Monday, March 22, 2010

Tiger Woods decided to pull an A-Rod, but great NCAA Tourney puts in on the back burner for me

It was a spectacular weekend of basketball, sullied only by Tiger Woods deciding to pull an A-Rod by showing up un-announced and un-invited in the middle of the NCAA basketball tournament to give his first two, ‘interviews,’ since the morning of November 27th.

Let’s dispense with Tiger first because it won’t take long. He said absolutely nothing new. This was nothing more than another staged step in the ‘Tiger Over America Image-Rehab Tour.’ Although Golf Channel reported Sunday night that Ari Fleischer was leaving ‘Team Tiger,’ (maybe because people are catching on to his act) this had his fingerprints all over it.

Hand-pick two interviewers: in this case Golf Channel’s Kelly Tilghman and ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi and tell them they have exactly SIX minutes on camera. That makes follow-up virtually impossible, allowing Woods to duck and weave whenever specific questions were asked. He’s always been good at talking in generalities and now he’s added, “that’s private,” to his arsenal.

So, he essentially said nothing. He repeated that his behavior was ‘disgusting,’; said it all happened because he quit meditating and got away from Buddhism (seriously) and said he loved his wife very much.

Specifics? Forget it. What are you in rehab for?—a legitimate question since he brings it up every 30 seconds—that’s private. What happened on the morning of November 27th?—legit again because he insists that Elin never did anything to him and those who said she did are lying—it’s all in the police report. No, not exactly. What’s your schedule like the rest of the year after Augusta?—don’t know. Of course he knows, he knows EXACTLY what he’s going to be doing on July 18th at 10:48 a.m. That’s who he is.

You know what—it’s fine. At this point I think 99 percent of us simply don’t care anymore. Just tee it up and go play Tiger. Except one thing: don’t tell us you’ve changed. You’re still an absolute control freak; you still got yourself logo’ed up for your 12 minutes on camera; you still are the king of dodge-ball on almost any subject and you’re still dictating terms to anyone and everyone who is willing to let you dictate.

Yes, you are still Tiger Woods. Go win The Masters and a bunch more majors; go sell yourself to a public that no doubt will be willing to be sold. But don’t tell us you’ve changed. Maybe—MAYBE—you can change your on-course behavior. That would be a step in the right direction. Maybe you can sign more than 12 autographs a year. That would be progress.


Okay, now for the important stuff that happened this weekend. Let’s start with the three teams I’d most like to see at The Final Four: Cornell, Northern Iowa and St. Mary’s. Each is a great story in a different way.

The Northern Iowa-Kansas game was one of the wildest and most entertaining games—not to mention stunning—I’ve seen in years. The Panthers were rock solid for about 36 minutes and then, when they had the upset in their sights, they woke up and realized where they were. Suddenly, they couldn’t get the ball inbounds. I actually found myself thinking, ‘this is going to be the game Kansas looks back on as the key moment of the year when it cuts down the nets in Indy.’

Wrong again. Ali Farokhmanesh hit one of the all-time gutsy shots with the lead down to 63-62 and Northern Iowa held on. As my friend Tom Brennnan, the former Vermont coach said later, “there are going to be an amazing number of kids named Ali in Iowa in the next couple of years.”

I had the chance to talk to Northern Iowa Coach Ben Jacobsen on the weekly radio show I’m doing during the tournament and I asked him what went through his mind when Farokemanesh launched the shot. His answer, I thought, was interesting: “I figured we had a better chance with Ali taking the shot than trying to dribble the clock for 20 seconds and probably getting trapped again.”

You have to feel for Bill Self and his players. They had a spectacular season but their year will be defined by the loss on Saturday. That’s the way college basketball works. For all the paeans being sung to Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez and his gutty teammates here in the DC area today, the bottom line is they didn’t make the Sweet 16. And, even though the Vasquezites are saying he’s one of the best five players in Maryland history the stat the matters most is this: wins. In four years, Vasquez played on Maryland teams that won three NCAA Tournament games and never got to the second weekend.

Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter—comparable because they played in the same era as Vasquez, unlike guys like John Lucas, Len Elmore, Tom McMillen, Albert King, Buck Williams, Len Bias and Walt Williams to name a few—won 13 tournament games, played in two Final Fours and won a national title.

Don’t get me wrong. Vasquez had a fabulous year. He deserved ACC player-of-the-year and he hit a bunch of big shots, including the one that gave Maryland the lead on Sunday with six seconds left. And you can’t criticize him for shooting too soon because when you’re down one you need to get a shot up and hope for a rebound if you miss.

But let’s not overstate all this. The Terrapins got into a habit of falling too far behind and figuring their press would bail them out. Often, it did. In postseason—Georgia Tech and Michigan State—it almost did. But almost doesn’t count. On the other hand, they got a lot closer to the Sweet 16 than Georgetown did.

Back to the Cinderellas. If you think Cornell is a fluke, look again. If the Big Red did nothing else this weekend they proved without any doubt that the committee must have been watching another team when it evaluated them and thought they were a No. 12 seed. Their two wins over Temple and Wisconsin, both solid, very well-coached teams, were dominating. In 80 minutes of basketball they trailed for, I think, about one minute. Their margins were 13 and 18 and in both cases they backed off at the finish because the deed was done.

Look, I’m not insane enough to say they’ll beat Kentucky. But I do think it will be a great basketball game. Maybe Kentucky will be too athletic for Cornell over 40 minutes. But one thing I’m pretty sure of is this: Cornell won’t be intimidated. This is a team that’s already played at Kansas and at Syracuse—where this game will be played with a lot of the crowd pulling for the underdog. I just wish it wasn’t tipping off at some time after 10 o’clock—God sometimes I hate CBS—because it means I’ll be up way past my bedtime—but I can’t wait to see it.

Finally: A few words on different conferences. The Pac-10 proved me completely wrong this past weekend and I attribute it to me being silly enough to write the league off because it was lousy in pre-conference play. Teams DO get better—all credit to Washington for what it did and to Cal, which couldn’t handle Duke’s defense, but dominated Louisville.

As for The Big East and the ACC, well, as Ricky Ricardo used to say to Lucy: they’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do. The Big East advanced two of eight teams to the second week. That said, I think both Syracuse and West Virginia are capable of making Indy and if they do all will be well as far as the folks in Providence are concerned.

As for the ACC? ONE team still playing, meaning it matched the Ivy League, The Missouri Valley and the WCC—among others. In fact, here’s a stat worth considering: In the last five seasons, the Missouri Valley has placed four different schools in the sweet sixteen: Bradley, Wichita State, Southern Illinois and now Northern Iowa. During those same five years the ACC—with a LOT more bids—has played THREE of its schools in the sweet sixteen: North Carolina, Duke and Boston College.

Think about that for a minute. Then call the ACC offices in Greensboro, ask to speak to John Swofford and say this: So how’s that football expansion working out for you John?

19 comments:

case said...

John
even worse that cornell's 12 seed was northern iowa's 9 seed when they had a 17 rpi
how does guerrero answer that one ?

Gunnar said...

The Ali shot was fantastic...in our house it was a collective "No! No!....Clutch!" Lots of great games on Thursday and Saturday.

I thought Tiger picked a pretty good time to do his 2nd round of scripted messages. Everyone in the sports world is glued to the Tourney. Everyone in the gossip pages is focused on Sandra Bullock's marriage troubles. Throw in the health care bill, and Tiger is far from the front pages of any section in the newspaper.

Tim said...

This year's tournament is a testament to 'wanting it.' Teams, and players, who have played without fear, played without concern of losing, and just wanting to win by hanging it all out in aggressiveness are the ones being rewarded. It hasn't always been the case, but teams are WINNING games this year, not LOSING them. Two very different feelings.

The Ali shot was unconditional, but like you said his coach said, it was actually giving them their best chance to win. The 3-4 mins prior had been a serious struggle for them to do the normal things in the game, like getting the ball in bounds, that taking the chance to win the game rather than 'hold on,' was a great moment.

