Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tiger carefully charting a controlled return; Responding to question about journalists, TV guys, cheering at games

Okay, so I was wrong about Tiger Woods.

Don’t get carried away Tiger-apologists. I didn’t wake up this morning and become George Stephanopoulos or Robin Roberts.

Back when he held his Tiger-and-pony show on February 19th I found one thing about the whole circus act encouraging: the fact that he said this was not the time for him to think about when he would return to The PGA Tour; that he needed to get his personal life in order before even giving any thought to his golf career.

I had been predicting all along that Tiger would come out of hiding in time to play at least once before The Masters, perhaps twice. My thinking was that his so-called hiatus was little more than a PR move, that in the end he would do what was best for his golf game and wouldn’t miss the chance to add a major championship trophy to his collection.

On that morning in February I thought I’d misjudged him a little, that maybe there was some sincerity when he said the most important thing in his life was to repair his marriage and his personal life. My new guess became that he would come back in time to play a warm-up tournament or two before the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

Well, I got it wrong.

I should have been alerted by the fact that someone told me on the day of the Tiger-and-pony performance that he’d been hitting balls on the driving range at Isleworth the day before. I wasn’t.

Now though, it seems to be pretty clear he’s going to play The Masters. He spent some time with fellow Isleworth member Charles Howell last Monday and Howell was more than willing to tell people at last week’s Honda Classic how good Tiger looked. Then, Hank Haney, his swing coach, was spotted working with him on the Isleworth range this past weekend. And Monday, Mark O’Meara, his closest friend in golf, told The Golf Channel that he “wouldn’t be surprised,” if Woods tees it up on March 22nd in the Tavistock Cup, an exhibition staged for rich people and TV between the pros who belong to Isleworth and the pros who belong to nearby Lake Nona.

This is a perfect place for Woods to make his first public appearance with a golf club in his hands. To begin with, the event is “invitation only,”—members and guests from the two clubs and The Golf Channel, which pays a rights fee to televise the “tournament.” You can bet there won’t be any media, except perhaps a hand-picked apologist or two, on that guest list. If The Golf Channel is granted an interview you can also bet it will be under the “golf-questions only,” rule.

In fact, here’s an advance text on Tiger’s answers: “I felt good. It felt good to be competing again, to be with the guys. My game is a long way away from where I know it needs to be but this is a nice way to start.”

Question: “How’s it look for Augusta?”

“We’ll see how it goes. But I love playing in The Masters.” Pause to smile. “You know it’s been a while (2005) since I’ve won there so if my game’s up to it and I feel up to it, I’d like to play.”

From The Tavistock Cup you can expect Tiger to go down the road to Bay Hill. The tournament is run by IMG and the golf club is owned by Arnold Palmer. Again, control. They won’t be able to keep all the media out but they can probably keep the gossip media out. It will be a little more of a step from the cocoon but nothing that major. Then, two weeks later, Augusta, where you can bet the green jackets will protect Tiger with the zeal of a college president chasing money.

So, unless I’m wrong AGAIN, we’re back where we started: Tiger carefully charting a controlled return, making sure he doesn’t miss a major along the way.

All of which is fine. He’ll certainly be welcomed back by the golf world with open arms and about 90 percent of golf fans just want to see him play again. I’m all for that. Just please—please—don’t try to tell me he’s a different person. The Tiger-and-pony show was a clear indication that he’s still a control freak who thinks (correctly) that he can pretty much do whatever he wants and most people will just nod their head and thank him for existing.

That’s certainly what PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem did, not only sitting in the room like one of the acolytes, but then coming up with some ridiculous statistic about how many press conferences Woods has held as a defense for his refusal to answer questions. This wasn’t about birdies-and-bogeys commish and you know that as well, if not better, than anyone.

It will actually be amusing to witness the breathlessness around Tiger when he returns. If you think people walked on eggshells around him in the past, wait until you see the ballet moves people make now. What do you think the over-under is on people talking about what Tiger has “overcome,” when he comes back.

For the record, I have no axe to grind with Tiger. He’s never done anything to me. He’s actually given me more access over the years than he’s given to most writers—which is still very little—and I’m fine with that. He’s been great for golf right up until the morning of November 27th and, to be honest, that’s been great for me as someone who covers golf.

