As I’ve said before, some mornings it is hard to know where to begin.
The biggest story in sports continues to be ‘Tiger-gate.’ Yesterday, to no one’s surprise, he announced he was pulling out of his own tournament—it is really an exhibition since every player collects a big check—because of the injuries he suffered last Friday morning. What’s interesting about that is that his spin-doctors rushed out with a statement on Friday claiming his injuries were, “minor.” Now, four days later he’s too badly hurt to get on a private plane to, at the very least put in an appearance on behalf of the tournament sponsor who is putting up $5.5 million in prize money alone.
Methinks he’s not ready to let anyone see him public.
Let me pause a moment here to go back to yesterday and some of the comments that were posted here. I’m always very curious to see what readers write, especially because they frequently raise questions or issues I hadn’t thought about. Since I started the blog five months ago very few of those who have posted or sent e-mails have been especially negative or angry. In fact, one of the things that has made me happy is the thoughtfulness and, well, smartness of so many of the posts. It isn’t like reading some other blog posting areas where people scream cyber-profanities at one another and toss anonymous cheap shots around.
Yesterday, a lot of the posts were pretty much the norm: smart people agreeing to perhaps disagree on a complicated topic which very much involves how much privacy a public figure is entitled to have. But there were also some that were angry—angry with me for suggesting that Woods owes the public some kind of an explanation because there are so many un-answered questions about what happened last Friday. I also wrote that it would be best for HIM to give some kind of explanation and I think the fact that he had to pull out of his own tournament is more evidence of that. At the moment he is, for all intents and purposes, a prisoner in his own home.
What I realized reading the posts is something I hadn’t thought about in the past. I’ve always known that fans of a TEAM don’t care at all about the off-field behavior of their stars as long as they perform. Right now fans of the Yankees could care less about Alex Rodriguez’s steroids admissions last spring. All they know is he (finally) performed in postseason and the Yankees won The World Series. Fans of college football and basketball teams could care less about whether their players graduate: they want them to perform, win games, make them feel good. If you graduate, that’s fine, but it doesn’t matter. No coach—repeat NO coach—has ever been fired because he had a low graduation rate.
Woods is such a transcendent figure that many fans look at him as THEIR golfer. As a number of posts said, “as long as he entertains me with spectacular golf, I don’t care what he does off the course.” (At least one poster spelled it coarse, but that’s okay). A couple of others went the kind of tired route that those of us who report on athletes transgressions are essentially ambulance chasers and we should leave the guy alone, mind our own business, yata-yata-yata. My suggestion to them is that they not waste their time with this blog because what I write here for the most part is about people I know and have known in sports, the good and the bad. If you are looking for happy talk, go to TigerWoods.com.
Here’s the larger point: In the end most fans just want athletes to perform, to make them feel happy by winning and, in Tiger’s case, often winning spectacularly. I get all that, I have a better understanding of that today than I did yesterday because I hadn’t thought of it in those terms for an athlete in an individual sport.
I will say this: Golf Channel had a crisis-management expert on the air yesterday, a guy who clearly has no vested interest in this at all. He basically said what I had said: the longer Tiger stonewalls, the worse it gets for him—because there are LOTS of people who see a carefully cultivated image and wonder now if it’s real. That’s not going away regardless of what I say, write or think. I would add one more thing for those of you who care only about what Tiger does on the golf course: He’s not ON the golf course entertaining you this week. It may be because he’s more beat up than his people let on last Friday or it may be because he’s hiding out. Either way, it’s really too damn bad for everyone—including Tiger.
On to happier topics: Charlie Weis got fired yesterday. That wasn’t even a little bit of a surprise to anyone but it always amuses me how guys in suits think they can spin things just by claiming they’re true. Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, who does look good in a suit, talked about how difficult the decision was because Weis is really such a good guy. “I have never met anyone for whom there was a larger gulf between perception and reality than Charlie Weis,” he claimed and then went into all the hoo-ha about how much Weis loves Notre Dame—as if that qualifies ANYONE to coach. I love the New York Islanders. That doesn’t mean I should coach them.
Here’s some Weis reality: he swaggered into Notre Dame telling people he was going to out-scheme other coaches and bullying the media, using his opening press conference to “lay down the law,” on what would and wouldn’t be allowed and threatening reporters with banishment if they failed to follow all his rules.
More reality: he never once took responsibility for his failures. It was always the players who failed to run a route right, didn’t make a block or a tackle. The old, “I coached good, they played bad,” routine. When Notre Dame won it was because of some brilliant offensive scheme he came up with. (See last year’s Hawaii Bowl).
A bit more reality: Weis ducked the media after the Stanford game last Saturday, wasn’t man enough to stand there and accept that he had failed. Actually, it may be a good thing: no doubt he would have blamed the players for his failures. Then he went out and started leaking about all the NFL teams that were interested in him.
THAT’s the reality of Charlie Weis.
What was almost as amusing was to hear the two morning guys on ESPN apologizing for him today. Of course one has two sons recruited by Weis and is an apologist for all things Notre Dame. The other is simply an apologist for anyone who has ever appeared on-air so it really isn’t surprising.
Weis got what he deserved—except for the fact that Notre Dame still has to pay him $18 million. That part is just sad.
One last note for the day: In a major non-surprise the folks who run the tennis Grand Slams yesterday fined Serena Williams $82,500 for her outburst at a lineswoman during the U.S. Open and gave her a stern talking to: as in, ‘do this again and you could be suspended.’
Let me allow my pal Mary Carillo, who is more worthy to comment on this than I am (or anyone else) explain exactly what happened. This is what she wrote in an e-mail yesterday to The Washington Post’s Liz Clarke:
“Serena Williams physically threatened and verbally assaulted an official during one of the most watched tennis matches of 2009 and after three months of considered cogitation the Grand Slam Committee came up with ‘Grand Slam Probation and a ‘suspended ban?’ And half of what was deemed to be her fine? Boy, that ought to show everyone.”
Carillo’s summation: “It was a cockamamie decision.”
Mary grew up in Queens with John McEnroe. She knows a “you can NOT be serious,” situation when she sees one. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Mary should be the commissioner of tennis. She’s smarter than every person with authority in the game—smarter than all of them combined.