It was unconventional for coaches and players that are worried about what happens next, but it was what was needed.

Anonymous said...

"....What happened on the morning of November 27th?—legit again because he insists that Elin never did anything to him and those who said she did are lying—it’s all in the police report. No, not exactly"...wrong John. What happened on the morning of November 27 is a private matter between him and Elin...just like what happened on that morning in your house is a private matter. It's as simple as that. I know you're dying to know what happened since you can't wait to nail him on it every opportunity you get but that's his personal life. Deal with it. Specifics? What specifics are you digging for? Just report on golf and leave the speculation crap to TMZ. I personally I don't think he needs to apologize to anyone who isn't his wife, kids and sponsors. Everyone else can take a hike. From here on out, he really needs to take a refresher course from Barry Bonds on how to deal with the media. There was nothing phony there....he hated the media, the media hated him and they both knew it. He spoke to the media when he damn well pleased and what he damn well wanted to talk about...if you didn't like it, you could take a hike. John, you can't tell me there aren't people in your business that did exactly what Tiger did (maybe not as many women). I know you know quite a few personally so please, cut the crap. I think that's the one thing about Tiger that bothers me a bit...he's still trying to please everyone...it just can't be done. People will ALWAYS find something to criticize him for...he just needs to worry about winning majors.

Anonymous said...

How's football expansion working out for the ACC? As I recall Boston College was one of the schools added via the expansion, so I'd say expansion has increased the ACC's representation in the sweet 16 by 50% over the past 5 years.

Mr. X said...

John,

Maybe this question is better addressed to Knoche, but what about the horrible lane violation call late in the MSU-NMS game that helped Sparty win? Hubert Davis rightly went nuts in the post-game analysis and Vitale put up a pathetic defense of the timing of the call.

R said...

So a violation isn't really a violation because it happens late in a game?

Vince Spence said...

John,

Please give us the questions you would ask if he promised to answer everything 100% fully and honestly. Also, please tell us why you believe the answer to each is important to the public, not you or the mainstream media.

Thanks...

John but not John Feinstein said...

@Anonymous at March 22, 2010 12:29 PM

For the most part, as you suggest, Tiger can do whatever he damn well pleases. He can make whatever phony claims he wants to make. He can restrict interviews to 6 minutes. He can restrict interviews to suck-up reporters. He can avoid answering questions about his personal life.

However, the media can report on Tiger however they damn well please, save libel and slander. John can point out his bogus "I have changed" comments. John can point out his restrictive interview policies. John can label Tiger's recent actions as the ‘Tiger Over America Image-Rehab Tour.’ And if you insist on reading John's blog, you'll have to deal with it!

Anonymous said...

Vince - as a member of the public, I can't get away from athletes, including Woods, pedaling products to me. Therefore, I have a desire to know every good and bad detail of their life to determine whether I trust their opinion on the products.

Athletes get paid handsomely to sell products and services to me that I have to (if I choose) pay for. Therefore, I want to know their value system.

You can tell me you don't feel the same, but it doesn't change my opinion. If Tiger and others don't want to live an open and public life, just play your sport and don't sell me your opinions.

Jay Potomac said...

Cheetah Woods up to his old tricks again, gotta love this delusional rollercoaster he thinks will just allow him to get back to clubbing in Vegas and everyone will buy the married guy schtick.

Anonymous said...

John, I like your sports commentary, but your Oprah Winrey/TMZ routine is lacking and beneath you! The man screwed up and even if he promises to stop throwing clubs at his golf bags, it won't undo the past! You also harp on his need to control media access. Well, if he doesn't, then who will? You want a media circus and he isn't facilitating you. Move on!

Anonymous said...