I just don’t buy the act. I know others do. And they’re certainly entitled to do so.

*********

Someone raised a question in yesterday’s posts about something I said on a radio show last week. Apparently there was a comment on some Maryland message board about the fact that I had said that if Jay Bilas and I (both Duke graduates) sat behind the Duke bench at Cameron Indoor Stadium and screamed at the officials all night the way Scott Van Pelt often does at Maryland games, we’d both be (justifiably) crucified. The Maryland person referred to Van Pelt as, “SVP.” To be honest it took me a minute to figure out who he was talking about.

Did I say it? Yes. Have I said it before? Yes. Look, I know TV guys are different than real journalists. They do commercials for one thing, which we don’t. Often they’re nothing more than teleprompter readers although the ESPN guys like to point out that they write their own stuff. (Stuart Scott once said this to me and I suggested he stick with the story that he was just reading what someone else wrote for him).

All that said, they are allegedly covering sports. Van Pelt has a radio show in which he interviews people and expresses opinions. Everyone knows he’s a Maryland grad, which is fine, we all went somewhere. He’s out-of-the-closet that he’s a rabid fan and that he hates Duke. If he wants to sit in the stands and berate the officials, that’s fine. Just don’t EVER talk about college basketball. As discussed here before, we ALL have opinions and we all have biases. But there needs to be a line you don’t cross if you are a public figure who is paid to express opinions and dispense news on sports.

As I said, if Bilas and I behaved that way at a Duke game—not likely since we’ve both outgrown that sort of thing a while ago—we’d get nailed for it. Maybe the fact that people just laugh and say, “Hey, that’s just Scott,” means that people don’t take him that seriously.

By the way, I get along fine with him, I’ve known him for years. I just don’t talk Maryland basketball with him because he’s completely insane on the subject. Gary Williams is a more objective observer. Now if HE wants to rant at the officials, that’s okay.

19 comments:

Josh... said...

You're right on John.

The thing with Tiger is pretty simple. As a person/man/husband, he lacks moral and ethical integrity. He's a cheater, big deal. Lots of ppl do it. It is what it is, his morals are off and whatever caused this can't be fixed in one fail swoop of therapy and public admittance. He may develop integrity in the future, but right now he and his agent are trying to apply a bandaid to the whole situation to draw attention away from the personal stuff. THEN, the world can all go back to admiring and emulating his golf game.

Time is the key here. Negative publicity takes literally hours or sometimes minutes to bring a person's credibility down. Positive publicity takes a much longer, drawn out effort to build up or back up in this case. Tiger and company are just trying to get the ball rolling in that direction.

As for his golf game, this will be an interesting time to watch. He has been accustomed to being the best in the world for a while now. He's probably still held in that regard, but really hasn't shown it on the course (in comparison to his first ten years on tour). Tiger has a long way to climb back to the summit of the mountain he built himself.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the thoughtful response on Scott Van Pelt's University Maryland basketball allegiance.

I can't say I agree. Sometimes, I watch Dick Vitale and wonder why he appears to be rooting for a team while he's doing the game. If you or Bilas were rooting for a team during a broadcast I guess I might try to put you in the category with Vitale (not good but hardly a condemnation). If you did it on your own time I don't think I'd care. Honestly, I'd expect rooting from Bilas as a former player (maybe not with the intesity of Van Pelt).

Anyway, as a college basketball and Terp fan I appreciate your coverage of the subject. Thanks again.

Paul said...

Enough with everyone 'moralizing' on Tiger Woods. It's boring and pathetic. I don't judge modern day athletes they are here to entertain me and bring me glorious HD Images as I sit on my 'couch'.

For some it makes them 'feel' better to call him a cheater and use big words like integrity and credibility. Others like to use words like kinder and gentler and more accepting... errr o.k. Tiger Woods the touchy feely athlete. I don't want to see that.

I am no Woods apologist.. in the 'real world' lots of Couples have issues. Marriage and Parenthood is tough work. Do me a favor, give us all a break on 'morals' and 'judgement' questions...save it for the guys on Wall Street!

Leave SVP alone.. so what if he's a Terp 'honk'. I'm sure dude can be objective.. give him a bit more credit!

