Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tiger's press conference – let's call it a start

Just so everyone understands what’s going on today: I’m writing this a little more than an hour before tipoff of the national championship game, sitting courtside at Lucas Oil Stadium. Tuesday morning, I’ll be on the road to Augusta (which is very different than the road to The Final Four) so I will write about the title game for Wednesday.

The subject today is—surprise—Tiger Woods. I sincerely hope this will be the last time I write about L’affaires Eldrick (or the affairs of Eldrick). He gave all the answers he’s going to give on the subject Monday afternoon during his 33 minutes in The Masters media room.

My sense when he was finished was that many of my colleagues in the media couldn’t wait to start falling over themselves to compliment his performance—which is what it was. One guy on Golf Channel instantly gave him an “A+.” For what exactly? For being smooth and under control? For looking people in the eye when he answered questions—which I thought was a good sign. For repeating that he did his family wrong, lied to himself and behaved horribly? Good for him but an A+?

Here are the places where I took his grade down a few notches:

----He’s still complaining about the tabloid media hounding his family. Look, I probably like the tabloid media LESS than he does because they give all of us in the media a bad name. We’re constantly lumped in with them. I have no sympathy for their behavior. But who gave them the opening to hound Elin and the kids? If you’re going to admit you were guilty, you also have to accept the consequences of your guilt. It’s not fair to Elin and the kids but guess who was LEAST fair to Elin and the kids?

----He still won’t talk about what he’s been in rehab for. I will repeat myself here: whatever it is, he’s got nothing to be ashamed of if he’s seeking help. A lot of people need help and, whatever he’s done wrong, he deserves credit for going. The old saying that recognizing you have a problem is half the battle is true. But if you are going to talk about rehab and what it is doing for you, you should talk about what you’re there for if for no other reason than to end speculation. If you’ve ever been to an AA meeting you know the first thing anyone says when he or she begins to talk is: “My name is ----- and I’m an alcoholic.” There’s not a thing wrong with that.

----He absolutely ducked the question about how Elin felt about his returning to competition this week. He said she wasn’t there, which would become evident fairly quickly, then ignored the question about how she felt about him playing in Augusta.

----He refused to say what caused him to crash his car so quickly outside his house on November 27th. “It’s in the police report,” he said twice. Actually, no it’s not.

Here’s what I thought he did well: He handled the question about the Canadian doctor treating him for his various knee injuries in detail and said very firmly he had never used PED’s or HGH. No waffling there. A completely believable answer. I think he was sincere when he talked about the pain of missing his son’s first birthday. Any parent would get that.

There was no sighing or rolling his eyes at questions. He was clearly making an effort to use people’s names—which is smart public relations. He talked about how he hopes to clean up his act on the golf course even if it means he may be less exuberant when he makes a big putt. He apologized to the other players who have had to answer constant questions about him since the accident in November.

Now, here’s where I thought my media brethren failed: When he talked about all the hugs he’d gotten from other players they didn’t ask if he’d seen Ernie Els yet. When he said he hadn’t spoken to the media in December because he was following the “letter of the law,” and following the advice of his lawyer, they didn’t ask why it was okay for him to contact his sponsors in an apparent effort to save his contracts. No one asked him if his new relationship with the public would include signing more autographs, an area in which he has been seriously lacking in the past.

If it seems as if I’m being hard on Tiger, fine, I’ll take the heat for that. There are plenty of people out there who are going to talk about how wonderfully he did Monday and buy into the ‘new Tiger,’ theory. In fact, as soon as I finished saying on Golf Channel that I thought there were questions Tiger had failed to answer that he should answer, John Hawkins started yammering about how I didn’t have a good relationship with Tiger the way he and some others did.

Are you kidding me? The one truly funny moment of the press conference was when Woods said he had, “many good friends in this room.” If any of the people in that room believed that comment they are either too naïve to have a press pass or just stupid. Tiger doesn’t like any of us or respect any of us. Tiger does what helps Tiger where the media is concerned. Which is fine. If you can get away with it and people are willing to buy in, then why shouldn’t you handle yourself that way? But friends? Don’t think so.

The bottom line in all this is something Woods quoted his wife as saying during his Tiger and Pony show back in February. I’m paraphrasing a bit here but I think this is pretty close: “As Elin said to me, it isn’t what I say that matters, it is what I do in the future that matters.”

