Doug Robinson: TV viewers have chance to rule the sports world

Published: Tuesday, April 16 2013 4:40 p.m. MDT

Tiger Woods takes a drop on the 15th hole after his ball went into the water during the second round of the Masters golf tournament Friday, April 12, 2013, in Augusta, Ga. The drop is being reviewed by the rules committee. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Associated Press

Whattya mean the penalty on Tiger Wood was called by a TV viewer?

What is this, a reality TV show?

Who knew the Masters Tournament was an episode of Survivor, with viewers deciding who gets the boot?

It was one thing when Tiger Woods violated a rule and was assessed a two-stroke penalty. It was another thing when we learned the call was made by a couch potato with a TV and a cell phone.

What?

New marketing theme: THE PGA TOUR: THE ULTIMATE AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION SPORT.

Not only can fans second-guess referees, they can BE the referee.

They can change calls or non-calls with a phone call.

Doesn't this sound like a recent beer commercial?

TV viewers, we learned, routinely call the PGA Tour to alert them to rules violations. And those tips occasionally produce actual penalties.

In 1987, Craig Stadler was disqualified after finishing second in the Andy Williams Open. A TV viewer called tournament officials to tell them that Stadler used a towel "to build a stance" when he placed the towel on the ground to keep his pants dry while kneeling to hit a shot from under a tree. During an LPGA tournament in Arizona earlier this year, Stacy Lewis was hit with a two-stroke penalty after a TV viewer reported that her caddie tested the sand of the bunker in the third round.

Then came the Masters. You know the story. Tiger was required to take a drop after his shot bounced off the flag and into the water. He dropped the ball two yards behind the original shot. Not a single official on the scene noticed.

But a TV viewer did. He called to report that Tiger made an improper drop. Tournament officials investigated. They decided he did not break the rules, but later, after Woods mentioned in a post-round interview that he had moved the ball back, the rules committee assessed a two-stroke penalty. Woods was informed of the penalty the next day.

So, there it is: A TV viewer made the biggest call in one of the biggest events in all of sports and cost Tiger Woods a possible 15th major championship.

Bubba Watson, the 2012 Masters champ, was widely quoted saying that such audience participation is wrong. After noting that the leaders are scrutinized more than the rest of the field because the cameras follow their every move, he said, "Our sport is the only one you'd ever allow viewers to do that. They're definitely not calling about missed balls and strikes during a baseball game or if someone's getting away with holding during a football game."

He might be onto something. If other sports let fans call the game, the sports world would be a much different place.

— A TV viewer calls the NBA from his couch in West Valley to report that Michael Jordan pushed off Byron Russell to clear himself for the winning shot in the 1998 NBA Finals. The NBA looks at the videotape and agrees. The Jazz run out the clock, forcing a Game 7. While he's at it, the fan notes that the three-point shot by Howard Eisley, downgraded to a two-pointer by referee/Salt Lake pariah Dick Bavetta, was a three, according to the replays and people with actual eyeballs.

— Thousands of TV viewers pull themselves out of their recliners to call the NFL office, informing them that the (replacement) refs should have penalized Seattle's Golden Tate for offensive pass interference instead of awarding him a touchdown catch at the end of last season's infamous Monday Night Packers-Seahawks game. Furthermore, the pass was intercepted by M.D. Jennings before Shields put a hand on the ball. The game is reversed, the Packers win and replacement refs keep their jobs another week.

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