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.
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.