At our Scout meetings and various Scouting ceremonies we all repeat the Scout Oath: “On my honor I will do my best…” There are many other quotes that deal with honor:
“Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud.”- Greek playwright
“He has honor if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so.”- Walter Lippmann, American Journalist
“Nobody can acquire honor by doing what is wrong”- Thomas Jefferson, American President
How does honor apply to our sports today? Books have been written about baseball players using steroids to get that extra edge- more muscle, more speed. These sports figures have testified before Congress and numerous other investigative bodies under oath that they absolutely never took steroids only to later confess that they had lied. Olympic athletes from numerous countries are accused of doping. They may get away with this doping for a while because the market for developing “designer” drugs that cannot be uncovered by current testing procedures is a growing business. Some athletes try to get the edge by removing their own red blood cells prior to an event and the re-injecting them at the time of the meet. Industries have developed around drug testing because the “doping’ is so prevalent. All these Olympic athletes take the Olympic Oath, which states in part, “…committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams.”
Finding honor in sports may not be impossible to find, but it is rarely seen in real time and on national television. One such incident occurred on April 18, 2010 at the Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, South Carolina. After an amazing second shot on the 72nd hole (last hole of regulation play), Brian Davis made a putt that tied him for the lead. The match went to sudden death. Both players made good drives, but Brian’s second shot missed the green and was in the hazard to the left of the green (beachfront with rocks, sand, seaweed and other impediments). After some deliberation Brian Davis hit a shot onto the green about 20 feet from the pin. As everyone got ready to continue play, Mr. Davis called the tour official over and explained that, on his backswing, he may have hit a small reed extending from a nearby clump of debris. After many minutes of intensive investigation and slow-motion replay, it was determined that he did hit the reed on his backswing. It did not improve his shot. Had he hit the reed on his downswing, there would have been no penalty. Because he touched the “loose impediment” on his backswing, he was assessed a two stroke penalty. Brian Davis forfeited the tournament a few minutes later.
Could Brian have finished the tournament without anyone knowing he touched that reed? Most probably. Was this an important tournament for Brian to win? Although he has won on the European tour, he has never won in the US. This would have been his first PGA victory. Despite the actions of some of its players off the course, on the course golf is still a game of honor. A testament to the old saying, “Winning without honor is a hollow victory.”