I feel torn this morning because there is a lot of cool stuff to write about: Bode Miller’s redemption and his remarkable slalom run yesterday—which I still haven’t seen because every single time I try to turn on NBC they are showing figure skating. I mean EVERY SINGLE TIME. There’s also the U.S.’s stunning hockey win over Canada—which you COULD watch on MSNBC while the dopey ice dancing was going on. Two months ago, George McPhee, the general manager of The Washington Capitals told me he thought the U.S. had a chance in Vancouver for one reason: Ryan Miller. So far he looks pretty smart.
(Note to anyone who is going to get offended because I think figure skating is ridiculous: I’m NOT saying the skaters aren’t remarkable athletes. But so are ballet dancers and I don’t think ballet dancing should be an Olympic sport either. Enough about that.)
There is also plenty of college hoops to talk about right now with Selection Sunday—perhaps the last one that will really matter if the NCAA goes Dialing for Dollars this summer as I suspect it will—less than three weeks away.
But I can’t seem to escape Tiger Woods. The more times I see a replay of the farce he staged on Friday and then hear people self-righteously defending him, I get a little bit angrier although perhaps not as angry as the poster who ripped me on Friday for being willing to write all about John Daly’s genitals in a book and then for criticizing Tiger. Thanks to whomever posted right below her and pointed out that RICK REILLY wrote that book. How do you confuse me with Rick Reilly? What are the chances I’d ever be caught dead wearing a white suit? Or any suit for that matter.
Here’s what I find most interesting about the various commentaries I’ve seen, heard and read since Friday. Most of those who have actually spent time around Tiger—notice I didn’t say KNOW Tiger because I agree with my friend Sally Jenkins who wrote that Tiger won’t let anyone really know him—saw what took place on Friday as a performance. I’m not just talking about the fact that the whole thing had clearly been rehearsed and the fact that he literally READ the words, “Good morning.”
I’m not even talking about the ridiculous scene we saw with Tiger’s “friends and colleagues,” (many of whom are his employees) sitting up straight in their chairs at rapt attention as if the President was addressing the nation in the midst of some kind of crisis. I’m surprised they didn’t all stand when Tiger entered and exited the room.
I’m not even talking about his refusal to answer questions and the comic attempt by his agent Mark Steinberg to handpick a group of reporters to be “allowed,” to sit in the room at the feet of The Great Man.
What made this so clearly a performance is something raised by the Tiger-defenders: “He doesn’t have to apologize to anyone except his family,” is a bleat I’ve heard repeated often—especially on ESPN where I wonder if the Bristol Boys are writing the same script for everyone in the desperate hope that Tiger will grant them (pant-pant) a sit-down with one of their softball questioners in the future. (Stephen A. Smith was the notable exception but he’s no longer a rising star at the network and they can just tell Team Tiger, ‘we didn’t know he was going to, you know, tell the truth. We apologize’).
Okay then folks, if he didn’t need to apologize to anyone but his family what was he doing out there apologizing to anyone and everyone including all the children in the world? Here’s the answer: This was step one, not of the 12 steps to recovery for addicts, but in the however-many-steps-it-takes to recovery for fallen icons. Tiger wants his sponsors back—or new sponsors to take their place. He wants to be beloved again. He wants people to think he’s “changed.” What he was doing Friday is no different than a beer company ad that urges you to “drink responsibly,” after pitching its product. Tiger wants people to think he CARES about them now.
Look, I know a lot of you will say I just don’t like Tiger. In truth, I don’t know him well enough to like or dislike him. I’m awed by his talent as a golfer and I’m always disappointed when I watch him blow off kids asking for autographs and I think he’s disdainful of most people. I think he’s smart as hell and I see his arrogance as one of the reasons he’s the golfer that he is. I agree with people who say that if he’d ever let his guard down he’d probably be a good guy to have a beer with. I also think—as I have always thought—that he’s been a victim of his father, not a product of his father, for a long, long time. The fact that I’ve written that and said that since he first came on tour is a major reason why Tiger doesn’t like ME. Which is fine. Lots of people don’t like me. It comes with the job.
But the notion that I sit back and lob bombs at Tiger or anyone based on personal biases is silly. We all have biases and the key as reporters is being aware of them. I don’t know, for example, Nick Saban but everything I’ve ever seen of him or read about him or been told about him by those who do know him, indicates to me I wouldn’t like him at all. But the guy is a GREAT college football coach. Period. I don’t really know Joe Paterno very well but everything I’ve seen of him, read about him and been told about him indicates to me that I WOULD like him. He is also a GREAT college football coach.
So my reaction to Tiger on Friday isn’t personal. It’s based on what I know from watching him in action on and off golf courses for 14 years. If he comes back to the game and learns to behave on the golf course—and makes his vigilante caddy behave—terrific. I will applaud him for that. If he repairs his marriage, that’s his business just as if he doesn’t, that’s his business too. I’d like to see him sign more autographs; play in some of the tournaments that gave him sponsor exemptions when he first turned pro (and in the Bob Hope Classic which could use the boost) and just be a little nicer to people who aren’t paying him to be nice. I hold out little if no hope that he’ll be kinder and gentler with the media and, honestly, I don’t care.
That said, I found his lecturing of the media Friday amazing. He screams and yells about his wife and kids being followed to school. He knows full well that none of the media who have covered him regularly (and most treated him as a God-life figure) followed anyone to school. He also knows that it was HIS behavior that brought the tabloids into the life of his family.
As for his rant about how unfair it was for people to say Elin attacked him on Thanksgiving night, fine, I’ll take him at his word. Except for one thing: If Elin didn’t attack or threaten you in some way, how the hell did you end up in your car at 2:30 in the morning in a T-shirt, shorts and bare feet, clearly in no condition to drive but driving anyway—right into a fire hydrant outside your house? None of us needs to hear about conversations inside the house—Tiger is very good at saying he won’t answer questions few of us want to ask—but as a public figure who set in motion a series of extraordinarily public events by getting into the car, he DOES need to explain how he got there. Don’t call people liars if you aren’t prepared to provide them with the truth.
Here’s the worst part of the whole thing: Tiger Woods has now become one of the most polarizing public figures on the planet. Other than what HE did—not the tabloid media—to his family, that’s the saddest part of this whole thing.