After Tiger Woods decided to go "viral" with his pre-tournament press availability, shutting out the grass stained scribes in favor of Tweeters, Facebookers, and fanboys.... he promptly missed the cut at Quail Hollow.
Personally, I don't have "a problem" with Tiger doing this. He's an independent contractor, the Tour has no firm "rule" that say she must do pre-tournament pressers, and truth be told, he's maybe the worst interview in all of sports right now.
But. But.... it's still idiotic. It created a no-win situation in which the BEST Tiger could come out looking is petty.
Ron Sirak of Golf Digest makes a more eloquent case for why athletes simply can't afford to build walls between themselves and the scribes who cover them - no matter how much the athlete might hate them.
Red Smith, one of only four pure sportswriters to win the Pulitzer Prize, said of his profession: "Sportswriters are underpaid and overprivileged." What he meant is that in exchange for long hours and endless deadlines, we get a ringside seat to greatness, a front-row view of history. The trade is well worth it, or we wouldn't be doing what we do.
The smart athletes understand this relationship. How they are portrayed in the media enhances their value. The better we understand them, the more accurately we can communicate to the fans their essence -- the more we can humanize them. This takes their value beyond the sporting world into the business world. They are a person and not merely a bunch of statistics.
We are trying to sort out what happened to that once marvelous game and we can't do that without Tiger's help. And what Tiger has to face is the fact that this is not the year 2000 anymore. He can no longer set the agenda for how he is covered. And unless he participates in the coverage of his game and, to a certain extent, his life, that coverage will be inaccurate, at best, and perhaps even mean spirited.
When the slop hit the fan for Woods late in 2009, we realized how little we knew Tiger. Woods also had no one in the media through whom he could get his story out, through whom he could be humanized. And that is what this is all about -- humanizing athletes. This is the time for Woods to take a step toward the media, not away, and talk about the state of his game and the distractions of his life.
When I am asked why I became a golf writer I answer by saying that I don't write about golf, I write about people who happen to play golf. One of the reasons we love sports is because it speeds up the human clock. We learn a lot about a person in a very short period of time -- how they handle success and failure, their ethics, their humor and anger and more. That magic is gone if we allow athletes to hide from us.
And Tiger can try to hide, but it's simply not going to work. Either he'll get his game "back" to some degree, or people will continue to cover his stunning decline.
He used to say his knee still wasn't quite right.
He used to say he just needed more reps.
He used to say he was "close."
Coming up on 3 years this fall after drilling that fateful fire hydrant at the end of his driveway, he's running out of things to say.