Thursday, June 14, 2007

Golf, Fear of Losing, Lawyers, and the Arbitrariness of Rules

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw (USGA Handicap Index:  19.2)

Today begins the U.S. Open at Oakmont, and I happened to pick up the June 2007 edition of Golf Digest, which for some reason is being delivered to a golf pro named "Ronald Lipshaw" at my address here in Michigan.  I don't know who he is.  I am not one of those people who believes golf is the ultimate metaphor for life, but I'm close.  Observations:

1.  There is an interview with Arnold Palmer.  Here is the first thing he says:  "My whole career, I never missed a tee time.  Not once, which I suppose is saying a lot for a career that's spanned 60 years and thousands of rounds of golf.  Now, for many years I've had a recurring dream that I miss my tee time.  In the dream there's no consequence because I wake up abruptly.  You can't imagine the relief, realizing that it was just a dream.  Now that I'm retired, I'm hoping to hell that dream will go away."  I never missed an exam or a class, but thirty years post school, I am still having the recurring dream that I have forgotten to go to a math class for the entire semester, and am facing the final exam.  Arnold says a little later:  "I was scared to lose.  Just terrified of it."  How many of us Type-As are more motivated by the stick of losing or failing than the carrot of winning or succeeding?

2.  I suppose one of the affinities of golf for lawyers is that there is no game more oriented to rules.  One of my favorite books, Missing Links, by Rick Reilly (the Sports Illustrated columnist) has a plot that turns on the difference between touching the sand in a bunker with the business end versus the handle ofBunker a bunker rake (it has to do with the rule against testing the surface).  Here is Arnold on golf rules:  "If you hit a darned good drive but it takes a bad kick and goes out-of-bounds by a foot, it's two strokes [penalty].  Period.  If you fan it - miss the ball entirely - it's one stroke.  I've never understood that."  When I was teaching Secured Transactions, we got to a point where we were discussing the rules on whether a security interest in proceeds continued to be perfected after the twentieth day.  The Warren and Walt book has a hypothetical that points out an instance in which you can no longer rely on "policy" or "logic;" the lesson is that sometimes the rule is the rule, and you just have to follow it.

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Posted by: Platzreife | Dec 6, 2008 11:43:51 PM

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