Tiger and the Media – Time to Cut Their Losses?

Is it time for an overhaul?

Thrash TalkA frosty relationship between Tiger Woods and the media is nothing new. Several times a week Tiger Woods walks up the microphone, does his best Bill Belichick impersonation, and spends 30 minutes speaking words devoid of meaning. He’s not a Michael Jordan (despite what Michael Lusetich of Fox would like you to believe), and if he wasn’t the undisputed best golfer of his generation, he would be much more comfortable being a Jonathan Byrd, the guy who only had to give an interview when he jumps out to a first-round lead before fizzling on the weekend.

I bring this up because recently, at his pre-Greenbrier press conference, Tiger called the golf media’s incessant “are you back, now?” line of questioning “a little annoying.” That sparked a small firestorm among media members because, well, they have been annoying. This is just the latest in a recent string of cold-shoulders given to the media by Tiger.

A few months ago, before the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, Tiger decided to forgo his usual pre-tournament news conference, instead opting for a 15-minute questions and answer session with fans. As anyone who has ever watched Tiger Woods do an interview or a press conference could tell you, Tiger’s not exactly a natural, and when someone asks him a question that is anything short of a total and complete softball, he passes.

Tiger wasn’t exactly candid in his Q&A, but he answered questions that we’ve never heard him attack before. We can all assume for ourselves that Tiger felt good after winning at Bay Hill, and that the notoriously quiet-loving Woods liked playing a tournament rounds sans gallery, but prior to that Q&A, none of us knew how many double eagles Tiger has made (two, neither in competition), or which major trophy he liked the most (Claret Jug).

Sure, it wasn’t ground-breaking journalism, but it was seeing the most well-known athlete in the world answer questions that he hadn’t already been asked 738 times before.

Tiger Woods 2012 Players Press Conference

Tiger went rogue again before the Memorial Tournament, when he upgraded from a prerecorded video to a Google+ Hangout, moderated by NBC’s Roger Maltbie. The Hangout, while far from perfect and still fully churned through the Tiger Woods PR machine, was an improvement, and gave Woods a chance to further interact directly with fans.

If you read anything written by magazines like Golf Magazine or Golf Digest or websites like YahooSport.com or NBCSports.com, you already know that the reviews were less than favorable. Writers at ESPN put together a column, Ron Sirak wrote a biting piece for Golf Digest, and the sports writers from The Boston Globe, who, ironically, giggle with glee every time Belichick says “It is what it is,” got on the Woods-bashing bandwagon. Sirak’s column was particularly scathing, saying that Woods needs the media now more than ever, that in this post-Thanksgiving 2009 world he needs to embrace the media in order to regain his place atop the sports pantheon.

The world of sports media has undoubtably changed since Tiger came on Tour, but what Sirak and others have failed to realize is that it is their very own inability to successfully report on the needle-mover that is Tiger Woods that has gotten us to where we are. Tiger didn’t always enter news conferences (of which he attends more than anyone) with a scowl on his face and a complacency in his voice, he was driven there. Even before his personal-life meltdown, Tiger was always hyper-evaluated, every statement and answer scoured over for subtext because, as the AT&T National’s ratings showed us, no one moves the needle like Eldrick Woods.

In his piece, Sirak said that by staying away from press conferences (the 2012 tally is all the way up to two skipped pressers, by the way), Tiger is harming himself more than he is the media, because the “less ethical” in the profession are more likely to take cheap shots. (Though I would like to point out that a few Q&A sessions with fans is hardly “blocking out the media.”) The problem with that logic is that we are already there, with John Feinstein and Alex Miceli writing off real journalism in favor of their own personal quest to rid the world of the big bad Tiger Woods. We’ve already gotten to the place Sirak was hoping to avoid, and it’s two of the biggest names in golf reporting that have taken us there, not the “disparaging bloggers squirreled away in Brooklyn basement apartments” Ron Sirak seems to fear so deeply.

Tiger Woods 2009 Accenture Match Play Press Conference

I hate to keep harping on one article from two months ago, but I’d like to present one last nugget from our friend, Ron Sirak: “When the slop hit the fan for Woods late in 2009, we realized how little we knew Tiger.”

Think about that for a second. Tiger Woods, for all of his flaws, has sat in interview rooms more than any golfer could even imagine, and yet still, we don’t know him. And the very people who are supposed to make that process happen are saying they had nothing to do with that?