Anonymous said...

John - by your own logic, is it appropriate for YOU to discuss college football when you root openly for Navy (including being critical of the refs, the heinous act that you take Van Pelt to task for)? Unlike your public expression of displeasure with refs during games that YOU BROADCAST, Van Pelt's criticism of refs (if indeed there was any) was during his OWN time.

Gunnar said...

I agree about Tiger. It is all very carefully scripted and controlled. He will probably return to win lots of golf tournaments, but the endorsements are all but gone (except for Nike golf). Accenture has got to be kicking themselves for the "Go on, be a Tiger" campaign. For someone who values privacy and control, this has been a very bizarre manner in which to live. I will enjoy watching him play golf again, but will certainly be rooting for other players.

Tim said...

Hey, the whole blog today was even keeled...good read.

For Anonymous 1:05PM -- talking of allegiances and biases, and jumping up and down like a deranged fan (and I say that with respect, many of a friend act this way) are two different ballgames. At the heart of the matter, John's example is correct in that people like Bilas, he, or even a Dick Vitale who sits in the stands and roots like a 'atypical' fan would get raked over the coals. This is who Van Pelt is, and its plays well so he can get away with it. More power to him.

Josh said...

Paul,
How is it questioning someone's (immortal athlete or not) morals and integrity when that person has admitted to adultery? Isn't that an obvious violation of a pretty well known moral obligation in our society....MARRIAGE.

I'm not judging him nor does 'it make me feel better'; if anything I'm saying society should and will move past his personal, 'real world' transgressions soon.


If Tiger doesn't want to deal with the tumbling house of cards, he should just get divorced and keep snagging waitresses. He should have done this in the first place.

Vince Spence said...

...They won’t be able to keep all the media out but they can probably keep the gossip media out.

Definition: GOSSIP MEDIA

1. Anybody who wrote any article about Tiger that was rumor based ??(99.67%)
2. Anybody except those with GWAA cards??
3. Even those with GWAA cards if they are ONLY bloggers??
4. ALL golfbloggers who have roamed the earth since creation?

Please do tell us, John, just who is the gossip media? Remember now, your blogs and WP articles are archived, so we can check which gossip you wallowed in...

Anonymous said...

VinceSpence - I'd imagine that a little common sense used one could infer what 'Gossip Media' is. I would start with TMZ, the National Enquirer, Radar Online, etc. Not that there isn't a place for those guys in todays media, because readership tells otherwise, but their means and methods and filter systems are essentially non-existent.

There are, I'm sure, some outlets that straddle the fence and I'm by no means an expert in this, but its the eye test for laymen like me.

I read fairly regularly on here, and I can't say I've seen John crossing the TMZ/Radar line. Maybe I missed something though.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm....nah, you DO have an axe to grind with Tiger....and that's fine. Just be honest about it and stop trying to convince anyone within an ear shot that you don't. It's obvious to anyone that listens to you talk about Tiger or write about him that you just don't feel the same way about him that you feel about say...Mike Krzyzewski. It is what it is. Most, if not all top athletes in their respective sports are womanizers...that's just the world we live in. From Babe Ruth to Micky Mantle to Muhammad Ali to Michael Jordan...they get the women...boat loads of them...simple as that. Now, the sooner we all wrap our minds around that little nugget and stop acting as if athletes are supposed to be the epitome of morality, the better things will be. All I want to know about Tiger is when will he back on the golf course? Can you get me that answer John? As opposed to all the back and forth guessing you keep giving us? That's all I need when it comes to Tiger. The sooner he's on the course, the better the competition gets because he raises everyone's game. I just want to see him wearing RED on Sundays...that's it.

Gordon said...

John

Anonymous' point above about Navy proves what I said the other day about you and Wilbon. I'm afraid your being a hypocryte. Your a journalist and a broadcaster. You simply can not have it both ways when the situation suits you.

i have no problem with you or anyone else being critical of referees. That includes players and coaches. Why officals and referees are above it has always confused me.

John please don't do one thing and call out someone else for doing the exact same thing. Your better than that or at least I thought you were!

I was surprised and very disapointed that you had no comment on the Steve Williams interview. Obviously Stevie cleared it with Eldrick prior and even more obviously he told Tiger what he planned to say.