She’s right. And I’m not talking about his golf, which I expect to be spectacular again, if not this week then in the near future. (Although if he plays well this week I won’t be shocked. The guy is an absolute freak as we all know). I’m talking about how he treats people—NOT just his family and NOT just people who are paying him or he considers important. That’s the real test. Monday was a trial balloon.

It had some holes in it but I’m willing to call it a start. The rest is up to Tiger. In the meantime there’s no need for me to go ga-ga over a few well-spoken sentences. There are plenty of other people lined up to do that.


ARCstats said...

I've long said that the principal reason for Tiger's lofty accomplishments on the golf course are a product of the inferior competition he's pitted against compared to what Jack faced (and that's not Tiger's fault), BUT IF HE WINS THIS WEEKEND IT WILL BE THE ULTIMATE PIECE OF EVIDENCE THAT HE TRUELY COMPETES AGAINST A BUNCH OF CHOKING DOGS.

howker said...

ARCstats says what I have been saying for years. Woods' career is, largely, built on the alleged competition shooting itself in the foot. Can you remember an example of Woods beating somebody who was, by their standard, having a good day? It isn't easy, is it? When people talk about Woods making up a seven-stroke lead at Bay Hill last year, they forget that, if O'Hair had shot two over par in the final round, Woods would have lost. People rave about Woods' win over Mediate, neglecting that everybody with a world ranking higher than #155 had, as usual, fled the field.

Woods is the least-tested great golfer ever. Nothing more. Nicklaus, who made his mark against several golfers who, in Woods' absence, would dominate this era, remains the best.

Erik J. Barzeski said...

John, cut the crap - you've demanded answers to questions that are none of your business since this whole thing started, and you're the first person to point out every flaw - going so far as to berate the guy's dead father - Tiger's got or is perceived to have.

I'm not a TW apologist. He's apparently a poor human being. I simply don't care - I like to watch good golf, and for 13+ years, he's been the guy to watch.

"But who gave them the opening to hound Elin and the kids?" - Nobody. It's still completely wrong, and blaming Tiger for this is a great example of how your general attitude about Tiger helps you to so easily avoid common sense. Tiger did things - his kid didn't. If you can't see the line that's so blatantly clear there, then you need to take a step back at the very least.

"He still won’t talk about what he’s been in rehab for." Why should he? "I will repeat myself here: whatever it is, he’s got nothing to be ashamed of if he’s seeking help." On what planet are feeling shame and seeking help mutually exclusive? Did you forget what the second word in "AA" is? Anonymous. He doesn't need to tell you. Why do you want to know?

"they didn’t ask why it was okay for him to contact his sponsors in an apparent effort to save his contracts." Speculation. You don't know if he was trying to save his contracts. And if he was, wouldn't you in the same situation?

You don't have a good relationship with Tiger. That's easy to see. You also take every opportunity to put your peers in the media down - Hawkins started "yammering"? As a professional writer surely you understand how caustic that is. Your opinions are valid, but when others express their thoughts they're simply "yammering"? Or do you pat yourself on the back for not calling Hawk an "idiot"?

I'm free to stop reading what you write, yeah, but it's gotten annoying how frequently you pop up on Golf Channel. Maybe this is your schtick - be the big jerk that people can't resist ripping apart, all the while adding eyeballs to your site or GC's site or broadcast...

Goodie Mobb said...

You captured exactly how I feel in your post. I find it comical the way Feinstein finds fault or criticism in every thing Tiger does or says. It says a lot more about him than it does about Tiger. Wilbon was right when he said the biggest fan of Feinstein's opinion is Feinstein himself. He's proven over and over that if you don't agree with him, then you're the one with the problem.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your analysis in most respects. The areas he was sincere about, and most of the areas he didn't address. However, I think it is not valid to criticize Tiger for failure to address: How Elin is feeling about his being at the Masters and What he was in treatment for. This is because he cannot speak for Elin, and it IS private. If he wants to tell us, fine, but we have no right or need to know. I certainly think it would be good if he chooses to share more down the road, but it's his choice and nobody should critize that in my opinion.

