Umpires and managers for HonorThere are few sports where honor plays as prominent a role as it does in golf.  The reason?  There aren’t any rules officials – we’re on our own to call rules infractions on ourselves.  Even if we accidentally move our golf ball 1/16 of an inch, in the woods, 100 yards from our nearest competitor, we assess ourselves a penalty stroke.  And while officials are made available at some tournaments, golfers still call infractions on themselves when officials aren’t present.  This is why golf is known as a game of honor.

Compare this to other sports:

  • Football, where some say the mantra is “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge NFL fan and love football for its athleticism, power and speed.  But honor?  Not its strong suit.
  • Baseball, where even Derek Jeter (one of the classiest players ever and one of my all-time favorites – and I’m a Mets fan!) acted his way onto first base pretending he’d been hit by a pitch when a replay clearly showed he hadn’t. And where outfielders routinely trap fly balls between their glove and the ground but pretend they’d caught them cleanly.
  • Basketball, where one form of stretching the rules is so common it even has a name:  “flopping.”   Players intentionally fall down pretending they’ve been hit by a competitor in an attempt to trick the referee into calling a foul where none was made.

So I wonder, does the fact that golfers are trusted to enforce their own rules make golfers more trustworthy?  Is it a self-fulfilling prophecy?  I shudder to think what an NBA or NFL game would look like without referees, and the thought of baseball players calling their own balls and strikes is downright comical.  But I can’t help but think – without referees, would players in these other sports be forced to be more trustworthy and honorable?