The Sports Revolution: To Halve Is To Have Not

Let me say first that, in general, I agree with my colleague’s assessment of the Ryder Cup. There is something so…so sporting about the event that I enjoy it very much, despite its reprehensible underrepresentation of my native land.*

*No love this year for U.S. Open runner-up Gregory Havret, Captain Monty?

But it is not all the sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows that mon frere makes it out to be. No, the Ryder Cup is not perfect. It has one very glaring, to the point of being almost unignorable, flaw: The Half.

The Half is merely golf’s pretentious term for a draw, which is soccer’s pretentious term for a tie. The Ryder Cup embraces ties like no event outside of the World Cup. Every match must end by the 18th, and the ones that end with neither team having an advantage are, well, halved. But you can’t eat your cake and halve it, too.* You can’t host an event all about winning while expressing no qualms when several of its constitutive parts end in draws.

*Forgive my inversion of the phrase for a larger rhetorical punch.

The Ryder Cup would be so much better with two small changes: First, no match can end in a half. All 28 must be decided one way or the other, so we can eliminate this sham of the half-point. It doesn’t take much to realize how this plan can be executed. If a match is all square following the 18th hole, it goes back to the 1st hole until someone wins a hole and thus the match. It isn’t as if there are matches transpiring on the 1st hole while this one works its way to a conclusion.*

*’Tis true that matches often start on the 1st hole almost immediately after the last match of the previous session concludes. If the last match is still all square after 18, wait 10 minutes to start the next session. No biggie.

Second and just as important, the matches collectively cannot end in a 14-14 tie. As of right now, whoever won the Cup previously retains it in the event of an overall tie, and this is an outrage. Should the Yankees own the tiebreaker over the Rays because they won the American League East last season? Should the Saints have beaten the Vikings without overtime in the NFC Championship because they had a better record? No, sporting events do not rely on technicalities. They are objective, and they demand objective outcomes not tied to past events.

If the Ryder Cup is tied at 14 between the United States and Europe, it should steal a page from its bastard child, the President’s Cup. Each captain selects one player; those two selections than play sudden death match play to determine the winner of the Cup. This would be mind-bogglingly entertaining television — the greatest golfers of their time battling one another one-on-one in match play, the fate of the Ryder Cup hanging in the balance. This is to say nothing of the pressure and the strategic element of the captain’s selection. Monty would choose Lee Westwood of course, but would Corey Pavin choose Tiger Woods? Or the hotter Jim Furyk? Imagine the suspense, the drama of finding out the selection and then seeing the match, for however long it lasts — maybe one hole, maybe nine — play out under the most intense pressure the game can imagine.

Only once in its history has the fate of the Ryder Cup been decided by a single putt, when Bernhard Langer missed his eight-footer at Kiawah in the 1991 “War on the Shore.” It was, for Pierre, the most memorable moment in Ryder Cup history. Why not do our best to replicate it (if reverse the fortunes)?

A final bout between the teams’ best would be about more than meeting “half-way.” It would be the one thing the Ryder Cup is not: It would be perfect.

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