Feinstein, you sound like a bitter TMZ reporter who couldn't get the story. Why do you or anyone else need to know what happened behind closed doors or in rehab? What business is it of yours or anyone else's? What did you and your wife do last night in the confines of your own home? Drop it already clown. I know yours is only an opinion, but when you start to chime in on people's private lives with your "opinion" you cross the line. Let people form their own opinion of Tiger from here on out. You sound like a bitter girlfriend who won't let go. Just because Tiger doesn't want to talk to you or most other media does not make him a bad person. At least you know where he stands with you. Or would you rather have a "thanks for the interview John",,,"God, that guy is an asshole"

You make it sound as if being a "control freak" is a disease. You think the greats weren't control freaks in some way? I have to stop. Hopefully one day you will step down from your high opinion horse and actually mingle with regular folk!!!

qtlaw24 said...

That shot by Ali Faroukmanesh was the gutsiest shot I have seen in the tournament (and I've been watching now for over 40 years). Beautiful. I hope to remember that shot for another 40 years.

Enough of Tiger, he's a philanderer but lets get on with it, he never should have been a role model, it should be your father or someone closer to you than some guy on a TV.

As I get older, I realize that people make mistakes, big mistakes, and I have made them as well. We're all human.

Anonymous said...

re: John but not John Feinstein said - "However, the media can report on Tiger however they damn well please, save libel and slander"...wrong! They are supposed to report the facts, that's it. They should save their opinions for their colleagues or friends when they are off the clock....or if they must inject their opinion then preface whatever they say by saying "in my opinion". What really irritates me about John and his ilk is that they act like spurned girlfriends or 10 yr olds who hold a grudge because a certain athlete did not grant them an interview or agree to sit down and write a book with them. Just calling a spade a spade...deal with that!

John but not John Feinstein said...

"Anonymous @ March 24, 2010 9:01 AM" wrote:

"They are supposed to report the facts, that's it. They should save their opinions for their colleagues or friends when they are off the clock....or if they must inject their opinion then preface whatever they say by saying 'in my opinion'".

Media is allowed to deliver opinions. Editorial pages, opinion shows, "the Sports Reporters", etc.

Most facts (or supposed fact) and opinions can be distinguished by context. The "in my opinion" clause is usually not necessary.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why you have a problem with Tiger Woods still being a control freak, not signing many autographs, and so forth. You seem to want Tiger to be Phil Mickelson. But if he was Phil Mickelson, he'd have won only 3 majors and choked away a whole bunch more.

Tiger is who he is, control-freak extraordinaire, and that's what's made him successful. I love his golf, and I don't want that to change, and I don't care a whit what type of person he is, as long as he's not killing people, running a dog-fighting ring, etc.

I read a bio of Ben Hogan, another pretty unpleasant guy. If he hadn't been so hard to be around, if he hadn't been a mean guy angry at the world, if he'd been a regular nice guy down the street, he wouldn't have been able to come back from that horrible car accident to win majors, become a golf legend, and have Glen Ford play him in the movies.

Anonymous said...

re: John but not John Feinstein - "Media is allowed to deliver opinions. Editorial pages, opinion shows, "the Sports Reporters", etc'...true, I don't have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is delivering your opinion as a FACT....and John tends to do that a whole lot. Just because he thinks Tiger is not a nice guy doesn't necessarily mean Tiger is not a nice guy. He has his biases as we all do but when it comes to Tiger (and other people that have "wronged" him), he states his opinions as facts. Let the readers decide.

EddieTorial said...

"Tiger Woods Cheated" was the headline the day after his robotic apology some weeks ago. The unanswered question remains did he cheat on his fellow competitors and the game of golf, also? Why else would Tiger fly-in an unlicensed physician (Dr. Galea -- recently arrested for smuggling HGH into the USA) to his florida home for "blood-plasma spinning" treatment unless he wanted his cocktail spiced-up with a bit of HGH? This is the REAL story behind the major-meltdown of who some consider the best golfer to ever play. Too bad we could never see Sam Snead or Jack Nicklaus play with today's equipment -- with respect to Tiger, I think the story would be much different...I believe in innocence until proven guilty, but I also believe Tiger has a responsibility to answer this question because it relates directly to his fame and fortune!