golf and football

Sunday Into Monday*

Takeaways from a day of watching golf and football—on rules, integrity and the angst over trying to place a simple wager

By Michael Bamberger

The editors write the headlines, but in my mind this piece is called Sunday into Monday: A long night’s journey into day.

By tradition, reporters type their own datelines. This one, by newspaper tradition, would be PHILADELPHIA, for where this story was reported and typed. My adopted home.

PHILADELPHIA—Three months after the Philadelphia Phillies lost the World Series to a Houston Astros team that produced more timely hitting, the Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 57 on Sunday, a beautifully played game marred by a referee’s holding call against the Iggs with the score tied and less than two minutes left.

James Bradberry, the Eagles cornerback called for holding, said in a post-game interview that it was holding.

What class.

Didn’t look like holding to this reporter/homer. And JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Chiefs wide receiver, was never going to catch that ball anyhow. He has a great name, and great hands, but there’s no way.

Went to sleep Sunday night thinking that. Woke up Monday morn thinking the same.

It all seemed so different at breakfast on Sunday morning. Then, I had a steaming cup of coffee and a head full of steam. Back then, I was so sure of myself.

1. Scottie Scheffler would win in Phoenix.

2. The Eagles would win the Super Bowl.

All I needed was a bookie.

When I was in high school, on the South Shore of Long Island in the 1970s, gambling was a way of life. We played nickel-a-hand poker during lunch and even during Mr. Caggiano’s calculus class. There were competing weekly NFL football pools, cash in on Friday, cash out on Monday. And we didn’t play golf, or go to the putting green, without having something on the line. 

On Sunday morning, I wanted to make a simple bet. What kind of odds could I get for Scheffler and the Eagles winning. It would make for a fun Sunday of rooting.

I find Scheffler easy to root for. As for the Eagles, it’s a Philly thing. We are a Philly thing. Like Jason Kelce says in the WaWa ads, it’s not a hero or a sub. It’s a hoagie.

WaWa is our 7-Eleven. It’s a Philly thing.

There were taverns on Ridge Avenue, in the vicinity of the city-owned Walnut Lane golf course and Chubby’s Cheesesteaks, that were (back in the day) easy places to book a bet, if you knew the gent behind the bar and he knew you. That was then.

There’s a casino on the Delaware in an old sugar refinery that has a sports book but does not do what the industry now calls “custom betting.”

Everything has a name these days, in the interest of marketing.

You can go online and find plenty of betting sites that offer custom betting, so I opened my laptop. But you don’t know who is on the other end or where they are located. Meanwhile, they demand to know where you are.

As people say these days, hard pass.

Scheffler did his job. He buried that par putt on 16 after a poor tee shot and an indifferent chip. Next year at the Waste, he’ll go for back-to-back-to-back. Arnold did it at Phoenix, in ’61, ’62 and ’63.

Next year’s Super Bowl is at Allegiant Stadium, in Las Vegas, most likely on the Sunday of the WM Phoenix Open. This year’s Super Bowl was at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. It’s about 30 miles, from the 16th tee at TPC Scottsdale, site of the WM, to the 50-yard line at State Farm Stadium. The golf course was as firm as the football field was slippery.

Tom Rinaldi, reporting from the sidelines for Fox Sports at the Super Bowl, noted the many players who had switched cleats during the game because of the slip-and-slide turf conditions.

super bowl

There was a Super Bowl ad on Sunday featuring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck for a movie called Air: Courting a Legend, about the launch of the famous Michael Jordan basketball shoe, the Air Jordan.

There was all manner of hubbub last year at the Masters, when Michael Collins of ESPN reported that Tiger Woods would be wearing FootJoys up and down Augusta’s hills and not his usual Nikes.

The things that occupy us.

It was in an interview with Rinaldi, then with ESPN, that Woods inadvertently acknowledged he had made an incorrect drop on the 15th hole during the second round of the 2013 Masters.

Normally, back then, a player would have been disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. But there were weird circumstances. Fred Ridley, then the chairman of the tournament’s competition committee, could have alerted Woods to his incorrect drop before he signed his card, but didn’t. Woods was given a two-shot penalty. There was some discussion at the club whether he should get any penalty at all. Meanwhile, various others, including Nick Faldo and Brandel Chamblee, said Woods should withdraw from the tournament.

Rules, rules, rules, rules, rules.

You don’t have any sort of true competition without them. The application of them involves all manner of subjective calls. Golf’s rule book tries to eliminate the gray areas whenever possible. The ball is in bounds or it is out. Photography, still and otherwise, helps sort through these issues now more than ever.

Of course, that’s true in football too.

Woods tied for fourth in that 2013 Masters, four shots out of the Adam Scott-Angel Cabrera Sunday evening playoff.

The next day, during the Boston Marathon, a bomb was detonated and three people were killed and nothing that happened at the Masters seemed to matter much at all.

Scott won that Sunday night playoff, a decade ago.

The Chiefs won Sunday night’s Super Bowl.

I was ready to wager a modest $100 on my prediction of a Scheffler-Eagles daily double. I’m not happy that I didn’t get a chance to place my bet. I would have been fine with losing that $100 and rooting all the way until the clock hit zero.

I think Tiger should have withdrawn. Had he won, there would have been an asterisk on that win forever. The player who took a bad drop, signed the wrong card, and won anyhow.

On this Monday morning, I’m going to lean into James Bradberry. If the official said I held, I held.

That’s the official’s job. I happen not to agree with the call he made. But he did his job, and he knows way, way, way more about the rule than I ever will.

Well played, Scottie.

Well played, Phillies.

Well played, Eagles.

Well played, James. I’m not talking about your pass coverage. I’m talking about how you handled the aftermath. That stuff has a shelf life of forever.

Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at [email protected]

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