Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Look at Tiger’s on-course behavior, results; How radio interview topics are broached, or avoided

So here we go with Tiger Woods again. Most of us have seen the tape by now of him spitting while crouched over a putt on the 12th hole at Dubai on Sunday during the course of a miserable final round at whatever they call that event over there.

Personally, I don’t think what he did is that big a deal even though it certainly wasn’t pretty to see, especially in slo-mo replay. One the one hand, you can say what he did is roughly the same as what most baseball players do about four times per at bat. On the other hand, this isn’t baseball. There are very specific rules on every tour about how players are supposed to conduct themselves while on the golf course and in the public eye. Years ago, if you shook hands with Nick Price you could feel the burn marks on his hand from cupping cigarettes so as not to be caught on camera smoking during a round.

Profanity is the coin of the realm in most sports. The other day during the Syracuse-Louisville game cameras clearly caught Jim Boeheim yelling ‘b-----,’ at the officials after a bad call at a critical juncture and there was no attempt to switch away from him as he continued his rant. In golf, someone hears you use profanity—whether it is picked up by the cameras or not—you can get fined.

Jay Haas may be as nice a man as has ever played the game of golf. He’s fan-friendly to a fault. Years ago though he was having a very bad Saturday in Milwaukee. He’d been in the hunt after two rounds and shot 77 on Saturday which, as Haas said, ‘is about like shooting 90 on that golf course.’ He came to 18 hot, frustrated and worn out. His second shot stuck in the rough behind the green and when he tried to gouge it out, the ball ran through the green and into the rough again. As Haas stalked the ball, someone in the gallery yelled, “Haas, you suck!”

“Yeah well, ‘f---- you,’” Haas responded, just done with being patient for once in his life.

The next morning rules official Wade Cagle called Haas into his office. “Jay we got a report from one of the marshals yesterday,” he said. “He claims you said, ‘f--- you,’ to a fan. I’m sure it was a mistake. You must have been saying, ‘thank-you,’ right?”

Haas laughed. “No, the guy has it right,” he said. “I said ‘f---- you,’ and I stand by it. How much do I owe you?”

The cost was $500—first offense for conduct unbecoming a professional. Haas wrote the check and told the story because the tour certainly wouldn’t announce the fine. The PGA Tour doesn’t announce fines but that’s another story for another day—or later today if you go to GolfChannel.com where I’ve written a column on that issue.

This is about Tiger. You can talk if you want about how the scrutiny placed upon him is unfair. There’s something to that. As he has pointed out through the years in complaining to the tour about all his fines, he’s always got a camera or a microphone pointed at him. Other plays can curse, throw a club or spit a lot of the time and get away with it unless some marshal is standing nearby taking notes.

Well, to quote Arnold Palmer in 1997, “you’re right Tiger, you aren’t a normal 21-year-old, normal 21-year-olds don’t have $50 million in the bank.”

Tiger’s 35 now and, even after his divorce, he’s got considerably more than $50 million in the bank. Last year when he came back from his self-imposed post-accident exile to the tour he talked about ‘showing more respect for the game,’ something Tom Watson and others had criticized him for both pre and post-accident. For all the talk—which has quieted in the last 15 months to some degree hasn’t it?—about everything Earl taught Tiger, he clearly never got around to the simple lesson about golf course etiquette most of us learn when we’re kids.

Palmer has often told the story about his father warning him he’d never play again when he saw him throw a club during a junior tournament. Most of us who have played at ANY level have had that moment.

Tiger’s never had anything close. No one has ever told him NO on any level, which is why he’s still throwing clubs, cursing, spitting and generally behaving like a spoiled brat when things don’t go right for him on the golf course. Everyone knows he’s frustrated and no one blames him for feeling that way. He’s used to dominating on Sundays, not going from 4th to 20th or having some rookie commenting that he didn’t look like he was giving it all during a final round. If there’s one thing I’ve always admired about Tiger is that he NEVER mailed it in no matter where he was playing or where he stood on the leaderboard. Now he’s got kids in his group saying he doesn’t look like he cares when he’s not in contention. THAT I find stunning.

