Casey at the Court
May 29, 2001
I love to play
chess, but I usually lose. My opponents beat me with their knights. The
other pieces move in straight lines, but knights move two spaces one way and
another space sideways. It confuses me. I cant foresee what they may do, a
terrible disadvantage. If it werent for those blasted knights I might be the
world chess champion.
The solution to my problem is obvious: I must
get the government to change the rules of chess. My inability to cope with the
dynamics of knights should qualify as a handicap under the Americans with
Obviously Im inspired by the heroic
example of the golfer Casey Martin. Martin has struck a blow for misfits
everywhere by persuading the U.S. Supreme Court to decree that the Professional
Golfers Association must set aside its own rules and allow him to compete
in a motorized wheelchair.
The federal government, particularly its
judicial branch, seldom refuses an invitation to interfere in private institutions.
The result is that fewer and fewer institutions are private.
The Court should have told Martin: No
government agency should presume to dictate the rules of a sport, and the federal
government in particular has no constitutional authority to do so. Setting aside the
practical consideration that a group of people who make a living at golf are
probably more competent to formulate its rules than we are, the ruling you seek
simply isnt ours to make. Were we to make it, we would be guilty of what
the authors of the Constitution would have called a tyrannical usurpation of
Instead, the Court chose to exercise what the
authors of the Constitution would have called a tyrannical usurpation of power.
Its no less tyrannical for being so petty.
C.S. Lewis once observed that
its no use telling the government to mind its own business, when the
government feels that our whole lives are its business. That includes our golf
Maybe Martin is right that golfers should be
able to motor around the course in a tournament. But if so, its up to him to
convince the PGA, not coerce it. In trying to improve the game, he has betrayed it.
He has undermined its very nature as a voluntary activity, a little exercise of
freedom. In doing so, he has also brought the shadow of government coercion over
every other voluntary activity and private association.
Martin deserves a special niche in the annals
of those who have sought to deprive their fellow citizens of liberties they had
traditionally taken for granted. He is the enemy not only of professional golf but of
everyone who wants to be left alone by the state. He claims rights
that trump, and abolish, others rights.
Its only golf? Yes, its only golf.
Thats what makes it so chilling. Nothing, however innocuous, is now safe
from the tentacles of the total state.
Former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan says
we have defined deviancy downward tolerating the formerly
intolerable, removing stigma from irresponsibility. We have also defined tyranny
downward, meekly accepting impositions of government that would once have
spurred Americans to angry resistance. A tyrant who stops short of mass murder
is no longer considered a tyrant.
No doubt Martin considers his Court victory a
triumph for the handicapped. It isnt except to those handicapped
persons who confuse privileges with rights, and want to give their own
disabilities priority over other peoples liberty. But then, thats
exactly what the Americans with Disabilities Act invites them to do.
Personally, I cant fathom such
arrogance. Just as a matter of good manners, I couldnt bear to demand that
the government force my neighbors to surrender a particle of their rights for my
sake. I might, appealing to their kindness and mercy, ask them to accommodate me
freely; but Id accept their refusal without complaint. Simple civility would
require me to respect their wishes.
But Martin didnt ask. He chose to bully.
He brought the Almighty State to bear on his own colleagues, preferring force to
freedom. In this he was not only profoundly uncivil, but also supremely
unsportsmanlike. He wont be remembered for any achievement on the links,
but for debasing honest competition with victimology.
As Tiger Woods will always represent the
glory of golf, Casey Martin will be its eternal shame.
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