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.