Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"An island unto himself, surrounded by water but dying of thirst."

This is the analogy that Pete Landry used in his "The Masters - A Tale of Contrasts" post to describe Tiger Woods, and it is by far the best description of Tiger's personality.  Mr. Landry is the author of the great golf blog "Golf Grooves" and he attended this year's Masters tournament.  While at the Masters, he encountered two of the main people of Tiger's entourage, his caddy and his mother.
As I meander behind the 14th green, looking up toward the clubhouse, I notice Steve Williams walking in my direction. In his trademark Valvoline blue tee-shirt, Tiger's caddie is checking on the course and taking notes in preparation for the final round of the Masters. We are, for a short moment, alone and in close proximity to each other.

When Williams is only a few feet away, I say "good luck to you and Tiger today Steve"...

With that, he brushes by me. He is obviously avoiding eye contact; close enough to shake my hand, but choosing instead to totally ignore me. Like a man raised in a barn, he did not acknowledge me or my words. A simple nod would have sufficed. Had it been someone else, I might have been insulted or surprised, but this is Steve Williams after all. What else would you expect? In my life, I've met heads of State, shared meals with Hall of Fame athletes, and had conversations with some of the top business people of our time. So, a snub from the guy who carries Tiger's golf clubs is certainly not a traumatic experience. I simply shrugged it off and chuckled at the ignorance of the man.

Hours later, on that same 14th hole, I would be standing against the ropes nearly half way down the fairway, at a spot where you can see the players hit their approach shot and also clearly see the green. We had all just cheered a great iron shot by Fred Couples and were waiting for Woods and Choi to arrive, when I noticed Tiger's mother walking behind us. She was surrounded by her usual entourage and clearly looking for a spot from where she could see Tiger play the hole. I signalled to her bodyguard that she was welcome to stand on the rope in front of me. She is a tiny woman and wouldn't block my view, but I knew she wouldn't possibly be able to see Tiger from behind the crowd. At our invitation, she slipped in front of my father and I.

Anyone who watched the Masters on Sunday will recall that Tiger had a rare brain cramp on that 14th green, three-putting from close range. When she saw that, Tiger's mother yelled "Oh! He is pissed off!" The moment was surreal.

My father and I looked at each other in shock and amusement. You just wouldn't expect that kind of language from a tiny older lady... Then, as if she had been entitled, she left without taking a second to thank us for making room for her up front. In fact, just like Steve Williams had done, she basically ignored me and the people around her.

All this to say that life has a way of repaying people for how they treat others. These are not major trespasses, but the way these people act shows a basic lack of upbringing and social grace. As the saying goes, money does not buy class.

Despite the fact that I am not a fan of Steve Williams, I was courteous enough to wish him luck when I came across him. Having been raised to respect people and to yield to a lady whenever appropriate, I was only happy to make room for Tiger's mother. Both Williams and Mrs Woods repaid me with ignorance and bad manners. Surrounded by the likes of these people, is there any wonder that Tiger Woods is such a miserable man who feels a sense of entitlement and that the rules of decency do not apply to him?
Mr. Landry then compares his encounter with the Tiger clan to how Phil Mickleson treated the fans as he worked his way to winning this year's Green Jacket.
Faced with a potentially devastating miss that could have cost him the lead, Mickleson was gracious with fans, politely asking for the gallery to make room, thanking everyone and acknowledging his fans when he successfully hit the shot. In similar fashion, his caddie "Bones" was polite, saying please and thank you repeatedly. How difficult is that? For most civilized people, it is second nature to be courteous.
While he has played inspired golf during this tough stretch of life, with his wife and mother both battling cancer, Phil Mickleson has taken the title of "Fan Favorite" on the PGA Tour.  It's a case of the underdog working his way into the hearts and minds of the average golf fan by pairing his great skill with a likable and pleasant attitude toward the fans.  For all the thanks and smiles that Phil gives to the galleries, they repay him double.  For being truly thankful for their support through his difficulties off the course, the fans double their support for him on the course. 

Tiger was always the cut-throat competitor, and while he was always cold toward the crowds that followed him around the courses, the fans greatly respected him because of his awe-inspiring skills on the course.  But that was before his private life became tabloid fodder.  Now, Tiger and the people closest to him, are going to need fans if he wants to cement his legacy as the greatest golfer to ever live (rather than just being the most successful golfer of all time), and they'll have an easier time if they are using honey rather than vinegar.

SONG"On the Run" by Gangstagrass  (the theme song to the tv show "Justified")

TELEVISION:  "Justified" on FX (and Hulu).  Timothy Olyphant plays a U.S. Marshall who returns to his childhood hometown and is attempting to clean up the town with a "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality.  It is an old western set in modern times.  Great, great show.

LOOKING FORWARD TO:  Dinner and a show this weekend with The Wife to celebrate the end of her 4th (out of 6) semester of law school.  We are going to eat dinner at the Upstream Brewery and then are going to the Orpheum Theater to watch the off-Broadway production of "Legally Blonde: The Musical".  It should be a great night out with my pal.

1 comment:

  1. Gotta love someone who is courteous to strangers!