Monday, November 30, 2009

On a Day I Hoped to Write About the Ongoing NCAA DI-AA Playoffs, Instead it's on Tiger

I was really hoping to write this morning about the Division 1-AA playoffs—or as the NCAA likes to call them the, “Football Championship Sub-Division,” playoffs—that began last Saturday. I even scheduled a trip to Philadelphia Saturday to see Villanova play Holy Cross in one of the eight first round games.

Holy Cross is a wonderful story, the kind that doesn’t get enough attention. Six years ago the Crusaders were 1-11 while their coach, Dan Allen, was dying of ALS. Tom Gilmore arrived in 2004 and, with considerable help from a quarterback named Dominic Randolph, went 9-3 this season and won The Patriot League Championship to qualify for the tournament.

Villanova won an entertaining game 38-28 but I knew by the time I made the drive to Philly that I wasn’t going to be writing today about players who compete in college football for an actual championship.

My phone began ringing sometime around 3 o’clock on Friday afternoon. Tiger Woods had been in a “serious,” car accident. That sounded scary although it didn’t take long to find out he had already been released from the hospital and his spin-doctors were putting out a statement that the accident was, “minor,” and he was already home in “good,” condition.

Okay, I thought, maybe this will pass in a few hours. I understood that a Tiger Woods fender-bender is a 50-car pileup in the golf world but even those are usually cleared in a few hours when they occur. The police said there was no evidence that alcohol played a role in the accident. End of story.

Not exactly.

Details began to emerge that raised questions. Detail 1: the accident took place at 2:28 a.m. on Black Friday a few yards from the front door of Woods’ house and he was LEAVING when it happened. Question 1: Why was he leaving his house at that hour of the night/morning? The odds are pretty good it wasn’t to get to Walmart to beat the crowds and buy discounted golf clubs.

Detail 2: His wife, Elin, pulled him from the car after smashing the back window of the car so she could get to him. Question 2: Why would one smash the BACK window of an SUV to get to someone in the front seat?

Detail 3: Elin used a golf club to smash in the window. Question 3: Did she run all the way down to the accident scene, then back to the house to grab a golf club and then back to the car? Or, did she have the wherewithal to grab a golf club after hearing the crash? Or, was neither of those the correct answer?

These were questions that needed answers. The best and smartest thing Tiger could have done was talk to the police as soon as possible—it probably would have taken five minutes: one car accident, no one else hurt, no sign of alcohol being involved—and let them write their report and perhaps charge him with careless driving and send him a bill for the hydrant.

Soon after that he should have held a press conference during which he could have explained that, yes, he and Elin had an argument. Say something like, “Any of you guys been married? Ever had an argument with your wife? Sometimes the best thing to do is just get out of the house for a while. I was frazzled and wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing and here I am.”

No need to go into any further details. If the tabloid/cyber-space rumors making the rounds are brought up, just smile and say, “come on fellas, I’m not going to dignify that sort of thing with an answer, you know me better than that.”

Talk about the football games you watched on Thanksgiving and move on. Revel in Stanford’s win over Notre Dame. You see, that’s the way you move on in these situations. You don’t move on by making the police asking routine questions into a story by avoiding them for three days and brining in some lawyer to stonewall on your behalf. It makes you look like you have something to hide.

You don’t move on by playing the “this is a private matter,” card either. It ceased being a private matter once he hit the fire hydrant. He’s a public figure and something put him in that car and on that road and out of control. He owes the public—which has helped make him wealthy beyond his wildest dreams—more than the privacy card. Privacy stops at the front door.

Beyond that, supplying some kind of explanation is the best thing for WOODS. He may be able to intimidate most of the golf media but he isn’t going to intimidate the tabloids or the gossip web sites or TV joke-writers. They could care less if he cuts them off or stops calling them by name during his press conferences.

Woods is a control freak—like most hugely successful people—and he can’t stand being in a situation in which he loses any control. That’s why he gets SO angry when he hits a wayward shot. At that moment, he’s lost control of his golf game. It’s why he has fired caddies and agents who have dared speak up without his permission and why those who work for him live in fear of saying or doing anything that might make him angry.

Up until now Woods has done as good a job as any mega-celebrity has ever done in keeping his life under control. There has been nothing really serious to criticize him for. Sure, he throws clubs and uses profanity on the golf course and, a month shy of turning 34, most people think he needs to outgrow those habits. He’s let his caddy, Steve Williams, behave very badly far too often and he should sign more autographs than he does. But that’s about the list of things you can criticize him for—unless you count blowing off the media on occasion after a bad round which I know almost no one in the public could care less about.

