If you haven’t heard about Dustin Johnson’s penalty in yesterday’s PGA Championship, you either live under a rock or you really hate golf. Or both.
But even if you would rather re-watch Game 7 the Game That Must Not Be Named than watch a round of golf, you have to admit that Johnson’s plight was one of the most heart-wrenching screw jobs in sports history. And PLEASE don’t try telling me it wasn’t a screw job. Because not only did the officials let Johnson finish out the hole without saying a single word to him, making him think he was headed to a playoff, but they then added two strokes to his score for grounding his club in a sand bunker… even though the patch of dirt he was on didn’t even come close to resembling a bunker and, ya know, what type of golf course lets the gallery stand in a sand trap anyway?
Alright, I’m moving on. I know you guys don’t give a damn about golf. But you definitely care about basketball, which is what this post is about. The question I will pose to you first, and then answer, is this: What is the basketball equivalent of Dustin Johnson’s two-stroke penalty?
It would be this: Your team is winning by two points going into the last possession of a championship game. You are remembered as the team that was winning after three quarters of last year’s championship but then choked the title away with a miserable fourth quarter, losing by 20 points and getting the nickname Mr. Heimlich in the process. But the memories of last year’s ill choke job can change today: All you need to do to come away with the win is make your free throws. You get fouled with five seconds left, but instead of icing the game you miss the front end of a one-and-one. The other team dribbles downcourt and makes a jumper as time expires, tying the game. It sucks that you didn’t win in regulation but whatever, you’ve still got overtime and a chance to win the championship. You can still redeem yourself for that goddamn missed free throw and the ghosts of last year’s meltdown.
Except, umm, maybe you can’t. As you walk off the floor one of the referees taps you on the shoulder and tells you he needs to talk. He pulls you aside and explains, “We’ve got a problem. I know you guys think you are tied and still have a chance to win this championship, but, well, you’re wrong. You guys have already lost.”
“But,” you say, “the score is 93-93. How could we have possibly lost?”
“Well,” the dorky and self-righteous official replies, “there’s actually a little-known rule in this gym. They don’t count three-pointers. I know it sounds outrageous because the three-point line is still on the court, but we taped a memo in your locker room that notified you of the switch. You should have read it. And do you remember that three-pointer you hit with thirty seconds left, the one that put your team ahead by two points? Well, because of the rules it was actually a two-pointer and it actually only put you ahead by one point. So that jumper the other team just hit gave them the lead and, thus, the championship.”
You pause for a second and then laugh wholeheartedly. The ref obviously isn’t serious. You turn to walk back to the bench and prepare for overtime, but the ref grabs you. “I’m not kidding, son,” he says. “You guys just lost.”
It’s at that second that it dawns on you. The ref actually isn’t kidding. The absurd ruling will stand, and your team has lost without the chance at an overtime period. You want to cry, and then you want to kill someone, and then you remember Dustin Johnson and how classy he was when he handled a similarly bullshit ruling. Because of Dustin, you decide to handle with a little more class than you want: Instead of killing someone, you merely pummel the smug, dorky ref to within an inch of his life. Restraint.
But even seeing the ref’s blood on the hardwood floor doesn’t change the fact that you got screwed. It doesn’t change the fact that you never got the chance to play an overtime. It doesn’t change the fact that the bogus ruling just cost you more than a million dollars. It doesn’t change the fact that some 25-year old German just walked away with the championship while you are left with nothing to do but wish you would have read that damn memo in your locker room.
What? That scenario doesn’t sound very likely? It doesn’t sound at all reasonable? Oh well, I tried. Having “a Dustin Johnson” in basketball is nothing short of preposterous. Dustin, if you’re reading, we feel for you. But if you’d decided to play the best sport in the world rather than that sissy sport they call “golf”, nothing like that ever would have happened to you. Sucker.
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