I also disagree w/the TV commentators who said he seemed relaxed and comfortable. I think the opposite. The sound of his voice, the way he was breathing, made me feel empathically nervous (I sing, so that's something I'm attuned to.) His breaths sounded frequent and shallow.

I think that was his discomfort and nervousness. Which is OK. This is not something he's used to doing, a completely different way of being than he's used to, he should be nervous.

Tiger's pretty good about accomplishing what he puts his mind to. If he's going to turn into Phil Mickelson, more power to him, but I do not want it to affect his golf game. I'd rather he be cold and aloof on the course and keep playing to become the greatest golfer of all time (he's not there yet).

Ed Tracey said...

Well stated, John. If he decided to remain silent for three months "per his lawyer" and thus causes a news vacuum - I have no sympathy for him in complaining about "all the rumors that followed". Any public relations professional will tell you: "If you don't talk, someone else will -like that publicity agent you fired six months ago".

In fact, he will be a case study someday in college, about how not to handle an event like this. He may not care, and that's fine - but he has no standing in complaining how he was treated.

Anonymous said...

Jf is basically says the same thing over and over again. What's new here? Nothing Tiger Woods does makes John 'happy'. Good for Tiger that he basically ignores Mr. Feinstein.

Sad that Mr. Feinstein is no better than the rest with the same talking point over and over again. If your not Coach K, Rocco or Ernie Els.. he's got nothing for you.

Just write Tiger Bahhh humbbug and call it a day dude..save us all 1500 Word hack job!

sanford said...

For all of you that disagree so thoroughly with Feinstein why do you continue to read his blog.

It is just his opinion after all. Eric why isn't it Tigers fault that his family is being harassed. Granted it is unseemly do do that. Buy Tiger brought this upon himself. If you are a celebrity you are going to bring attention to yourself. No doubt there are a lot of Athletes that are doing what Tiger did, but they are certainly a lot more discreet.

The only thing Tiger feels bad about is getting caught.

Erik J. Barzeski said...

sanford, if you can't fathom how harassing a one-year-old, a three-year-old, and their mother for something his and her father and husband did is not out of bounds, I can't help you.

MarkS said...

You Tiger apologists need a serious reality check. Tiger is a first-class, Grade A jerk, and has been for as long as he's been on the scene. Feinstein is one of the very few guys in the media who is willing to tell the emperor he has no clothes, which is to say that he judges Tiger by the same standards you would judge any other athlete. I love how when any other golfer pulls the same shenanigans that Tiger does he's called a "bad sport" or "unprofessional", but when Tiger does the exact same things the response is always "what a competitor!" or "that's because he wants to win more than everybody else!". Now that Tiger isn't subsidized by as much corporate money it will be interesting to see if the corporate media will not be so quick to turn into the Tiger Woods News Agency during the Masters. Bottom line, Bob Knight was as a good a basketball coach as there has ever been and he got his comeuppance in the final analysis. Same will be true of Tiger...John is just way ahead of the curve!

Gunnar said...

Ray Floyd retired from the Masters and tournament golf today, I really liked him. He was a great competitor, major winner, Ryder cup stud, and great mentor for Freddie Couples.

Tiger is a jerk, that got caught for being a real slimeball, and is sorry he got caught. He slept with a bimbo the night his dad died. He slept with the porn actress ten days after his wife gave birth to their first child. He was sneaking around, hiding bimbos, etc only 14 days before he hit the tree and fire hydrant at his house. He is a great golfer, and that is where the greatness ends. Flawed man. The A-Rod of golf.

Accenture must have had a giant bonfire with the "Go on, Be a Tiger" brochures, golf shirts, umbrellas, briefcases, etc. They really got a bad deal in this endorsement situation.

Great basketball game last night, one of the best final four games ever, Butler was great, and Duke and Coach K just a bit better.

Erik J. Barzeski said...

MarkS, nobody's said those things (not here). I simply couldn't care less about some guy's personal life. I'm a golfer, and a golf fan - period. What some guy does off the course is not really a concern of mine. I don't care.

But hey, I suppose you've lived a perfect life and are thus capable of passing judgment on others, so keep on keepin' on.

Goodie Mobb said...