I’ve had my battles with Tiger and his people but I have great respect for him, certainly as a golfer (it would be insane not to) but also for the way he has dealt most of the time with his fame. I’ve often said that he’s as bright as any athlete I’ve ever met and perhaps as bright as any person I’ve met.

Of course because I have been critical of him at times dating back to his rookie year I’ve been viewed by Tiger and his team as a bad guy. The fact that I wrote early on that I believed he had succeeded in spite of his father rather than because of him earned me a permanent spot on his bad list. Which is fine. As I said to him once, I’d never put a guy down for defending his dad.

I’d like to think the fact that we aren’t pals and he doesn’t use a nickname when addressing me the way he does with some other writers doesn’t affect the way I judge him. I remember doing a U.S. Open preview for National Public Radio in 2001 soon after he had completed his, “Tiger Slam,” in which I called it the greatest feat in golf history given the competition and the media pressures he’d had to deal with. Later that day I got a call from the producer of the show I was on saying, “Is there any way I can get you to stop sucking up to Tiger Woods?” I suggested she call Tiger’s agent (she wasn’t like to reach Tiger) and repeat that comment if only so we could all have a good laugh.

I’m the last person to sit in judgment of what goes on inside someone’s home and inside someone’s marriage. None of us knows the truth from the outside. But Tiger—for Tiger’s sake—needs to stop hiding out behind statements and lawyers and end this by saying SOMETHING. Until he does he’s going to be a punch line. And I know him well enough to know just how much he has to hate that idea.


One more note from the weekend that begs for a comment: Did anyone notice that on Sunday one of those ESPN hacks who will put out any bit of information he’s fed “reported,” that Charlie Weis has been contacted by six NFL teams about a job as a coordinator next season?

Who do you think the guy’s source was—Ara Parseghian? This is so typical of Weis. Rather than just accept his likely firing at Notre Dame as his responsibility—which it is—he has to get it out there that NFL teams are just dying to hire him. No doubt someone will hire him—he’s a fine coordinator—but it really is a shame that he has no shame or dignity at all. It’s all about him all the time, which is a big part of the reason why he failed so utterly as a head coach. Record the last three seasons once Ty Willingham’s players were just about gone: 16-21. Number of times he took responsibility for those losses: zero.


Anonymous said...

John - Perhaps the reluctance to speak to the police is an attempt to "protect" one of the parties involved from potential criminal charges (i.e. assault). This could be legal advice he is following rather than P.R. advice.

Timothy said...

Anonymous - it certainly seems that your scenario is the logical one....Tiger must not want to put the mother of his children in the hands of the police. Usually, it is the female recipient at the hands of an assault from the boyfriend/husband that protects them, but unless Tiger comes out and explains differently, and believably, it seems as though he's in a rarer case of protecting his female abuser from domestic violence charges.

As much as I know none of this is 'our' business, I can't help but follow the story.

JJ said...

I agree with John and the above comments. I'm sure Tiger feels he is doing the right thing for his family, and is taking a huge hit in the media. Of course, he's also protecting himself from whatever the alleged argument was about. He needs to come clean, and as soon as possible.

Bennettar said...

The assertions that he is protecting his wife are interesting. On his website, Tiger's statement about the crash states that Elin was the first to help him. However, as has been pointed out, there is no mention of why he was leaving or if she was chasing his car as he left. There is so much speculation that could be eliminated if the public had the facts.

I always find it interesting when mega-celebrities ask for privacy. I like Tiger and I understand how valuable he is to golf worldwide, but he doesn't ask for privacy when he's releasing a video game or being paid millions in appearance fees just to show up at foreign tournaments. It is in these moments when I wish honesty and integrity would win out over PR strategy and image-consciousness.

Anonymous said...

Its a completely weird situation. If there was nothing to hide, then talk. If there is something to hide, well, then do as your lawyers say.

Bennettar - I think the most interesting thing about the statement, in context of the 911 call that was released, the neighbor said he saw the traffic accident, his 'neighbor' laying on the ground unconscious, talked to some third party lady who asked what happened, and all the while said NOTHING about Tigers wife being around. You'd have thought he would have told emergency officials that his neighbor is laying on the ground and his wife is nearby, hysterical or not. Strange all the way around.

Erik J. Barzeski said...

It seems completely logical to me to bust out the rear window to unlock the doors. Why would you bust out the front window that is, y'know, a foot from his head?

And Woods has fired one caddie. In 13 years. He's no Michelle Wie ('s parents) in that department.

