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And Another Thing

Associated Press
Luke Donald gets a club from his caddie John McLaren as he prepares to hit from a creek on the fourth hole during the fourth round.

Hey, look who's back

And so, like Douglas MacArthur, I have returned.

(OK, so not like Douglas MacArthur. As unlike Douglas MacArthur, in fact, as an aardvark is unlike a Gulfstream 5. Or a beauty pageant contestant is, well, unlike a Nobel Prize economist).

Anyway ... I'm back, in full Blob regalia. And I have a few thoughts I've been storing up for a week and change:

* Why is it the USGA seems to think the goal of a U.S. Open is to humiliate the best golfers in the world?

Look, I get that they want to make Open courses a true test of golf. And I get they were especially nervous about out-of-its-time Merion, which hadn't played host to an Open in eons and was easy meat in this era of jet-propelled golf balls, laser-guided irons and drivers powered by tiny nuclear reactors.

But, good lord, there are limits. And by the time the USGA got finished with Merion, the only thing it was missing was the Waterfall Hole, the Elephant Hole and the Clown's Mouth Hole.

The fairways were skinnier than a super model. The rough was straight out of the Amazon Rainforest Collection. The greens were harder to read than Chaucer.

Which is why we ended up with Justin Rose winning the tournament at plus-1.

And, sure, that saved dear old Merion the trauma of being strip-mined. But as TV viewing, it was excruciating. You tune in the U.S. Open, you don't want to watch par kick everyone in their tender parts. You want to see someone put up some baroque numbers -- not a lot, but some.

Instead, we got good old 71-69-71-70 (Rose) beating out good old 70-74-68-71 (Jason Day). It was like watching Ty Webb and Judge Smails square off at Bushwood.

And who wants to see that in a major?

* Missed the whole Chad Ochocinco Johnson saga, which fizzled out today when Johnson apologized to the judge and was released from jail a week after being sent there for ... well, something.

My take is that, yes, OchoJohnson is as clueless as any elite athlete who's spent his entire life being coddled, excused and deferred to because God swatted him a good one with the talent stick. Excellence confers status, and status means never having to say you're sorry, or even acknowledging that you've ever done anything to feel sorry about. And that's true in more than just athletics.

However ... the judge in this instance went way, way over the line. She was, after all, prepared to give OchoJohnson a pass even though he'd blown off his probation in direct violation of her previous court order. It was only when she felt personally disrepected that she threw the book at him.

And here's the thing: OchoJohnson wasn't really the one doing the disrepecting. If you watch the tape, yes, he pats his attorney on the fanny. But it's not done flippantly. OchoJohnson, in fact, never so much as cracks a smile when he does it.

It did, however, provoke a titter from the audience in the courtroom. It's hard to see how that's OchoJohnson's fault, but OchoJohnson was the one who got the 30 days in the clink for it.

And the worst part of that was the message it sent -- i.e., that the judge apparently didn't deem knocking around his wife or violating probation as sufficient to put OchoJohnson behind bars until she felt personally insulted by him.

Conduct unbecoming, if you ask me.

* Knee-jerkism in sports media has hit its zenith with the NBA Finals, in which LeBron James and the Miami Heat are either the best team in the league by miles and miles or under-achieving failures, depending on whatever the score was that night.

After Game 4, a 109-93 blowout win for the Heat, the storyline was the former. After Game 5, a 114-104 win for the Spurs that gave San Antonio a 3-2 lead heading back to Miami, the storyline was the latter.

I still stick by my original prediction: Heat in 7. In which case, someone will no doubt break out the word "dynasty."

Of course, if the Spurs win, they'll break out "time to break up the Heat." Thus is it ever so.

* Last but not least, one of the strangest stories you're ever going to run across: The revelation from New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft that Russian president Vladimir Putin stole his Super Bowl ring back in 2005.

Putin, of course, denies this. But, frankly, I believe Kraft's version, for two reasons:

1. Robert Kraft is Robert Kraft.

2. Vladimir Putin is Vladimir Putin.

Which is to say, Kraft is an upstanding citizen and an honorable man. And Putin, his high office notwithstanding, is pretty much a common thug.

Case closed.

Ben Smith's blog.