"The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out." -- Thomas Babington Macaulay
I had every intention of blogging about my long run today—how I pounded out 18 miles in sub freezing temperatures with a wind chill in the teens and wind gusts up to 25 miles an hour. But before I was even able to entertain the question of how or where I was to run the tough middle miles, I noticed my hands getting cold and numb (even as my head and body was sweating!) after just the first loop around
So instead I am going to tell you a fascinating story that I read in the news a couple of days back which had me thinking about the integrity of our sport…
The story involves a lesser known PGA golfer named J.P. Hayes and what he did during the second stage of the PGA Tour qualifying tournament last week. You can read the full account of the tale here, but essentially the highlights are:
- During the 12th hole of the first round, Hayes inadvertently played two shots with a different model golf ball than the one he had used to start the round.
- When he realized his mistake in the middle of the hole, he acknowledged his mistake, called an official over, and incurred a two-stroke penalty for the hole. According to golf experts, if he had not admitted his own mistake, it would have been impossible for anyone else (except for maybe his caddie) to have known about it otherwise.
- Even after incurring the penalty, Hayes still shot a 74 in Round 1 and a 71 in Round 2, putting him in good shape to finish within the top 20 and advance to the qualifying finals in December. Of note, finishing well in this qualifying tournament affords the golfer automatic entry into major PGA Tour events the following year.
- Later that night, while relaxing in his hotel room (after Round 2), he suddenly realizes that the errant golf ball he had used in the 12th hold of Round 1 might not have been on the approved list.
- He had a choice: He could have said nothing and kept playing, with no one aware of his mistake. Or he could turn himself in and let his mistake cost him a 2009 PGA Tour card.
- He chose the latter.
- When asked about his decision afterwards, Hayes nonchalantly replied “I would say everyone out here (on the PGA Tour) would have done the same thing.”
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I found this story absolutely fascinating and intriguing on so many levels. How someone can be so forthright and honest that he calls a penalty on himself and then disqualifies himself from a tournament that essentially eliminates him from active competition in 2009 just boggles my mind. In this day and age of professional athletics, where it seems like every other story is about instant replay, bad officiating, gambling scandals and doping controversies, it is so awkwardly strange to hear about a sporting culture that is fundamentally built on honesty, integrity, and trust as in golf. Can you imagine if baseball, or basketball, or even tennis operated on such a premise—where ballplayers will say to the ump, “You know…I know you called Ball Four, but I really swung across the plate so I’m just going to go back to the bench now.” or the point guard will go to the referee and say “Sorry ref, I know you missed it, but I hit his arm as he was releasing his shot…please give him a free throw.” That would be so weird, I’m not even sure I can imagine such a scenario. Then I started to ask myself if I can find a corollary in the sport of running. Is there a scenario where our integrity is similarly tested--where our character is in full display for others to bear witness?
Off the top of my head, I can think of one such example.
Somewhere in the middle miles of the New York City Marathon, in a remote section of
I’m not here to judge anybody because god knows I’ve had my share of transgressions. I’m simply throwing this out there for us to realize that even in very simple acts of life, like running, our inner character is in full display. The essential question which we should ask ourselves is: If you knew others were watching, what kind of person/runner would YOU want them to see?
Have a good weekend, everyone!