Monday, February 22, 2010

Tiger's Zoo

I didn’t care much about Tiger Woods, even before the seamy details of his life became public. I think his course behavior is unprofessional, and his caddy is a thug. I don’t like what golf has become since he made the scene, though I don’t blame him for that; it’s television’s decision to cover the final two rounds of every tournament he enters as “Tiger Woods and the Low 69 (Plus Ties) Dwarfs.” He is quite likely the most talented person ever to strike a golf ball, and he may be the greatest player ever. He has a ways to go to match up with Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, and Arnold Palmer as a sportsman, no matter how many majors he wins. His marital transgressions and their consequences don’t interest me nearly as much as their interpretation by others.

Reaction to last Friday’s mea culpa press conference seems to run about 4-1 in his favor. The most common response is, he’s done what he needed to do. He knows he was wrong, he’s moving on, and—most importantly—he gets it.

What is it about Tiger’s performance on Friday that implies this? Was it his use of the word “entitlement?” That came up a lot. “He said he had a sense of entitlement. He gets it. The planets can go back to circling the earth again.”

Anyone who’s read this far knows what he said; there’s no need to rehash it. Here are several arguments to support the concept that he doesn’t get it:

He asked for, and obtained, the use of the PGA Tour’s best known tournament players’ course—Sawgrass—for his presser. True, it’s handy to his home, but Tiger Woods can afford to find a facility. The Tour should have stayed far away from placing anything resembling its imprimatur on this, in large part because…

There was a significant Tour event going on that very day that should have earned the primary publicity spot. Hard to believe it’s a coincidence Tiger chose the day of the World Match Play quarterfinals for his announcement, especially since the tournament is sponsored by Accenture, the first company to pull Tiger’s endorsements when things went bad for him. Ernie Els gets it, saying, “Monday is for apologies.”

Tiger’s still blaming the media, which is bizarre. The media have kissed his ass for years; no one in sports dictates to the media how he will be treated more than he does, and no one in sports whines about his treatment more. Enough already.

The first refuge of a contemporary public figure caught in a scandal is to plead addiction. Tiger claims a sex addiction. Maybe he’s just an asshole; many of the symptoms are the same. The Beloved Spouse and I discussed this the other night. She wondered if Tiger was taking heat unfairly; after all, did he ever say anything to support the image his sponsors were broadcasting about him?

In fairness, no. He also didn’t argue against it, and he took the money. He’s probably a billionaire, in large part because of that image. If it’s unfair for him to subjected to such scrutiny now, it was also unfair for him to have earned such respect and wealth under false pretenses. Basketball star Charles Barkley famously said he was no role model, and told kids your fathers are role models. Doctors are role models. Cops. It cost Barkley a lot of money in potential endorsements, but he already had a lot of money, so he got over it. Tiger can buy and sell Charles Barkley. Speaking out would hardly invite the wolf to his door.

Tiger says he’ll take time off the Tour to treat his addiction. He was vague about how long, implied it could be all year. If he truly has an addiction problem, then maybe this is a sign he’s serious. Misogynistic cretin Steve Czaban, speaking on local sports talk radio, blamed the extended absence on Elin, a manipulation. “What if he takes a year off and she decides she still doesn’t want him back,” Czaban worried. “That’s four possible majors he could have won.”

No, moron. This is on him. Period. If he’s truly addicted, the last thing he needs to is be sent unsupervised to face the same temptations he failed to deal with before. Unlike some poor schmuck making forty grand a year, Tiger can afford to take a year off to get clean and try to repair the relationship. If he wants to.

Talk’s cheap. The first public test of his seriousness will be when he returns to the Tour. Will he still slam clubs and curse his bad shots? Will Steve Williams be allowed to come heavy to carry his bag? Or will Tiger make a little time for autographs, maybe even play in some of the smaller tournaments that gave him sponsor’s exemptions before he had his Tour card, allowed him to break on the scene as spectacularly as he did.

No one should receive a free pass just for saying he gets it; let’s see what he does before lining up to kiss his ass again.

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