I would really like to write this morning about Army-Navy weekend, just tell a few stories about the people I encountered and the game and how I got caught (again) tearing up during the playing of the alma maters.
But it’s simply impossible to just drive past the train wreck that is Tiger Woods. I’ve said and written a lot about Tiger the last 13 years but I honestly never thought the phrase, ‘train wreck,’ would appear in a sentence describing his life. That, however, is exactly where he is right now.
It’s interesting the sort of panic that his statement that he was taking an ‘indefinite,’ leave of absence from the tour set off on Friday night. I was about to leave my hotel to meet people for dinner when Golf Channel called. They were about to break into their programming to go live with the story. Could I come on by phone and ‘react?’ Sure. I work for Golf Channel so when they call I’m there to do what they ask even if I seriously doubt I can add that much to the equation. I did the interview with Rich Lerner while standing on Broad Street outside The Philadelphia Palm before I joined everyone for dinner.
By the time we walked out of the restaurant a couple of hours later I had 18 messages from various media outlets on my cell phone. CNN—which is always there when it needs you—had called no less than four times: ‘Larry King Live,’—whose producers consistently say ‘we don’t do sports,’ whenever I have a book out even though I knew the host well when he lived fulltime in Washington—suddenly was doing sports. Same with Anderson Cooper, not to mention their regular news shows. The other calls were predictable ranging from local radio to ABC News.
The only people I called back were those I work with on a regular basis. The larger point is this: NO ONE knows what the hell any of this means. One of the reasons I’m really not that eager to play Tiger pundit right now is that anything I say is an absolute guess.
The questions are predictable: When do you think Tiger will play golf again? Answer: I have no idea and my guess is neither does he right now.
What does this mean for his career?
Again, who among us knows? Maybe golf will become his salvation in light of all that’s gone on and he’ll play better than in the past. Maybe other players won’t be as intimidated by him. Maybe he won’t feel so all-powerful on the golf course because he’s been humiliated off the golf course.
What does this mean for The PGA Tour?
Nothing good, that’s for sure. Commissioner Tim Finchem has always used the following line to pump up his sport, especially when wooing sponsors: “The most famous athlete in the world plays on our tour.” Well, he still does but he is now as infamous as he is famous. Of course there’s no way to measure the impact Tiger’s ‘leave,’ will have until we know how long he’s going to be gone for.
Does Tiger have to actually talk to the media at some point and stop hiding behind his carefully crafted statement on his web site?
Actually no, he doesn’t. He can continue to play the, ‘this is my private life,’ card and a lot of people will buy it. He’s also going to have his apologists running around acting as if he’s a ‘victim,’ of some kind—which he is if you count the fact that he’s a victim of his own selfishness and stupidity. Charles Barkley did some kind of commentary on TBS the other night that was actually embarrassing, trying to claim the whole thing is the fault of all the ‘losers,’ in the media who continue to report the story. Hey Chuck, if the media are such losers why don’t you get OUT of the media. And of course there’s my friend Mike Wilbon (pal of Chuck) who keeps insisting that every famous person on the face of the planet has done this so it’s a non-story.
That’s the way it always is in these situations. There are people who still blame Woodward and Bernstein for Richard Nixon’s resignation and others who insist that what happened to Bill Clinton was a ‘right wing conspiracy.’ It’s worth remembering that Bernstein probably would have still been covering Virginia state politics and Woodward local cops and courts if the burglars hadn’t been caught and that there isn’t any evidence that Monica Lewinsky was working undercover for Rush Limbaugh.
It’s human nature when we screw up to initially try to blame someone or something for our troubles. There’s an old saying among golfers that you can tell the truly great players because they always tap down a spike mark in their line after missing a putt. You see it can’t be THEIR fault. Part of what makes them great is always believing that they made the putt; something simply conspired to keep the ball out of the hole.
There is no one more like that than Tiger. The looks to the heavens; the eye-rolling; the club tossing are all part of that mentality. Sometimes you feel as if Tiger has the hardest life every lived, that he is the first and only player to have a putt do a 360 around the hole and stay out. It is one reason why he always seems to make the next one, as if he’s saying, ‘no matter what you do you won’t get me!’
There’s no doubt that’s how he feels now. He’s certainly surrounded by people (with the likely exception of his wife) who are telling him that every day. They are all Barkley times ten in large part because they’re trying to save their jobs. Some people have called for Tiger to fire IMG; to fire Steve Williams; to fire everyone on his payroll. Look, I’m no fan of IMG and would love to see Steve Williams in a parking lot holding up a sign that says, ‘will caddy for food.’ But if Tiger wants to fire the person responsible for all this he’d have to fire himself.
Personally, I hope he comes back before The Masters. Golf is better with Tiger than without Tiger and anyone who believes different is a fool. But I also hope that sometime between now and his return he goes outside his circle of sycophants and asks for help whether it be from a crisis manager or someone else as long as it is someone who has NO financial involvement in Tiger Woods Inc. And I hope whomever that is tells him that stonewalling is never the answer; that blaming others is never the answer.
He’s admitted his “infidelities,”; he admitted “letting people down.” People need to HEAR him say it, need to get a sense if he means it or if he’s just saying it because that’s what his spinners have told him to say.
There’s another more selfish reason why I hope Tiger starts talking sometime soon: CNN will stop calling me. I swear to God they called again while I was writing this. Maybe I’ll give them Barkley’s number. I’m sure he’ll talk to them—he’s on their payroll.
On a far lighter and more pleasant note: My pal Bill Hancock from the BCS dealt with being bombarded with his usual good humor during dinner Friday night. He answered NONE of the questions posed to him—most by former Army and Navy football players, I just sat and watched—to anyone’s satisfaction. I think my friend Jim Cantelupe, the co-captain of the Army team I wrote about in ‘A Civil War,’ summed it up well at the end of the night: “Everything he says is wrong but he’s so nice about it you can’t get pissed off at him.”
What was funny was Bill saying that a four team playoff would still have left out an undefeated team when everyone at the table was calling for at least eight teams. When someone asked him about the presidents adding a 12th game strictly to make more money, Bill shook his head sincerely and said, “you know a lot of presidents were against that.
I couldn’t resist jumping in at that point and saying, “not a majority though, huh Bill?”
He just smiled in response.
He also made the mistake of trying the “regular season has more meaning,” argument which was shouted down by people noting that TCU and Boise State could have had NFL teams on their schedule and still wouldn’t have gotten a shot at the championship game.
“I hope I’ll still have some friends left when this is all over,” Bill said after dinner.
I promised I’d always be his friend—which I will—no matter how wrong he might be.