Sports for All

May 12, 2014

One of the more encouraging reports in the news last week was the suggestion that the rules of golf should be changed – specifically that the hole should be made larger. This has to be an idea whose time has come. The problem with golf, as with so many other sports, is that it is just too hard.

To tell the truth I have never actually played golf, although I have seen it on TV, and once we visited St. Andrews and saw the famous course in the distance. However I enjoyed miniature golf as a child, and once I visited a driving range on Long Island. But I could scarcely hit the tiny white balls at all, and it was obvious to me that trying to get them into a four inch wide hole about half a mile away would be a complete waste of time.

Now all of a sudden we have this brilliant proposal to tear up the rule book in the cause of equal opportunity. Who invented these rules anyway? Obviously they were not written by or for people who were awkward, short-sighted, unsteady on their feet, or simply old.

Once we begin to think about equal opportunity in sports dozens of possibilities come to mind. Why should basketball belong to guys who are eight feet tall? Short guys can jump too, just not so high. The standard basket height is ten feet above the court. I can reach ten feet with a small stepladder, but it would hardly be practical to have each player carrying one of those. But here’s where technology might be useful. A telescopic adjustable basket could be rigged to move up or down according to the height of the player attempting the shot. It could be controlled by a neutral referee or by a computer linked to a laser measuring device. Either way the game would instantly become playable by everyone, and not just those who have the luck to be very tall.

The same principle of equalization can be applied to any game or sport. Anyone who as ever tried to play tennis knows very well that the net is the problem. Get rid of the net and the peculiar scoring system, and anyone would have a chance at tennis.

Baseball could be made more user friendly by the introduction of softer balls for the nervous and wider bats for those with poor hand to eye coordination. There should also be less running around, and to this end I would suggest a simple linear pitch, rather like a cricket pitch, instead of a diamond.

Football is in a class by itself. The existing game would be hard to adapt for the fragile and the elderly. The same goes for boxing, wrestling and martial arts which are not very appealing to those of us who prefer to avoid personal injury. The only possible answer would be a no contact rule, so these sports would become more like ballet or Tai-Chi, spectacles of beauty in movement rather than violence.

Speaking of rules there are too many of them, and often so complicated that ever the referees get into arguments about them. In the words of Henry David Thoreau we should simplify, simplify, until everybody can understand what’s going on.

So the proposal for larger holes in golf courses sparks off any number of creative ideas. Once we have accepted that all rules are arbitrary and can be changed, sports really could be open to all.

Copyright: David Bouchier