For those who ask the question, "Why do we read JF if we disagree with him?" For me, it's because the guy is a great, great writer and I enjoy reading his thoughts on a lot of subjects. I've read a few of his books and to me "Season on the Brink" is top five sports books all time. But I also happen to believe his relentless, dogged "criticism" of Tiger is a bit over the top. Just my opinion. We all have one, right?

Hustle said...

Erik J, I agree with pretty much everything you laid out in your first comment. John is forever criticizing Tiger for one thing or another and whenever any of his colleagues point it out (Wilbon, Hawkins), he resorts to insulting them and questioning their credentials even though Wilbon is someone he has/had worked with it at the Post for close to 30 yrs. So now Hawkins is "yammering" because he says you don't have a good relationship with Tiger? Well, do YOU have a good relationship with Tiger? Forget whether Tiger has "friends" in the media or not...do YOU have a good relationship with him? I already know the answer to that question...not sure if you will be entirely honest answering it. It's the worst kept secret that John absolutely can't stand Tiger which is fine....we are all human beings and we have people we like or don't like. However, John needs to be honest and forthcoming with his readers as to why he doesn't like Tiger. The fact that he refused to sit down and write a book with you has left a bad taste in your mouth and you have jumped on EVERY opportunity to criticize him ever since. Hammering him on things such as cursing on the course and having affairs makes you seem hypocritical in my opinion because we all know Tiger isn't the only one that curses on the course and definitely isn't the only one to have had affairs. You know people in your field as well as personally (don't tell me you don't...we all do) that have had affairs...are you this hard on them??? I seriously doubt it. Elin and the kids are the only people that deserve his apology...the rest of us need to fall back and watch him play golf....that's WHY we watch him...PERIOD.

ARCstats and howker....SERIOUSLY??? Now we're questioning the rest of the field Tiger plays against because he's so dominant? Let's not even mention the fact that Tiger has played against a broader competition in his career than Nicklaus ever hoped to play against. Are you kidding me? Just appreciate his greatness and be glad he came along in your lifetime. Never question a great player...EVER. Reminds of me of the MJ haters.

Greg said...

"What some guy does off the course is not really a concern of mine. I don't care."

Erik, where is the line drawn? Felony? Type of felony? (I do understand Tiger hasnt been charged with any crime.) What if he came out as a homosexual? What if he announced he was an athiest? Would nothing change?

I am curious to see if he could do ANYTHING off the course and keep your love and attention.

howker said...

Hustle: You can bet that I'm serious.

Answer my question: How many of Woods' wins have come against his alleged top competition when they were playing well?

The proof that this is inferior competition is the fact that, when Woods is injured, or rebuilding his swing or recovering from a scandal, NOBODY is able to exhibit anything remotely resembling dominance. This is an era with one "A" golfer and a lot of "C" golfers. There is no "B" level. If there was, they would pull away from the pack in Woods' absence. When Woods was recovering from surgery, the closest thing to a breakout golfer was geezerly Kenny Perry.

Today's golfers know how to collect checks. They don't know how to win.

"Broader competition"? WHAT broader competition? Who are today's Palmer, Player, Watson, Trevino, Casper, etc.? Nicklaus' top three competitors averaged 8.3 major wins, and they did this in the era of the guy who won more than anybody. Woods' top three average three.

Bobby Jones said that your greatness is judged by whom you have beaten. Whom has Tiger beaten? Before you say "everybody", ask yourself whether, historically speaking, "everybody" is anybody.

As I said, Woods is the least-tested great golfer ever. Don't buy the hype.

Hustle said...

Howker, you're making my arguement for me without really knowing that you are. If you have only 20 golfers (just using a number but you'll get my logic in a second) in a tournament every year for the next 20-30 years, chances are only the best of those 20 golfers will keep winning each year, hence the "8.3" average major wins. However, if you have a larger pool of golfers...say 150, playing over the same time time period, the chances are greatly increased that there would be different golfers winning a tournament each year. How many people (race, country etc) could play in tournaments back in Nicklaus days? Compare that to this era when you have Els (S. Africa), Cabrera (Argentina) etc. It's harder IMO for one person to dominate in this era...and Tiger actually still does. That's what makes him that great. It's sort of like baseball and the segregation era. Guys had all these numbers against the same pitchers over and over again...meanwhile, great pitchers such Satchel Paige weren't allowed in the majors till the tail end of their careers. I don't put too much emphasis in numbers of the past, however I do believe great is still great. I will give Nicklaus his due...he won the most majors when he played (and most ever for now) so he gets his due. At the same time, when you see a phenom such as Tiger come along, you also have to give him his due. Belittling his opponents to make Tiger's accomplishments look weak is a major fail.

