Tiger Woods is one who never has grown accustomed to celebrity, though he generally is polite about it. He is quite comfortable being in the playing field hitting shots, but obviously ill at ease when crowds begin to circle in as he walks off the course. Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Fuzzy Zoeller, Phil Mickelson, just to name a few, dont seem to mind the intrusions at all.
Tiger will never feel comfortable in the goldfish bowl, and that in no way means hes a bad person. Only about 99.9 percent of the general population would feel the same way. He realizes that he has become fabulously wealthy because he is so idolized, however, and so he has come to terms with it. But that doesnt mean he will ever enjoy it.
Mickelson, on the other hand, is extremely comfortable around the throngs. He doesnt yet have the adulation of a Tiger Woods, but he isnt too far from it. He will sign autographs until just about everyone has left, he pastes on that goofy grin when he is walking the fairways, and the galleries seem to genuinely like him.
I don't really look at myself like that, I guess, he says, debating whether he is a celebrity or not.
When I think of a celebrity, I think of guys who are in movies and in Hollywood. I play golf for a living and I've got a wonderful family and we have a lot of time away where we're able to just be ourselves and not be interrupted. I don't consider myself at that level yet.
People constantly believe that so-and-so was rude to them, and Im convinced that the vast majority of these people caught so-and-so at the wrong time. It never fails that when I write a positive story about someone, the next day is sure to bring an e-mail which says: Smith was extremely rude to my mother/child/wife. He/she had waited for him for an hour for an autograph, and Smith just blew by him/her.
Obviously, the letter-writer genuinely felt wronged by this. But it brings to mind an incident which Ive told before, but which explains sometimes the predicament in which the celebrity finds himself.
This particular time I was speaking with Gary Player after the final round of the PGA Seniors, and as he chatted, he busily signed autographs for a long line of people beside the 18th green. He looked up after four or five minutes, only to see more and more people get in line.
Look at this, he said in a low voice. I have to catch a plane in a little over an hour. Ive got to get back to the clubhouse and clean out my locker, then I have to drive to the airport. Im going to have quit signing autographs in a minute or two, and that will make a lot of people angry. A few of them will walk away from here thinking I am a real gentleman- the ones who got an autograph. But a lot more will think I am a genuine horses rear.
Ive thought about that many times when Ive seen someone suddenly break off and leave a crowd standing and waiting. How do they know what other obligations he has? But does anyone care?
Some players, of course, ARE just plain horses rears. They wouldnt stop and sign, regardless of the circumstance. And a few think that after they have signed eight or 10, its the end of their obligation. But for the majority, they have other pressing circumstances and, after they have signed for 8-10 minutes, they have simply got to leave.
Tiger, incidentally, is one who is baffled by people who make such a fuss over him. He has perfected the art of signing a few autographs on the run. But people, think for a minute what would happen if he were to sign an autograph for every person who wanted one. If there are 30,000 in attendance, 20,000 would want his name on a slip of paper.
He wouldnt spend just 30 minutes after a round signing ' he would spend four hours. If there were 100 people left standing who think Gary Player is a horses rear, there are 10,000 who think Tiger is.
What I am saying is - realize, please, that the Phil Mickelsons and the Arnold Palmers are indeed one in a million. They are rare luxuries. And the Tiger Woods of the game are not all bad people. Think what you would do in a similar situation. You are at work and suddenly, there is a crowd of 500 people who want your autograph. You would sign a few, then plead for a little rest. I guarantee you would.
Some people slide easily into the mantle of fame. Some dont. All have some responsibility to the masses, simply because it is due to the masses that they get their paychecks. But people, please use reason. These people arent two-headed freaks. They are just ' well, people.
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