prove his point about the “illusion that professional golf” is a sport with “a higher calling, a game of honor and ethics.”

The man’s argument will break apart more convincingly with smart counter punching.

Anyone ready to throw a smart punch?