Monday, February 22, 2010

Thoughts on Tiger-gate

I am a golfer, but I'm not much of a golf fan.  I love playing golf.  I love practicing golf.  I love reading golf magazines and building golf clubs.  I plan on entering the golf industry in the future.  But, if I never watched another round of golf on TV, I wouldn't mind.  I don't have a favorite golfer.  I don't have a favorite PGA Tour stop.

I prefer my golf coverage to be very simple:  "So-and-so won the latest tournament on Sunday.  And now, here are the scores from last nights basketball/football/baseball games."  I want the biggest controversy in golf to be whether or not a players sand wedge grooves are within the regulated standards.  I don't want golfers to be celebrities because celebrity has a way of ruining almost everything.

So, after almost three months of silence, Tiger gave an apology last week.  And I was as indifferent to it as I was to the initial news of his car crash and affairs for three reasons:
  1. I'm not a golf fan (and, besides,according to Joe Posnanski, fandom has changed); 
  2. No matter how many commercials or events I saw Tiger in, I don't really know him, so I shouldn't be surprised one way or another by his actions off the course;
  3. Even the world's richest athlete is still a human who is susceptible to temptation.
My favorite sports writer, Joe Posnanski, who writes "curiously long posts", addresses "the Tiger-burg Address" by linking it to recent athlete apologies:
You know what I miss? I miss those days when being a sports fan did not also require a deep and textured understanding of body language. I miss the time when you could follow the games people play without having a hyper-sensitive scent for sincerity. I miss the time when being a judgmental sports fan meant only that you made moral judgments about a manager’s decision to bunt or not bunt in the third inning or a golfer’s choice to go for the green in two from a balky lie.

This is what I was thinking about when watching Tiger Woods carefully read from his prepared statement on Friday. Within minutes of him finishing, sports fans and countless pundits around the country and the world would be engaged in a detailed breakdown of the speech: What did it mean? What did he want it to mean? Was he sincere? Was he sincere enough? Was he sorry? Was he truly sorry? What does it mean to be sorry? Why did his voice sound as flat as a dial tone? Why did he use those weird hand gestures? Why didn’t he speak from the heart? Was he speaking from the heart? What does any of that matter? Was he sorry? Was he truly sorry? When will he return to golf? When should he return to golf? Who was he hoping to win over? Why didn’t he take questions? Why should he take questions? Why should he be sorry to anyone but his wife? Was he trying to overpower the Accenture tournament? Was the timing unavoidable of his schedule? Didn’t Accenture drop him as a spokesman? Was he sorry? Was he truly sorry? Who wrote this little speech? Did he sound angry? Was he angry? Where was Elin? Was he sorry? Was he truly sorry?
On and on and on … a million questions and comments and judgments about a 13-minute statement made by a brilliant golfer who cheated repeatedly on his wife.
The absurdity here is that this isn’t absurd anymore.
Read the rest, it is spot on.  If I had an eighth of Joe's writing skills, I'd probably react to the speech in a similar fashion.

Another aspect of the Tiger-gate scandal that I think is often overlooked is the fact that, as Jim Rome often points out, we really don't know these people.

Sure, we know how players and celebrities perform in their professions, but we have no idea what they are like off the field or off the screen or off the campaign stump.  I think most people forget that these celebrities are just people, who, for the most part, want to be thought of positively, and will usually do what is necessary to keep up the facade of stability/sanity/honesty/caring with those around us. 

Take a player like Marvin Harrison, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts.  Marvin is one of the most prominent and prolific wide receivers in NFL history.  And, until today, I was under the impression he was a model citizen off the field because, until today, I had never heard a bad thing said about the man.  Ever.  I assumed he was of the Peyton Manning school of football:  do your business on the field and stay out of trouble off the field.

Yet, if this GQ article is to be believed, Marvin Harrison is human and, quite possibly, a thug of the worst order.
It was a scene* to make anybody stop and watch. Broad daylight in North Philadelphia. April 29, 2008—a Tuesday. The corner of 25th Street and Thompson, about seven blocks north of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the steps Rocky climbed. A block of brick row houses, a church with a rubbed-out sign, a Hispanic grocery, a vacant lot. In one sense, the presence of a future Hall of Famer at this seedy vortex of the city—Harrison, eight-time Pro Bowl wide receiver with the Indianapolis Colts, then at the tail end of a thirteen-season career and a $67 million contract—was incongruous. Especially given that Harrison, who is usually described as "quiet" and "humble," was noisily stomping the fat man in the face and gut.
To Nixon, the fat man looked semi-conscious.