As I've said Tiger can stay away there are 149 other players to watch.

Please John and blog crew.... GET US SPELL CHECK!

ARCstats said...

Look, anyone who doesn't think Tiger Woods and anyone associated with him is full of s@#^ simply isn't paying attention. This guy has been spewing total BS nonsense since the first microphone was put in his face - regardless of the subject. Fun golf game to watch, but the rest of the TW package is a complete fraud. I feel sorry for those who can't seem to see this.

Blake H said...

You jump on Van Pelt, yet you berate the Georgetown program and the coaches Thompson all the time -- mostly for not playing in the BB&T. You perpetuate lies (like stating again today on WFAN that Georgetown failed to make the 2004 Big East Tourney) in support of your agenda against Georgetown. You make statements like "it's a matter of record" that it's Georgetown's fault that they and Maryland don't play.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. If you want to be biased and rip on Georgetown, that’s fine. Just don’t EVER talk about college basketball.

Jay Simmons said...

Feinstein --

there you go spouting your opinions as fact again.

And as for your pitiful performance on WFAN today, sir, you are outright LYING when you perpetuate your falsehood the Georgetown missed the Big East Tournament in 2004. It is NOT TRUE and yet you bring it up time and time again. Georgetown has never missed a Big East Tournament. Not once. Never.

And if you keep repeating this lie we will keep corrcexting your unprofessional arse in the comments area of this blog.

Seriously - summon up the remaining ounce of professionalism you have. We're way past expecting you and your comically big ego to actually apologize and correct yourself on the public record. We'd settle for you just agreeing to stop lying about this. Moron.

Noel Pardo said...

JUNIOR -

Here's the link to the 2003-2004 season results for Georgetown

http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/basketball/teams/gae/schedule?y=2003

Note the POSTSEASON game against Boston College at the bottom. That was in the BIG EAST TOURNAMENT that year, you nincompoop. The one that you repeatedly lie about every chance you get.

I know you read the comments of this blog, because you have such thin skin that you often respond to them in your posts. So now at least I know you know you're LYING about this - as if you didn't before. So don't keep repeating this tripe - and don't go moralizing to others when it's clear you will willfully deceive your readers when it suits your purpose.

Tony Phillips said...

Wait, you have no axe to grind with Tiger? Could you be less self-aware or more of a pathological liar?

No one buys that crap anyway Feinstein. You're like a friggin' plate spinner you grind so many axes at once.

Why don't you explain to your readers that Team Tiger turned down your book idea back in 1997, so you responded in your typically petty/hissy fit way by absolutely trashing Tiger and his dad in a short book (more of a long essay) called "Second Coming" found here:

http://www.amazon.com/First-Coming-Library-Contemporary-Thought/dp/0345422864

Stick it Feinstein. Your unprofessionalism knows no bounds.

Anonymous said...

Wow - some serious hatred going on today. And here I was reading and thinking it was all pretty tame.

For the record, the guy who claims Feinstein answers comments from time to time because he has 'thin skin,' I could care less WHY he answers them, but I am glad he responds. If he had such thin skin, he would probably just shut down the comments.

Vince Spence said...

As part of the 'great unwashed', a golf blogger, I giggle when mainstream media guys put in their little digs about my (our) level of competence and integrity.

JF's reference to the 'gossip media' was probably not intended to include Washington Post sportswriters or those at SI and Golf Illustrated. Nevertheless, the reporters I noticed jumping on EVERY rumor about Tiger was a Who's Who in American golf journalism.

Elin has left Florida.

Elin renegotiates pre-nup

Tiger in Arizona (Mississippi, Ohio) for booze, sex and drug rehab

Ghost of Earl visits Tiger every night in his undies

I have zero writing skills and a lot less integrity than I desire, but rumor and gossip ran rampant among the big names in golf reporting, not just knuckleheads like me...

Anonymous said...

Commenting on Tiger's hiring of Ari Fleischer(sp?)on The Golf Channel, John diparaged Ari as having defended an indefensible war. John should remember that approx 40% of the general public does not agree with him on this, and the percentage may be higher in the golf viewing public. It reminded me of many Hollywood-types being unable to keep their politics out of their public comments and alienating a lot of people...