The golf media has been given almost two decades now to teach us about Tiger Woods, and while they’ve managed to dig up every woman he’s ever looked at, it took until his pre-Wells Fargo Q&A for a fan question to finally teach us why he uses the 5-wood at some events and the 2-iron at others.

And why is that particularly embarrassing? Because those are the questions Tiger Woods likes to answer, and those are the answers we love to hear. He’s a grade-A golf nerd, likely on a level few of us will ever approach, and those are the questions that show us that he really does love golf, that he actually is interested in all of the quirky things that we make threads about on the forum. The media has utterly failed to coax that Tiger Woods out of his shell, despite hours upon hours of opportunity (and no, asking Tiger two questions about his freshman-year college roommate, who happened to be from West Virginia, home of the Greenbrier, isn’t quite what I had in mind).

They’ve been so tied up in knots over the last few years deciding just how big of a slime-ball he is, just how impossible Jack’s record is to break, and just what he needs to do to officially be “back” they’ve failed to humanize Tiger Woods just at the time that Tiger Woods appears to be the most human.

If it takes a partial move away from mundane pressers to make Tiger Woods at least a tiny bit interesting, I say bring it on, and we’ll pick up the pieces of the fallen sky later.

Could it get any worse?

Photo Credits: © Sam Greenwood, © Stuart Franklin.

18 thoughts on “Tiger and the Media – Time to Cut Their Losses?”

  1. If the media didn’t ask so many rediculous and boring questions, maybe they would start to get better and/or more interesting answers.

    I think back to the Colt’s last Super Bowl win (2006 season) where the reporter asked Peyton Manning, “Does is make you feel happy to win a Super Bowl?”. Really?

    You really can’t blame some of these ahtletes for not taking to the media.

  2. Dude.. Media are annoying.. not about Tiger. Golf Media is OLD, BITTER, and HATERS.

    Sorry dude.. if you’re looking for sympathy for Media Member.. I’m not buying.. period!!

  3. Fantastic analysis… I think you hit the nail on the head when you say there are questions Tiger wants to answer, that his fans want to hear, but which the media aren’t asking – not even before the hydrant incident.

  4. Good article.

    Today’s media as a whole, political, athletic, etc., is piss poor. Maybe it always has been, I don’t know.

    re: Q&A’s, I think these guys won’t have jobs for long and they see the writing on the wall when Tiger cuts them out and goes right to the fans.

  5. I’d rather Tiger do the Q&A things via online chat rooms or even recorded stuff. No one cares to hear him answer the same crap. If cared what people thought he’d show he cared, at this point in his career he doesn’t have to care anymore. He’s richer than sin, plays a game for a living, and we’re all just jealous and either root for or against him in jealousy.

  6. Dude, your last 4 paragraphs are MONEY!!! This was a great read, and right on time I might add. Lets throw the whole lot of em’ out and start over.

  7. One thing, Tiger is far from the most well known athlete in the world. Far from it. Basketball and soccer players are much more widely recognised.

  8. Great piece of writing. About time someone pointed out the shocking standard of sports media these days.
    The losers in this are going to be the so-called sports journalists. At the end of the day, Woods doesn’t really need them does he? I kind of like the idea that he’s a golf nerd like a lot of the rest of us.

  9. Thanks for writing this. The news media (sports and otherwise) refuse to believe that we have entered a new era. One where they wont be as important or powerful. The fast that Tiger can go around them and reach his fans directly should send shivers down their spines. And thanks for pointing out that the fans asked some great questions about golf that he had never been asked before. It never dawned on the sports media that the greatest golfer of our time might have a great golf mind.

  10. Ive watched a bunch of his pressers. I’ve noticed that most of the questions seem to relate directly to some aspect of a reporter’s piece he/she is working on for that particlar week. This leads to a lot of questions about golf courses, previous wins, other player d’jours of the week,etc… It’s all pretty easy to forget, but reporters do have angles they are paid to go after. It may be a little unfair to ask them to ask questions based off sheer curiosity–like fans do in Q&A.

    It would be cool, however, if more of the instruction article guys would go to the PCs and ask Tiger questions directly related to the golf swing and course management. His snswers would be interesting .

  11. I have to disagree with this analysis. Tiger is and has always been in the drivers seat when it comes to his reflection to the public. Blaming the media is like blaming golf courses for his performance on the field.

  12. That’s a good strategy for Tiger.. stiff the media and maybe just let them listen in while he talks golf with real golf fans. Where did the love of the game go? It’s not in the media tent for sure.

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