- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 2, 2001

With its subpar ruling on golfer Casey Martin, the Supreme Court demonstrated that many of its members are playing with an excruciatingly high handicap on the course of common sense.

Glaucomic umpires and myopic referees can only aspire to the new standard for blindness signed by the court, which declared that Mr. Martin was a "customer," of the PGA, and so was entitled to "reasonable accommodations" (such as riding a golf cart), unless those changes would "fundamentally alter the nature" of the game.

Writing for the majority, Justice John Paul Stevens announced, "The essence of the game has been shot-making." That comes as a surprise to most scratch golfers, who mistakenly believed that the essence of the game was swearing and hitting things (sometimes even the ball) with sticks.

In his dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia teed-off on the idea, noting, "We justices must confront what is indeed an awesome responsibility. It has been rendered the solemn duty of the Supreme Court, laid upon it by Congress… to decide what is golf." Indeed, if hitting is similarly the "essence" of the game of baseball, maybe players should be allowed to ride carts, or even Harleys around the basepath. The essence of hockey is medieval fighting on ice, so perhaps the players should be allowed to joust one another while riding Zambonis.

Having determined the "essence" of a sport that is older than the republic, the seven Solomons of the court then discovered a way to divine the physiological and psychological state of every player on the tour, thus allowing them to determine how the competition would be affected by any reasonable accommodations made for any disabled player. In Mr. Martin´s case, the court decided that because he would be as fatigued as anyone else, competition would not be affected.

Yet fatigue is an inherently subjective state, and the court´s ruling sets up situations in which judicial umpires have the ability, indeed, the duty, to determine the fairest accommodation for any manner of disability in every possible sport. Perhaps genetically disabled, short, balding guys with a one-inch vertical leap should be allowed to run around NBA courts carrying stepladders. Perhaps women genetically disabled by two left feet should be allowed to simply throw the ball around the soccer field. Perhaps drunk golfers should be allowed to putt into their whiskey glasses many try to anyway.

Indeed, if, according to the Supreme Court´s seven blind mice, there is no difference between players and spectators, then perhaps the latter should be allowed to compete, creating a whole new pool of talent. Orioles owner Peter Angelos would never have to worry about accidentally signing a defector from Cuba, and Redskins owner Daniel Snyder would never have to worry about salary caps and would win more games.

Justice Scalia correctly noted that "the very nature of competitive sport is the measurement, by uniform rules, of unevenly distributed excellence." It is a pity that uneven distribution of justice by random rules is occasionally par for the Supreme Court.


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