A project called "InStink" at MIT, a university so la-di-da that it goes by its initials (sort of the aca-demic equivalent of Madonna), seeks to "use smell as an ambient media." I don't know exactly what that means, but it sounds suspiciously like structuralism or formalism or existentialism or some other discipline I studied in college and, upon graduating, never heard of again. But before you start thinking it's yet another plot by those commies in academia to undermine our way of life, I should inform you that good old red-blooded American businessmen are also in on this: A company called DigiScents is hard at work trying to make our computers smell like grandma's kitchen. Well, your grandma's kitchen anyway. My grandma was Lebanese. I don't think DigiScents, or even the commies in academia for that matter, are working on kibbe. Which is good because the last thing I need is more kibbe.

Anyway, my point is that in these virtual times it seems that the only thing better than the real thing is the fake thing.

Take, for example, golf. It seems like such a nice sport. There's not a lot of taunting or trash talking. You don't see many golfers pounding their chests, doing the Electric Slide, and pointing dramatically down the course after coming in below par on a hole. A victory dance on the 18th green amounts to a broad smile and, for the real showboats, a punch in the air. It is a decidedly gentlemanly, well-behaved sport. And yet the virtual mob dragged its muddy boots even through this bastion of civility.

Last year, CBS Sports was caught by vigilant bird-watchers (is there any other kind) piping recorded bird songs into golf telecasts. The birders had been watching tournaments around the country and recognized the songs of birds that belonged nowhere near those courses. Well, I don't have to tell you, this created quite the uproar in the birding community. CBS Sports admitted dubbing bird songs, then stopped the practice and just prayed that they'd have no more trouble with the wound-up birders.