Erik J. Barzeski said...

Greg, I love my wife and stepdaughter. I don't love Tiger Woods - I simply like to watch the guy play golf. When he's on - and even when he's only close to being on - he's the best I've ever seen.

But that's where it ends. What he does off the golf course that doesn't affect his golf is of no concern to me. I don't buy products because he endorses them and I don't care about what he does in his free time.

I don't know how many different ways I can put that. Not everyone who doesn't give a rat's behind about this off-course bullcrap is a huge Tiger fan. I want to see one of the best golfers to ever live actually play the game. That's it.

howker said...

Well, hustle, I may as well stop asking you to cite examples of Woods beating good golfers when they were having good days. Clearly, you do not intend to respond to this.

You assume that quantity implies quality, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Besides, the talent pool was plenty large in Nicklaus' era and before that. You have to go way back for that argument to be credible. Asia wasn't in it much in Nicklaus' prime, but Gary Player was there winning a bunch of majors. Roberto de Vincenzo won the Open Championships and tied at the Masters to validate his many worldwide wins. Peter Thomson won the fifth of his Open Championships with Nicklaus in the field in 1965. Another Aussie, Kel Nagle, was pretty good and, had there been no Nicklaus, Bruce Crampton would have won three majors and tied for a fourth.

Never has a great golfer (and I'm being a bit generous with "great" since Woods has not been tested by a great golfer) had such a free ride as Woods. He arrived at a time when, unlike Vardon, Jones, Hogan or Nicklaus, he did not have to start by displacing a dominant golfer. He arrived in something of a vacuum and, when Woods is away from the tour, that vacuum reasserts itself. When he isn't there, they may as well let everybody draw a check from a hat and give the trophy to the guy who draws the biggest one as hold the tournament. Who wins is that much of a lottery. You see deep talent in this; I see mediocrity. The only way that your argument holds is if the golfers down to #50 or so are the equal of Palmer, Player and Watson, which would be a particularly dubious claim after Watson's Open performance last year. When Woods won his 56th tour event, NBC said that 50 golfers had finished second to him. This shows that Woods is, mostly, pursued, not by top golfers, but by journeymen for whom mixing it up with Woods is a once-in-a-career experience. Beating tomato cans like these hardly validates greatness.

Woods has several characteristics that are, shall we say, unusual in great golfers. For one thing, it is not uncommon for him to be unable to find the fairway with a handful of grass seed. As a result, he carefully cherry picks where he appears so that this won't hurt him. You'll never see him at Hilton Head, where he'd be in the trees so much that you'd be lucky to see him on television. He went to Westchester a few times, failed to crack the top ten and never returned, even when it was a part of the FedEx playoff. Nicklaus (who won twice at Westchester), on the other hand, never won the Canadian Open, but kept trying late in his career. He wasn't worried about how it would look; he just wanted to win the thing.

Woods would skip the Open Championship, if he could, because he hates wind. I can't think of another great golfer who would fretfully throw handfuls of grass in the air and, generally, act like the wind has a lot of nerve vexing him as Tiger does. Crank Woods and Watson back to 21 and send them, together, to 15 Opens and Watson wins more, easily.

Of course, Woods proved the most helpful to our Ryder Cup team when he stayed home.

His characteristic that is the most difficult to find in a great golfer is his short fuse. The only reason why he has gotten away with it is that the competition is too weak to exploit it. If there is an afterlife, I want to be there for Woods versus Hogan. Put a grinder like Hogan on his back, who hit fairways and greens with a monotony that a reporter compared to watching a machine stamp out bottle caps and who could be counted on not to beat himself, and I'd guess that it wouldn't be long before Tiger disappeared in a cloud of thrown clubs and "goddamits". The things that Tiger does would not be so easy when there is somebody waiting to capitalize on it if he does not pull the shot off. As it is, history has shown Tiger that nobody will make him pay for missing a shot, so he can relax.