I disagree that he "owes" us anything, and I couldn't care less what's in his best interests (or not). It's a straw man that because he has a video game with his name on it we're allowed to know the details of his private life.

And beyond that, what's the rush? Did Kobe or Pettite apologize or explain within hours or days of their incidents? Pete Rose could still come clean and people would forgive him - what's the rush?

Besides, Tiger tends to play some pretty inspired golf when he has a chip on his shoulder, real or imagined.

P.S. Don't talk to the police, ever. Watch this YouTube video for more: .

Gordon said...

Erik is correct. Tiger owes US nothing. But like anyone else he is obligated to speak to the police. For him to believe that he can dictate the terms and the timing of any police investigation is arrogance at its highest level. This isn't some press conference that he can control with his standard answers. This is the Florida State Police investigating an accident. A seemingly innocuous accident that has taken on a life of its own due to Eldricks lack of cooperation.

As for the Div 1-AA playoffs as a parent of a Holy Cross Grad I got the chance to watch the transition from 1-11 to 9_3. Watching Dominic Randolph was something special. I hope someone does gives him a chance on draft day. He certainly didn't get the exposure of Tim Tebow and he might not be as good a player as TB but I can tell you he's every bit the person that Tibow is. Holy Cross is a great story period as is the entire Patriot League.

Anonymous said...

Gordon, the Constitution of the United States guarantees that Tiger, like you or I is NEVER under any circumstances under any obligation to speak to the police about any matter. He may be obligated to appear in front of a grand jury or a judge, where he may or may not be obligated to answer questions depending on the venue and the nature of the questions. No one is ever legally obligated to speak to the police for any reason.

Anonymous said...

John Feinstein is wrong. Tiger Woods does not owe his fans an explanation. The statement on his website is enough. I lived in Isleworth for several years. It is probably the only place in the world where he can (and does) have a normal life. The locals would often see Tiger and Elin on an early morning run to Starbucks or the bagel place---and leave them alone. He has always tried to keep his private life private. He has already fully complied with Floria law by providing his lisence, registration and insurance to the police. I hope Tiger and Elin can ride this out, and reporters like you can write about the NCAA playoffs instead.

Anonymous said...

I guess I say he doesn't 'owe' us anything in regard to this, but if he wants me to buy the goods he sponsors, I do feel it necessary he explain a little better. Too often, folks represent companies, some of them public companies, and yet still try to stay behind a shield of anonymity when it serves them better personally.

Maybe its the company's fault, but people have the right to speak up when they choose not to.

Randy said...

I'm a Tiger fan, but I really don't care what happens in his personal life. He doesn't have to explain anything to the public. It's all about the media twisting and making a big deal about a little accident. Nobody cares, if he's safe and doing ok. Get a life media poison!!!

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, I don't think that Tiger Woods owes the public an explanation unless he faces criminal charges. There's this misconception that professional entertainers owe fans explanations for events that happen in their personal life - but then I guess that people who spend their lives as spectators can't be expected to think rationally in the first place. People like me who spend most of their time doing instead of watching understand how absurd are the complaints of the spectators.

Anonymous said...

If you had a fight with your wife, would you want to publicly announce to your friends and family that you crashed your car while she chased you with a golf club (since this is what you're implying happened)? Isn't that just a little embarrasing, and private information? May that IS what happened...having that public isn't going to be the best way for them to work on it and move on, and people like you who keep writing about it and making implications are just hurting his marriage more.

Anonymous said...


You're living in a dream world. Tiger owes us, his fans, nothing. I am a fan of Tiger the golfer, not Tiger the husband and father (not to say he's not accomplished as both as well). He fulfills his responsibility to us, by dominating on the course and in his charitable endeavors, not by revealing details about a supposed argument with his wife or of an accident at his house.

Anonymous said...

What's all the fuss about? Obviously, Tiger was upset; he had an accident; end of story. It's difficult to live in the limelight and maintain reasonable privacy. If this happened to any of the rest of us, it would never make the news. He is entitled to NO NEWS. Furthermore, there is nothing for the police to investigate. If there was no alcohol or drugs involved in this accident (and most believe there was no such involvement), it's the end of the story.

Anonymous said...

Hey John just write the story about DI-AA football and stop wasting our time with the Tiger Woods bullshit. It will come out when he is ready and has a story for all you tools to critique.

Anonymous said...

John, I'm not a "Tiger sycophant", but I am a huge fan. He doesn't owe me anything but another great and entertaining game of golf. Although you say he doesn't owe the media anything, you Mr. Media are trying to provoke an explanation for us fans? Let the man be.

