From Part One:
Heres a recipe we havent seen before. Take the following key ingredients: one Nike GV jet, four cities in 48 hours, three PGA TOUR stars - Tiger Woods, David Duval and Jason Gore - a number of key Nike Golf executives, five print journalists, one television reporter (me) and the launch of two new Nike drivers. Mix thoroughly. The result? Nikes Whistle Stop Tour (WST); a media junket extravaganza that, even by Nike standards, is unprecedented.
The assignment given to me by The Golf Channel ' create a reporters first person video journal of the trip. Roll tape as much as possible. When in doubt shoot first, beg for forgiveness later. And, oh yeah, interview Tiger Woods. This was going to be fun.
Heres a news flash, golf fans. If you ever have a chance to buy your own Gulfstream GV private jet, do it. Dont hesitate for even a minute. Its a total no brainervery cool way to travel. That was one of the main motivating factors for me getting up at 4:45 in the morning on Tuesday; the second morning in a row I got up at a time I usually refer to as night. The first official day of Nikes Whistle Stop Tour. The WST journalist group was scheduled to meet in the hotel lobby at 6:15 am for our ride over to Hillsboro Airport where Nike keeps its jets. Yes jets as in plural. The only thing better than one GV would probably be two GVs. More on that later.
Four-forty-five a.m. comes pretty darn early, especially when the day before started at 4:00 am and involved flying across the country; interviewing the president of Nike Golf, Bob Wood; then participating in an icebreaker dinner. Thats a dinner where a bunch of people who dont really know each other all that well (most of us didnt know each other at all) imbibe sufficiently so as to break down what is normally good business etiquette, and in place of those manners loosen up a bit, crack a couple of jokesyou know, let your hair down. I participated in the icebreaker liberally. Hence, 4:45 am came early for me.
Let me tell you a little more about dinner. I, by dumb good luck, sat in a corner seat next to the head of the table ' the head of the table on my end being occupied by Bob Wood. I was particularly interested in hearing what Bob had to say about Tiger. I would be meeting and interviewing Tiger for the first time the following day. And so the conversation went
Bob: No, I mean, Tiger is just one of those rare people you meet who, no matter what they would choose to do in life, they would be great at it. The fact that it turns out to be golf, we should all thank our lucky stars for that. The fact that hes with Nike, are you kidding me? For us as a companywe werent really in the golf business 10 years agoand now look where we are. Its huge. Its bigger than huge. Tiger is truly bigger than life.
Casey: Whats Tiger like, though, as a person? The Tiger you have gotten to know
Bob: Hes likehes just a cool guy. When you get to know him, hes just a regular guy but very cool. Great personality, wonderful sense of humor, astute business man, amazing athlete ' obviously ' but I think the thing that strikes me most about Tiger is his humanity. Hes just real. When hes with you he is WITH you. Not somewhere out in left field with his eyes looking in 15 different directions. Not like hes doing you a favor by being there. Youll see when you interview him tomorrow. Hey, can you pass the bread over here?
Casey: But, theres got to be a tough side to him also, right? The guy is bulletproof on the golf course. Dont nice guys finish last?
Bob: On the golf course, and I think Tiger will be the first to admit this, its a different deal. He kicks in some other geargoes to a different place in his head. His competitive instincts take over and the desire to perform up to his own expectations and his focus to win consume him. Im not sure if Tiger is even aware the rest of the world exists when hes competing on the golf course.
This was but a trace of remembrance I had from the night before as our shuttle van approached the gate to Nikes private hanger. The sign read NIKE AIR. Nike Air! Are you kidding me? Private airport, private hanger, private jet overload was about to kick in. Keep in mind its still dark out. To add to the surreal nature of things, it was snowingheavily. It rarely if ever snows in Portland. There was actual accumulation on the ground. The shuttle vans hydraulic front door was iced shut. Our driver had to use the side emergency door which he punched from the inside with his fists to break the ice seal. When we exited the van we heard, Welcome to Nike Air. Watch your step. The ground is very slippery. Thats not good for flying is it? Snow, ice and slippery?
As I made my way with the group, I looked up to see ' bathed in the light flooding out of the open hanger door ' a large, sleek jet a quarter in the hanger and three quarters out of the hanger. Nose in, body and tail out. White jet, very clean, no markingsextremely impressive looking as a crew of people busied themselves around it in preparation for our flight to Los Angeles.
But, with the bad weathersnow, icewould we be able to fly? And even if we could go, surely the flight would be delayed. That would be awful. There was an incredibly tight and complicated schedule to keep. Tiger Woods was waiting for us in Los Angeles. David Duval was meeting us in the afternoon to continue on to Scottsdale. Everything was planned down to the last minute and if our plane took off late it could spell disaster for the entire rest of the Whistle Stop Tour. The WST group had grown noticeably quiet.
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