Saturday, June 20, 2015

Tiger's Not Back! Tiger's Not Back!

Tiger Woods shot the worst round of his life in the US Open, missed the cut and finished tied for 151 out of 156 players. Finally even sports writers  and those specifically covering golf  who had been making excuses for Woods for 7 years despite the fact that he was only a shell of his former self are finally admitting he's not what he was and probably wont ever be.

But for the last seven years, despite the fact that Woods game had deteriorated beyond recognition and he wasn't even competitive, you wouldn't have known it from the sports news media until now. But they are still afraid to say why.

Over the last seven years, showing the kind of double standards that define contemporary journalism as bad, incompetent and dishonest no matter what the story, despite his disastrous play, if Woods ate a bowl of soup without dribbling down his chin the writers covering golf and sports in general would be proclaiming, " Tigers back, Tigers' back". Jim Nance of CBS was one of the biggest cheerleaders. Woods could play three holes decently without tripping over his club and Nance was proclaiming Woods was showing his old form and he was good as ever. Not exactly.

The hypocrisy and dishonesty of the news media covering Woods hung in the air every time he played and was evident even as one of Woods' tee shots would veer off into the spectator area. Any criticism of Woods would mean his agent would shut them out, no interviews, no nothing. And maybe even counter attack which they did when a broadcaster at the Golf Channel accused Woods of trying to cheat and break the rules while playing a hole in a tournament a year ago.

So none of them wanted to touch the obvious -- what it was that brought about Woods' demise. 

When the story first broke in 2007 that Woods had been cheating on his new wife and new baby, and not just cheating but cheating with women most people wouldn't bring home to meet their goldfish, I said privately that Woods was finished. Not so much finished in terms of advertisers and endorsements or even public opinion, though in the immediate aftermath advertisers understandably left him, but that he was finished as an athlete, as a force in the world of professional golf and that he'd never be the same again, never be able to perform at the level he had been. His demise was predictable.

 Golf is not a team sport. You are out there by yourself. If anything is off by a millimeter, if timing or eye - hand coordination is off by a fraction it can be the difference between shooting 70 and shooting 80 and at the pro level of competition that means disaster. So how does he go out there and play at the same level knowing his carefully crafted image is now in tatters? 

To make matters worse some of the women were making public text messages Woods had sent them,  some incredibly insulting to his wife and others revealing that Woods had some sexual proclivities that most people wouldn't want broadcast to the world. This isn't to judge Woods or what anyone enjoys sexually which is no ones business but their own. But Woods did go out of his way to concoct a facade of a squeaky clean image, someone with an almost Boy Scout- like moral character which  made it even more embarrassing. And hypocritical.

So even back in 2007 I wondered how Woods would be able to play golf at the level  he had been accustomed to in front of thousands of spectators and tens of millions watching around the world, while knowing he was the center of attention and knowing that the whole world knew not only that he had been cheating on his wife and child,  but  knowing what Woods liked these women to do to him  sexually. ( no, there is no reason to repeat it here -- this is about lousy journalism not Woods sex life).

How do you compartmentalize that? How do you shut it out? The answer is Woods couldn't.

But you wouldn't know any of this was even an issue or part of the mix by how Woods was covered by the news media. No one said a word. It was all hush hush. It wasn't  an 800 lb gorilla in the room but an entire zoo. And the sports and golf journalists covering Woods just pretended it didn't exist.

And for the same reasons that political and domestic journalists always play the same game whether it's George W Bush in the White House or  Obama -- to preserve their access  and fear of criticism from any sizeable audience where they might feel professionally threatened.

Any golf or sports writer touching on the real reason behind Woods demise knew they would be denied access to Woods in the future. They were also big fans of Woods (as most everyone was) who in his prime was one of the greatest golf pros ever and so there was fear of potential backlash from Woods' fans if he wasn't treated with kid gloves. 

So for the last seven years while watching Woods game deteriorate into something almost farcical considering what he once was, and all of it happening after the whole mess was made public, they all  pretended they had no idea why Woods wasn't what he used to be. And talked about every possible reason. Except the real one.

It's been a case in point of how corrupt and dishonest journalists can be when covering a story and how they will slant or corrupt the truth based on their own bias and self interest and like so many in journalism, bury the truth rather than run the risk of the truth burying them, a risk any real journalist would take as part of their job.

No one covering Woods wanted to talk about those events and how public knowledge of those events  could have affected Woods' play.  Instead they reported that Woods blamed it on his swing.  Golf analysts gave us countless slow motion video clips of the old Woods and new trying to analyze the differences in the swing .  But the only swinging that caused Woods' game to deteriorate was the swinging he did with what some might call bimbos that became public knowledge.

Woods paid, not millions but tens of millions, maybe more to keep these women quiet,  to get them to stop revealing the text messages or details of their encounters with Woods and to keep them out of the tabloids  or making  TV appearances. He bought their silence with tens of millions. The sports news media was happy to do it for free. As long as they could get an interview.

 As part of the settlements the women were required to stay silent. They couldn't even mention the name Tiger Woods in public or anything about a settlement or for how much. Otherwise they'd forfeit everything Woods agreed to pay them to keep them quiet.

And since 2008 every broadcaster and journalist covering Woods has been happy to go along,  avoiding mentioning it like the plague. Even this year at the Open they never reported that someone had hired a plane to carry a banner over the golf course calling Woods a cheater.

Now having had the worst tournament round of his career in the Open, he missed the cut again, finishing tied for 151 out of 156 players. Even amateurs beat him.

But this time we're no longer hearing the farcical  "Tiger's back ! Tiger's back!" if he manages to even play par for a few holes. His two day total of 156 was the worst of his career. But the denial in the news media continues exemplified by a sports reporter named Joe Thomson writing for both ESPN and The Score web sites  who wrote of Woods missing the cut, " nobody seems to have answers for Tiger's flagging game".

 It still says a lot about journalism,  how they play favorites, how dishonest they are when it comes to pure reporting and how much they are willing to hide or  ignore when they want to no matter how relevant.

 They still wont say why Woods isn't what he used to be.  Instead, like journalists of all kinds they run with the herd, each mimicking the other, none with the courage to step away from the herd and tell the truth. Which makes the real plague the dishonest way journalists cover stories now and how that plague affects and infects  everything they do. No matter what story they are covering. So while Tiger's ex-wife learned she couldn't trust him, the country's Tiger problem is we can't trust the news media. 

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