The reason this incident became news is three-fold: It was caught clearly on television; it was part of another bad Sunday for Tiger and because The European Tour—unlike The PGA Tour—does announce that it has fined a player even though it won’t tell you how much. (Think in the $25,000 range). I heard one guy on a DC radio show Monday—the alleged golf reporter at Newschannel 8—claiming that the reason the fine was announced was because people are piling on Tiger now because he isn’t playing well.

Um, wrong. The fine was announced because that’s The Euro Tour’s policy whether it’s Tiger or Rory McIlroy or any of those Flying Molinari’s who commits the infraction.

Of course what’s truly baffling isn’t Tiger’s behavior. In fact, it’s old news by now. What’s baffling is his sudden inability to play well on the weekends. He’s got three tournaments left before The Masters—unless he shocks all of us by actually adjusting his schedule. Until then, this is all a warm-up act. Tiger has some work to do between now and then.


Someone asked an interesting question last week: Do I know the questions I’m going to be asked when I go on the radio. The answer is: not usually. I can guess based on what’s going on what I might be asked about but I don’t usually specifically talk to the host or the producer beforehand.

The only exception to that in the past was when I was still on NPR where I actually wrote my own questions because none of the producers there knew the difference between a hockey puck and a basketball. (On the day Bob Knight was fired I called in to explain that I needed to be on the next morning and the producer who answered the phone said, “so why was he important? Did he coach Michael Jordan or something?”)

“Yeah, or something,” I answered.

The other exception goes in the other direction: Tony Kornheiser has specifically asked me not to bring up Dan Snyder on his show. I feel queasy about this but Tony’s my friend and it is his show. It isn’t as if there aren’t plenty of other forums for me to talk about Snyder and Snyder is one of those guys Tony simply isn’t going to go after—not because he’s paid by him but because he likes him.

Look, we all have blind spots. If you tell me something bad about Paul Goydos or Tom Watson or Gary Williams or Mike Krzyzewski or Mary Carillo or Joe Torre or Bobby Cox I’m not going to listen. Snyder is one of those guys for Tony. So is Mitch Albom, who we also disagree on. If I had a show and he wanted to come on and rip Watson’s politics, I’d probably say, ‘look, I’m sure I agree with you but the guy is my friend so let’s not go there.’ And he wouldn’t go there. So, Tony and I don’t talk about Snyder. We agree to disagree--vehemently.


Tim said...

John - thanks for sharing the TK ask for no Snyder talk...I think we all guessed that, but weren't sure. Certainly understandable all the way around, but disappointing. Its such a whirlwind that its noticeable that it goes without analysis, but we all have bosses, I suppose.

Momus said...

The view from the owner's box really must be quite blinding....just be sure to check your journalistic integrity at the door.

I will say this about Tony, it does take some stones to go to the mattresses for Daniel Snyder.

Anonymous said...

Re: Tony and Daniel Snyder, I don't have a big issue with having blind spots. Just as long as you are up front about them (as Mr. Tony and "Junior" are). My bigger issue is someone like Wilbon, who will go to the mattresses for most star NBA players, but vehemently deny it when he is called out.

bevo said...

I don't really care whether Mr. Tony calls out Dan Snyder or not. As was stated here, there other forums.

What I care about is the quality of the Mr. Tony show. Go find the broadcasts from the ESPN (especially before the first vacation) show. Those shows were simply amazing.

When I listened to those episodes, I became hooked because Tony was fearless. This desire to hit people with a snow shovel who deserved it set his show apart from all the other corporate radio shows on the air then and now (ahem, Dan and Dibs, Mike and Mike, we were/are looking at you).

Now, the Mr. Tony show is like watching a Jake LaMotta perform stand up. Sad and pathetic. The Old Tony would have ripped the Current Tony for his behavior toward Snyder. Once upon a time, Tony stood by the axiom, "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable." Too bad he has forgotten the message.

The show really does stink.

John Rivett said...

Not that anyone asked, but I also suspect that TK fears his playin' days are behind him, and at his stage in life can no longer afford to stir the pot. All the shit the 4 letter gave him over the years and now the bidness with Danny Boy, he's spooked because he no longer has outlets like WaPo to fall back on..

