Speaking of perspective, I recently chatted up a European golf insider who is familiar with Sergio Garcia. Sergio, I learned, had taken private lessons designed to improve his handling of the press. This was before The U.S. Open. Media training is not unique to Sergio. Plenty of athletes and executives who deal regularly with the press learn the various techniques, which might include addressing a reporter by their first name so as to seem like a friendly person.
Anyway, regarding Sergio, I expressed that as a member of the media I didn't necessarily want an emotional person like Sergio to now go on autopilot where he just pulls file cards out of his mind, thinking it's the 'appropriate' answer. That's boring. On the other hand, the outburst Friday at Bethpage, when he suggested that had Tiger been on the course in conditions like he'd just experienced then the USGA would have suspended play, came across as petulant. Emotion's fine. Petulance isn't always viewed that way.
That said, how do you hold onto the emotion that is at the core of who you are while at the same time steering away from the kind of comments that can stain you for a long time? Perspective, I argued. Perspective. Had one guy come into the media center that Friday at Bethpage and said the following they would have been received very, very well: 'Was it difficult out there? Absolutely. But what's really difficult is what people dealt with September 11th here in the New York region. We just played golf in the rain. So, in terms of golf, yes it was difficult. But in terms of life, no it wasn't at all.'
Perspective. Something that says that it's a game. Granted, it's also a business, a livelihood for the players, no question. But let us know that it is still a game. Let people know that you know that. That is what I would convey to the players in a media training session. So Sergio, don't lose the fire, just temper it with perspective.
Perspective is most interesting where Tiger is concerned these days. For the first time in some time, Tiger's image has been tested and poked at and there have been some negative reviews. Tiger, the critics seem to be suggesting, is just another modern uber-athlete-slash-pitchman-slash-conglomerate who stands for little more than golfing excellence and Nike products. That's the angle that's being put forth by some. Others contend that Tiger's genius and destiny at this moment in time call for him to use all of his available powers to make a mark on the sport of golf the likes of which have never been made before. And the theory goes further to suggest that Tiger has already made enormous, historic social statements through his work with a ball and club. Do his critics want him to threaten a boycott of The Masters unless they agree to admit women members? Do they want him to make a more vigorous statement in their favor?
If this is the kind of standard to which all future athletic greats will be held, the kind of questions they will be required to answer or face, then good luck to them all. What if, suppose, the NAACP announces that a particular team doesn't employ as many minorities as it thinks is appropriate and then calls for all minority members of THAT team to boycott all further games until the situation is remedied? There are plenty of causes out there where you could call on plenty of athletes, not just Tiger, to take a moral stand.
Presumably, Tiger is being called onto the carpet because of his early Nike commercial, when he stated that he wanted to make golf look like America. Is that an America without women, the harshest critics wonder. I mean the New York Post for goodness sake called Tiger a hypocrite, in a bold headline splashed across the back page not long ago. This is a strange spot for Tiger. Technically, his supporters say, this isn't a Tiger issue. It's an Augusta National issue and a women's issue. And if you're going to make it a Tiger issue, they'd argue, then make it a Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer (both Augusta members) and a Phil Mickelson issue.
So what is the right move now? Will there be a concerted effort through future commercial portrayals of Tiger by his handlers to demonstrate that he does have a moral pulse? Or will there be no move at all?
Perspective. It's all in the eye of the beholder, isn't it?