Two contrasting and conflicting thoughts came to mind as I read Tiger Woods’ first-person article for The Players Tribune, in which he strongly took offense to a recent Dan Jenkins column that offered a fictional interview with him.
The first: Chill out, dude. It was a satirical piece which obviously caricatured a few of your better known personality traits. It might have perpetuated stereotypes of you being a bad tipper or an ungracious employer, but it was hardly a character assassination. I mean, it even has the word “fake” right there on the front cover of the mag. Your reaction is the athlete equivalent to a politician posing a counterargument to some parody in The Onion. Besides, writing this rebuttal only brings more attention to the original Jenkins column and helps sell more magazines, which is probably the exact opposite of your intended goal.
The second: Good for you, Tiger. If journalists expect you to be held to a certain standard, then you – and other athletes – should be able to turn that spotlight around and hold us accountable for what we’ve written about you. For a guy who’s so often straddled the fence or bitten your lip rather than quenching our collective thirst for an opinion, it’s refreshing to read an unvarnished viewpoint on something that’s bothering you. The truth is, if you’d been this unfiltered for the past two decades, journalists would probably have less cause to write imaginary pieces guessing at what’s going on inside your head.
One thing we can probably all agree on here is that the one-way business of journalism is rapidly changing. Call it The Reform Movement of the Digital Age – or maybe The Empire Strikes Back is a catchier title. No longer are athletes six degrees of separation from those who pay for tickets, screech for autographs and idol worship on varying levels. Instead, somebody like Woods – or any of the numerous athletes who have written for The Players Tribune and other similar outlets – can bring his message directly to the public without that need for a filter between them.
In this specific instance, Woods acted no differently than any journalist would. He did his due diligence by reading the original column; he reached out to sources by sending a letter to Golf Digest; and he formed an opinion based on the presented facts and the reaction he’d received.
Was he a bit over the top in his response to a column that was clearly written from a satirical standpoint? I think so, yes. Does he deserve to own a forceful opinion on something written about him that doesn’t echo his thoughts? Absolutely.
The answers to those two questions aren’t mutually exclusive. Pandora’s Box has been opened, with athletes giving themselves the platform to react on the same level and let the public form their own opinions.
As it turns out, Clark Kent isn’t the only one who can write a piece. Superman is now getting in on the act, too.