Reminds me of my dad, quite the rabble when he was younger, being a strong union voice for UAW, then 60 + rolls around, and suddenly keeping your mouth shut and playing along looks pretty tempting..

Momus said...

Move over Tiger! You wrote a 1,000+ words on his performance in Dubai, and nary a comment from the faithful...followed by a coda of a couple of hundred words on your friend Tony Kornheiser, which generated 5 comments (one of which was mine, of course). Perhaps Tony is an even more polarizing figure than Tiger. Or maybe Tiger is just becoming that much more irrelevant with each passing bad performance on the course. Tiger spitting on the green was completely uncouth, which brings to mind that Bob Knight line about the difference between being eccentric and an embarrassment....

Gunnar said...

Tiger did not look like a guy that was paid $3million to appear in Dubai. A few more smiles, handshakes, and less spitting and club slamming would be a lot better for the fans, and the Sheik that pays his appearance fee.

deepvalue said...

You know the saying, "whose bread i eat, his song i sing?" Just picture Tony singing 'Hail to the Redskins'. There is absolutely no comparing people like Watson and Coach K to Dan Snyder. But, I'm sure Mr. Feinstein knew that when he wrote this article.

Anonymous said...

I guess I would have felt better about TK -- whose various shows I have enjoyed since WTEM first went on the air -- if he had EXPLAINED why he wouldn't talk about the CP story. It's not like he's not in the tank for others, as he would say. The way it LOOKS is:

1. He doesn't like Dave McKenna (true and well-established).
2. He likes Dan Snyder (ditto).

I'm not even counting the boss angle; Czaban and Pollin haven't spent a LOT of time on the story, but they've talked about it.

So all you're left with is that TK is staying away because he doesn't like McKenna, and he likes the Danny.

And that's kind of sad. I would respect him more if he openly defended Snyder, but just ignoring it is kind of sad.

Chris H said...


Just wanted to thank you for answering my question from last week. Your explanation of why Tony won't talk about Snyder with you makes sense even if it's disappointing as an avid listener to his podcast. And it's good to know that you are interested in the comments of your readers.


Anonymous said...

What a farce it would be if the time comes that this matter is actually *in court* and TK still won't allow it to be discussed on his show.

He probably hates the confluence of events that have lead his buddy (Snyder) AND a guy who has documented TK's darker side (McKenna-look it up) to be in the news together.

Montgomery said...

I gave up listening to Tony years ago. The edge was gone; he talked too much about how much money he made and he was and clearly still is in the pocket of Snyder. I used to admire his journalistic integrity, but that's gone now. Sad.

Anonymous said...

I could care less if TK bans tal about Dan Snyder on hsi show..or on ESPN....by the way...I stopped listening to either he or WIlbon a long time ago...I found TK to be consending...arrogant....not at all a fgood radio (or TV ) personality but a obviously bright person who is a much better writer than anything....as For WIlbon...there is not an issue that he cannot ...somehow...develop into a racial issue....tired of this...it adds to all the division in the Country.....he is also a most gifted writer ..I enjoy reading his articles until he ventures in the racial part.... wish he would try to identify as a gifted journalist rather than a ethnic commentator...

suppose the old formula that controversy sells papers or tv or whatever sis in play here

John Rivett said...

Wow..... Use....Periods....and bad....grammar....much?.. Learn how to form a damn sentence, then maybe someone will take you seriously.

NeilInRockville said...

It's interesting to read comments concerning the TK matter from people who actually read this blog-post, instead of comments from people who only heard about the article through a partial post, tweet or radio show, but felt up to the task to give their opinions. America is great, even the ignorant are given a voice. To people who thought what was written here was new, I have another piece of breaking news for you, General Francisco Franco is still dead.

Anonymous said...

Sad about TK - As much as he drones on about how great it was to be journalist, he chooses to support a bully's paycheck instead of a fellow journalist. He has no journalistic integrity.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about your and TK's disagreement about Albom. Would you be able to tell the story?