Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly recently came on ESPN to say that Tiger Woods needs to fire most of his entourage, skip the Masters and US Open in 2010, stop throwing clubs and swearing, fix his marriage and become more transparent to the media. I wasn’t sure what to make of these comments at first, but after thinking about it, I’m convinced that Rick Reilly doesn’t like Tiger Woods very much. I’m sure I’m not the only one around that is tired of Reilly’s pathetic pre-prepared one liners and the way he laughs at his own jokes. Why ESPN is paying him $2 Million per year to pollute its airwaves is beyond me, because in my opinion, his commentary isn’t worth the paper S.I. prints it on. Fan or foe – Either way you dissect it, he’s flat wrong about Tiger.
What Reilly Said: Tiger needs to skip the 2010 Masters and US Open
Why he’s wrong: Tiger needs to get back to what he knows, to his friends and supporters and to golf. Phil Mickelson said playing golf was good therapy during his wife’s cancer treatment, and so golf would be a good way for Tiger to get away from it all for a few hours. Sure, some of his supporters will have walked out on him, but he still has many fans that are willing to forgive, especially these days. It seems it’s becoming commonplace to see sports figures be forgiven for almost anything. Kirby Puckett beat his wife. Kobe Bryant was accused of rape and nobody seems to care as long as he wins championships. Michael Vick fought and killed dogs for cash, and the fans in Atlanta cheered for him last Sunday, even if he was playing against his former team. With apologies to Elin, cheating on your wife seems pretty insignificant by comparison.
What Reilly Said: Tiger needs to fire his agent, caddy, and managers – anybody who his wife may no longer trust.
Why he’s wrong: With all due respect to Tiger’s wife Elin, the last thing he should do right now is distance himself from the people that helped him become the highest paid athlete in the world. I fail to understand Reilly’s logic that firing his caddy Steve Williams would be a good thing. Williams and Woods have a fantastic working relationship, and it’s hard to measure the effect Steve’s presence has had on Tiger in winning golf tournaments. Tiger could have won many tournaments carrying his own bag, but having Williams there has certainly been a great help. The reports that his friend Byron Bell, who heads Tiger’s course design business, helped arrange some of his sexual encounters has not been proven, but even if it was I doubt if it was Bell who was encouraging Tiger to cheat on his wife. Bell himself is getting married this weekend. Tiger needs to keep his close friends around for support and advice, but maybe he shouldn’t be the one who speaks at Bell’s wedding about the secrets to a successful wedding…
What Reilly Said: Tiger needs to become more transparent to the media, opening his doors to interviews at his house and signing more autographs.
Why he’s wrong: Notwithstanding the media circus that his “transgressions” have created, Tiger Woods’ life has been under a microscope almost since he was a toddler. Only a few people like Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali and Alex Rodriguez can even begin to understand the lifestyle of a sports icon. Most people think it’s easy, because all they see is the fancy cars and boats and the huge mansions. In reality, very few people know what it’s like to have to sneak in the back door and through the kitchen just to eat at a restaurant, or to have someone do your Christmas shopping for you because you can’t walk through the mall without getting mobbed by fans. These are the things we all take for granted. It’s easy for Rick Reilly to sit in his lazyboy at home and make this statement, because nobody wants his autograph, and nobody wants to interview him. Let’s be real Mr. Reilly, the vast majority of the people who subscribe to Sports Illustrated do it for the swimsuit issue and the free NFL poncho, not to read your column.
What Reilly Said: Tiger needs to stop swearing and throwing clubs.
Why he’s wrong: Ok, I’ll cut Mr. Reilly a break and say he’s not totally wrong on this one. I agree with him in general that Tiger is supposed to be a role model and shouldn’t use bad language and throw clubs, especially in front of impressionable children that take after their favorite stars. However, being a psychology major in college I tend to analyze these things from a different perspective. In Tiger’s case, I think swearing and throwing clubs actually helps his game most of the time, which is why I can forgive it. It sounds strange, but it’s similar to John McEnroe in tennis. I remember a research paper I did on this topic. McEnroe’s level of play and concentration was far better after one of his classic temper tantrums. His anger and rage helped him focus. I think for a small percentage of athletes, releasing the built up anxiety and rage helps to clear their mind and focus on the challenge ahead. Tiger is one of those athletes that has that ability. For most, anger and frustration has the opposite effect and serves only to make us look foolish. Tiger is playing professional golf, where a 3 foot putt can be worth millions. In that context, does his temper make him a bad role model? No, it makes him human.
Rick Reilly is a good journalist, and I have to give him credit for having the guts to take a stand against most of his peers on this one. I agree with him that Tiger needs to try and rebuild his marriage, but it takes two to tango. Frankly, I’m not sure that his wife wants to rebuild anything. It’s bad enough to find out your spouse has cheated on you, but finding out your spouse has been cheating on you for years with many different partners, including a porn star? (allegedly) That’s pretty horrible. In my eyes there is nothing Tiger could do to regain Elin’s trust after that, but I’m not in her shoes and I don’t know what kind of money is involved in their prenuptial agreement, which is a big factor in these kind of marriages.
I’m not a fan of Rick Reilly because I think he tries too hard to over dramatize things and add humor when clearly humor isn’t his forte. Whatever my personal feelings are, he’s right on most of the time in his reports. However in this case he’s misguided, and his criticism of Tiger comes at the worst possible time. Its not like this is the first time we’ve heard Reilly get on Tiger’s case, but to kick a man when he’s down is shameless.
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