As far as charges, typically in car accidents on private property the driver and property owner work things out -- oh, and the insurance agents. The accident evidently wasn't witnessed by the police, which also is material.

Just my 2¢... James in NC

funks2 said...

I just wish Richard Pryor were alive. I think that he would have loved to do a bit on this whole thing. Just lean back in your chair, close your eyes, and imagine the expression on Richard's face as he imitates Tiger running from a "rescue wood." Hilarious, unless, of course, you happen to be hiding out, or scramboling to do sponsorship damage control.

funks2 said...

I meant "scrambling"

Anonymous said...

I couldn't disagree with you more on you article on Tiger Woods. No, he does NOT owe ME or anyone else an explanation. How dare you imply that he has to explain anything in his life to me as a fan. Am I his parent? He has no obligation to me whatsoever. I am nauseated by peoples' obsessions with the lives of other. Get your own life and keep your nose out of others.

Anonymous said...

Tiger makes about 1 million dollars every 3 days. He owes his sponsors, his fans, other cheating husbands and any abusive wives out there an explanation. Three days ago.

John Jiang said...

It is fundamentally wrong with John Feinstein, I completely disagree with what he said in his article posted in Washington Post web site. Tiger Wood does not have to tell any body anything that he thinks that is private matter to him. It is Feinstein on the wrong.

Anonymous said...

He doesn't owe me a thing, and I don't owe him.

I don't want him to know about my personal business and I don't need to know his.

I do wnat to know about anything having to do with him on a golf coarse, and like a gentleman my interest (at least offically) will end there.

Let's quit making everything such a big deal huh?

He and his wife are in a bad place, isn't that sucky enough without the circling vultures?

JMR said...

He doesn't owe the fans anything. Tiger is where he is, not because of the media or the fans but because he's the greatest golfer since Bobby Jones, maybe the greatest ever. Golf is a gentleman's game. Tiger Woods is a gentleman. You and most of your cohort are not. Got news for you, John: Tiger's not a punch line, you are -- of a very bad joke.

Anonymous said...

All you guys saying he doesn't 'owe' us anything are missing the point, as no one is saying he HAS to say anything, but it seems to be in best interest. If he wasn't Tiger Woods with 32 publicists, lawyers, reps, etc, it wouldn't have gotten to this. If its just as he says, an 'embarrassing situation' and not something criminal (which it doesn't seem to be), what is so wrong with just saying the truth and not doing PR talk?

If he was angry, anxious, sleep walking, etc, just say so. Like, "I was pissed, drove out the driveway to fast, and wrecked. I feel like an idiot".....and the story would be DONE. Instead, all this publicity crap makes it seem he's hiding something. Therefore, the furor stays.

Anonymous said...

Why do you care so much? Leave the man alone. he doesn't owe US any kind of explanation. Maybe you should find something a little more important to do as that chip on your shoulder keeps growing. Tiger is Tiger because of his golf, not because of the media. He has fulfilled his responsibility to the police. Time to move on and let them be....

Anonymous said...

Tiger is not Tiger only because of his golf. He did not make his almost Billion dollar fortune because of merely his golf. His sponsorship is what made him his fortune. His image. Shouldn't he have the decency to give something back to his sponsors and fans that paid millions to see him? Shouldn't he stand up and be a man and face his consequences? Yes. That answer is Yes. Suck it up and be honest. The truth will set you free.

gfish said...

Mr. Feinstein
You put far too much stock in sports heros if you think they owe you something.

You probably are one of those men that follow around after them like some boy as well.

Why don't you get your own number and your own shirt instead of following around after celebrities and putting your stock in what you think they should do for you and the public for being immature enough to follow them around the country.

Grow up man.

Anonymous said...

This is not about Tiger owing Mr. Feinstein anything. This is about Tiger doing the right thing by the sponsors that sponsored Tiger into the hundreds of millions. He owes the sponsors an explanation. They are the ones who paid up his big bucks for the Tiger Woods image. He cheated, he got caught, face the tarnished image and consequences.

Anonymous said...

Tiger Woods only cheated himself.

Anonymous said...

Tiger Woods is handling this perfectly. The less he and his team talk, the shorter this "news" cycle will be.

Kerry Anne said...

Really? Did that happen with Clinton? The guy was almost impeached for saying next to nothing except for a famous one sentence that was a lie.

HowToBeATrueGolfer said...


Your unique perspective of how Tiger should of handled the situation is interesting. I assume you incorporate his personality traits in what you think would work the best. I agree with what should of happened and how little of an event this could have been.