After several minutes, Harrison and McCray walked away. The fat man slowly picked himself up. Shouting epithets, he staggered to his car. Nixon watched as Marvin Harrison got into his own car, parked to the west of the fat man's. The fat man put his car into reverse. Thompson Street is one-way going east. The fat man backed up the wrong way until he was smack in front of Chuckie's Garage, a car wash Harrison owns. The fat man was now blocking Harrison, who was trying to drive away.
Nixon saw Harrison get out of his car and exchange words with the fat man. He couldn't hear the words, but he could see the gestures of threat and counterthreat. The fat man stayed in his car. He called somebody on his cell. Harrison got back into his car and called somebody on his cell. After a minute or two, Harrison got out of his car for the second time.
Marvin Harrison is six feet tall and 185 pounds. He has a neatly trimmed mustache and the body-fat content of an Olympic swimmer. He became the dominant wide receiver of his era not by outleaping or outwrestling defenders but by exploiting an almost supernatural talent for getting open: for feints, fakes, jukes, dodges, bluffs, stutter steps, sudden bursts of sick speed. But at this moment, Nixon says, Marvin Harrison did not run. He stood on the sidewalk and calmly raised his wiry arms. In each hand, Nixon clearly saw, was a gun.
Nixon froze.
Nixon heard the fat man scream at Harrison. "YOU AIN'T GONNA SHOOT. YOU AIN'T GONNA SHOOT. DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO."
Nixon was across the street and thirty yards away when Harrison started shooting. Pop pop pop pop pop pop—a great staccato gust of bullets. Steadily, Nixon says, Harrison unloaded both guns into the fat man's car, stippling the red Toyota Tundra with bullet holes as the fat man ducked in his seat. Eventually, the fat man sat up and sped off, heading straight toward Nixon's position as Harrison darted into the street and continued to shoot.
So, you really never know a person.  I never would have guessed Marvin Harrison to be capable of (reportedly) gunning down another person.  I never would have guessed John Edwards would knock up another woman while his wife battled cancer.  I never would have guessed Tiger Woods to participate and (reportedly) actively seek out numerous affairs.

And, finally, this is as good a time as any to remind ourselves that money doesn't buy happiness.  Tiger Woods is the first billion-dollar athlete.  He was on top of the world.  He was married to an attractive wife, a father to adorable kids, had houses on both coasts, and was the greatest athlete the golf world had ever seen.  And yet, all of this wasn't enough for him.  He convinced himself he needed more, and in doing so, he alienated himself from his family, friends, and fans.

Friar Tuck's most recent sermon dealt with "The Barn Builder" and in the sermon, Friar Tuck points out that
The farmer tears down his barns and builds new ones the Bible says. And he seems pleased with himself. And then that night, God comes to this rich farmer. He calls him a fool. He tells him that that night his life will end, and he will go into eternity. “What good will your wealth be now?” Jesus says, “Who is going to inherit all your crops and enjoy all you have earned?”
Jesus goes on to say, “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, but is not rich toward God”.
The farmer put all his security in his stuff. Jesus says he has chosen poorly.
It would seem to me that Tiger was raised from an early age to put all of his security in himself.  Golf is a lonely sport, with no one to rely upon but oneself.  Tiger is one of the most mentally tough athletes of my generation.  When on the golf course, he has extreme focus and drive.

And, when off the course, rather than focusing his legendary drive and effort into the people who we'd assume were most important in his life, his wife, children, neighbors, etc., he instead chose to chase after women.  Even the richest athlete of all time can "still struggle in putting our security in things and stuff instead of investing in relationships with those God has put in our path."

Ultimately, I wouldn't mind seeing Tiger take some time away from golf.  I would even understand him retiring until he's of Champion's Tour age (it's not like he needs the money from the PGA or Nike).  He should spend the next 18 years being the "Worlds Greatest Dad" to his two kids (and, maybe, along the way, he might mend his relationship with his wife), and I don't see how he can do that while chasing Jack Nicklaus' Majors record.

Just as baseball will always have the "Steroid Era", golf will now always have the "Tiger-gate Era" and the only person who can shorten this era is Tiger himself.  He attempted to begin the healing process last week with his apology, and only time will tell how deep of a scar he has left on the golf world, and more importantly, on his personal relationships.  

SONG"Friends and Family" by Trik Turner

Looking forward to: taking full advantage of the "Tee it for Ten" card my wife got me for Valentine's Day.  With this card, I'll be able to play Shoreline Golf Course and Pacific Springs Golf Course for $10 a time.  I'll probably spend the same amount on golf this year, but this card will ensure that I play more often than last year.

Thinking back on:  the amazing time I had golfing back in Junior College.  Three of my JuCo golf teammates and I have been maintaining a Facebook email thread over the past month reliving the good times we had back in the day.


  1. I honestly don't care what Tiger does in his marriage or in his bedroom. It is his and his alone. When the scandal broke, I didn't care then either. It is his choice, regardless where you fall on the moral compass with what he did. However, when I saw him in his stupid purple shirt feeding the American people a ridiculous statement about how sorry he feels and about how he thought he was entitled, it made me dislike him as a person. I don't care if he golfs or doesn't, as long as I don't have to hear another speech like that one again.

  2. Did adding "Tiger Woods" to your blog do to your site meter what adding "Bode Miller" did to mine?