Fans are watching, give them some power

Jan 25 2011 - 4:57pm

Padraig Harrington marked his ball, then flipped it to his caddie to be cleaned, waxed and detailed. Then he placed it back on the green, the seventh at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in the United Arab Emirates, and picked up his coin.

Somewhere hundreds, maybe thousands of miles away, a TV viewer rubbed his or her eyes in disbelief. The viewer clearly saw Harrington's finger unintentionally brush the ball, which moved ever so slightly. Unaware of what he had done, Harrington putted without resetting the ball.

The viewer knew exactly what this meant. Harrington had committed a two-stroke penalty. When that penalty was not reflected on his scorecard at round's end, well, there's only one honorable way to handle that kind of situation.

This happened in the first round of the Abu Dhabi Championship on Thursday. Before Friday's second round, Harrington had been disqualified based on an e-mail from a TV viewer who saw the infraction when no one else did.

What's more: Harrington liked it.

"The rules are good," he said. "We love the standard that we play by. When we have to stick to that, that's the best thing in our game."

This isn't the first time this has happened. Earlier this month a call from a TV viewer resulted in a disqualification for Camilo Villegas at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Hawaii.

"I'm comfortable with the whole idea that there's people watching," Harrington said.

Harrington's attitude is not only commendable, but it's also food for thought. What's the most tiresome aspect of contemporary sporting events (not including DeSean Jackson's preening touchdown rituals)? That's right: Replay. And what's the best part of the multi-platform information age (not including music piracy)? Right again: Interactivity.

You see where we're going with this. Instead of replay officials and situation rooms making decisions based on video review, give that awesome power to the fans. A caveman could produce a simple app that would give fans input into a game that might be happening 50 feet away or on the other side of the world.

Fair or foul? Goal or no goal? Offensive foul or a block? Both feet in? Down by contact?

Let the fans decide. Give them 30 seconds to set down their beer bongs and vote using their smart phones, iPads, pagers, carrier pigeons, whatever they have lying around. All results legally binding.

It would get fans invested in the process, just like with "American Idol." And you never hear complaints about their judging.

At least not from Padraig Harrington.

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