Give And Take
By skipping his pre-tournament press conference at the Wells Fargo Championship, Tiger Woods is hurting himself, the media and fans
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.
And that's why the move by Tiger Woods to skip a pre-tournament media session at this week's Wells Fargo Championship and replace it with a social media Q&A with fans is not only a mistake on his part, but also a blow to the game that should be opposed by the PGA Tour. This is a time when Woods needs to humanize himself more, not less. This is a time when the tour needs to defend journalism.
Now there are going to be those Tiger supporters who will say this is merely the whiny media grousing over the fact they are being denied a chance to badger Woods. In fact, blocking out the media harms Woods more than it harms the media. This isolation creates a situation where Tiger is more likely to get cheap shots from the less ethical in the profession.
And if you're thinking that fans might get more out of Woods than the media does, guess again. In the 14-minute video posted on Woods' website of him answering questions from fans, the golfer said little of substance. He touched a bit on his swing faults at the Masters, talked about his all-time favorite putt, and said he's made an albatross twice in his life. So now you know.
Without disparaging bloggers squirreled away in Brooklyn basement apartments, it serves no one if the coverage of golf is reduced to bloggers squirreled away in Brooklyn basement apartments. But why even bother going to tournaments if we have no access to the players? The more access the media has, the fairer the coverage will be. Everyone gains from that -- the player, the fans and the sport. And that's why the tour needs to take a stand on this matter.
Why do we like high school and college sports so much? In part, it's because we know the people playing. They are our kids or the children of friends. We know when one of them has lived up to their potential -- or exceeded it -- and we know when they have fallen short. We cheer for them and we cry for them.
Red Smith also said this: "I've always had the notion that people go to spectator sports to have fun and then they grab the paper to read about it and have fun again." That's exactly it. The true fans, even if they have watched every shot of a tournament, want to read about it as a way of revisiting the joy of watching it. To fully enhance that enjoyment, it is not enough for us to understand golf; we also have to understand the golfer.