Friday 4: Calling the rules, changing the rules, knowing the rules, and breaking the rules

Another Friday, another installment of “Friday 4”, where I talk about the four things I’ve been thinking about the last week and the upcoming weekend in sports and the world in general.

I said in last week’s post that I probably wouldn’t be watching the Super Bowl, and I was right, I didn’t. I saw one play from the game, a tweet showing the highlight of Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton’s scoop and score on Jalen Hurts’ fumble. I also checked Google for the score after the first and second quarters just to see the numbers for some squares, and that was the entirety of my Super Bowl experience on Sunday.

After reading some stories on the game and seeing the reactions on social media I searched out the play where Eagles defensive back James Bradberry was called for holding. I figured with all the uproar over the missed call I was reading the foul would be so egregious that there would be video everywhere of it and it would be easy to find. And, it was, but the first tweet I saw made me question if I needed to continue my search.

If the player the flag was thrown on says he was guilty of holding, what is everyone angry at?

So I searched for the video, and I won’t bother posting the ones that were making the rounds on the internet on those first couple of days because it doesn’t really show a hold. Seeing that, I get why fans might be a bit vocal. But then I go back to Bradberry saying he did it. At that point, it doesn’t matter what the video shows, the player admitted to doing it even though his actual actions are difficult to discern on the video.

Leave it to NFL Films for having the video of the play that clearly shows Bradberry grabbing JuJu Smith-Schuster’s jersey.

Now you can argue that it wasn’t enough to warrant a flag, and maybe you’re right. But Bradberry is shown also grabbing Smith-Schuster with both hands after yanking on his jersey. When everything is taken in totality it all adds up to defensive holding, and it’s absolutely the correct call.

While we’re at it, can we please stop with the constant spewing of “I don’t want referees deciding games, I want the players deciding it” when an official makes a call you don’t agree with late in a game? Seriously, you sound like a bozo when you say that because if referees don’t make the calls that they’re supposed to just because the clock is winding down and the scores are close then they are actually deciding the game.

Sure, it’s annoying when a referee makes a call late that hurts your team, and it’s even more annoying when in other parts of the game similar things went uncalled. One needs to do no more than read my Twitter timeline to know how much I dislike massively inconsistent call levels from referees. But none of that means anything when the player who the infraction is called on says he did it. By the way, the real argument probably should be defensive holding shouldn’t come with an automatic first down.

But that’s a topic for another time.

It’s almost time for pitchers and catchers to report to spring training, so I figure we’re about a month away from Red Sox fans complaining about the deep-pocketed ownership group not being willing to put a competitive team on the field. They’re right about that, of course, but then they become armchair GMs and scream about how the team could have done this or that without any idea if those things are actually possible.

But the good news for Red Sox fans is at least the game will be a lot shorter because MLB is finally going to use a real pitch clock.

For the last few seasons Minor League Baseball has used the pitch clock, and as a fan, I haven’t noticed one real difference in how the game is played on the field because of it. All I know is the games are over quicker, and for a sport that can drag on far too long faster games are a good thing. One other additional rule involving pitchers is they will only be allowed to step off the mound two times during an at-bat with a runner on first, which should cut down on the number of times we see pitchers throw over to first.

Another rule change for the season is the banning of the shift, which whiny fantasy baseball owners complained so loudly about their players having hits taken away from them that MLB changed the rules to limit where infielders can play. The shift has been around for the entirety of baseball’s existence, but suddenly because teams are doing it effectively and it’s causing the loss of fantasy points fans are in an uproar now.

So congratulations to all those who managed to get the rule changed, and I look forward to hearing what you’ll be whining about next time once defenses find a way to get that short right-fielder back into the line-up. You see, while the current rules prevent a team from moving an infielder to the outfield they don’t prohibit an outfielder from moving to the infield. That’s what defenses will be doing in a roundabout way.

And you whiners will still be losing out on those fantasy points.

Continuing on number-2’s “where there’s a will there’s a way” on the shift, PGA Tour pro Viktor Hovland is absolutely following that mantra in this week’s Genesis Open at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California, specifically on the 15th hole.

The 487-yard par 4 is the second toughest hole on the course, a slight dogleg right where the fairway narrows from 43 yards to just 25 yards right at the 300-yard mark, where most pro’s drives will be landing. Also just to the right of that area is a bunker, which if your ball ends up there you’ll have no choice but to lay up for your second shot.

Last year Hovland figured out the best strategy was to purposely hit the ball far to the right down the 17th fairway, where the landing area was very wide and provided a great angle for his second shot. Tournament organizers didn’t like that, so for 2023 they erected a scoreboard that they thought blocked the path Hovland and potentially others would try to take this year.

When Hovland got to the 15th tee he asked if he could get relief on the grounds that it was a “temporary immovable obstruction”, something a golfer usually gets automatic relief from. The Tour official on the tee told Hovland that Hovland wasn’t entitled to relief because he was on the tee, which while not officially in the rulebook makes sense such a rule informally exists because he wouldn’t get relief had it been bleacher seats there instead of a scoreboard.

So Hovland simply put his ball as far back and left as the rules allowed, and hit it over the scoreboard, only a handful of yards short of his usual landing spots of 2022. By going that angle his second shot was just 165-ish yards on a perfect line, just what he was looking for.

If the PGA tour doesn’t want players going in that direction the answer is an easy one. Just mark the line between the 15th and 17th fairways as out of bounds as a local rule. The USGA and R&A both have rules for courses that want to use a local rule for internal out of bounds, and there’s no reason why Riviera Country Club couldn’t do it for just the 15th hole. They even include how to work it in the rulebook:

“During play of [specify hole number], the [specify location or side] of the hole, defined by [insert description of method of defining out of bounds, for example, white stakes], is out of bounds. These [insert objects used to define out of bounds, for example, stakes] are boundary objects during the play of [specify hole number]. For all other holes, they are [immovable /movable ] obstructions.”

See? Easy.

And finally, yes, despite it saying “four” there are only three this week. I’d say I’ll do better next week, but I won’t. “Friday 4” will take a break next week as I’m away, but it will return in two weeks with (hopefully) four more things.

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