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Don’t Pull a Johnson…Follow the Rules!

This is a guest post by Bear Heiser

Rules, rules, rules, why is it so hard for athletes to follow the rules!

On Sunday, for the second time in as many months, a ‘Johnson’ broke the rules in the world of sports.

First, way back on August 12th, Dustin Johnson grounded his club in a destroyed sand trap on 18th hole of the PGA Championship incurring him a 2-stroke penalty. The move cost him more than just 2 strokes as it knocked him out of a playoff for the major title. The entire world watched when Johnson first heard what he had unknowingly done.

Then it happened again, on September 12th. Seconds remained in the Detroit Lions-Chicago Bears game when Lions receiver Calvin Johnson and everybody else in the world thought he caught the game winning touchdown. The play was reviewed and overturned after it became clear that Johnson lost the ball while attempting to use it to help him get up from the ground.

Dustin’s ball landed in a crowd of people, the crowd happened to be standing in a deserted bunker. Throughout the week the bunker had been walked in, walked on, sat in, sat on and who knows what else. The lip had been flattened leaving no sign of said bunker.

Before the PGA Championship started, rules officials gave each player and his caddy a copy of the course rules. If he had read through them he would have noticed that deserted bunkers are still played as bunkers. They were also given a map of where all the bunkers on the course were placed.

It happened on 2nd and 10 on the 25, :31 seconds remained when Calvin Johnson leaped over his defender to catch the game winning touchdown. After falling to the ground, Johnson tried using the ball, all in one motion, to push him back to his feet but lost control of the ball, thus losing himself the touchdown.

Rule 8, Section 1, Article 4 states, “A play from start to finish is a process. When you go to the ground, even after you’ve caught the ball, you have to maintain possession.”

Johnson, who is now in his 4th season in the NFL should know the rules. He should know to hold onto that ball until he has landed safely on the ground and come to a complete stop.

Let me go on record and say that I had no idea Dustin Johnson was hitting out of a sand trap. Even after seeing video after video of the bunker, I still cannot tell the difference. As for Calvin? I thought it was pretty clear he caught the ball and it should have been a touchdown.

Problem is, it’s not what I think, it’s not what you think, it’s not what they think. It’s what the rules are!

Knowing and following the rules seems like such an easy thing. These guys are making millions of dollars doing what they love but they can’t manage to learn the rules.

Do you think athletes today should have a better knowledge of the rules of their sports? Let me know what you think.


Image by Dave Hobb

Image by the gordons

Bear Heiser is a St. Louis Rams Featured Columnist at His Rams coverage doesn’t stop here as he has also written about the Rams on You can find him on Twitter @ramsreport and @bearconsults. His personal blog is

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3 Responses to Don’t Pull a Johnson…Follow the Rules!

  1. SHerdegen September 17, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    I wouldn’t put too much stock in following the rules. Like anything else, sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.

    We use rules because we need a way to establish order in a messy world. In reality, there are too many variables and it will come down to a judgment call anyway.

    The best advice is to do what seems right at the time and hope others see it the same way. And don’t get bent out of shape when they don’t.

  2. Michelle Marcus September 17, 2010 at 6:38 pm #

    I don’t know much about golf but the rules for NFL are pretty extensive. Not even the refs get it right.

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