I’ve long believed that people see others in Shakespearean terms — “to be or not to be.” From some we learn how to be — these some we call “role models.” I put my recently-deceased high school buddy Anthony King in that category. (More.) From others we learn how not to be — what I’d call “anti-role models.” I put my mom and most of the patients on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew in that one.
I put Tiger Woods there, too. He built gobs of goodwill with me with his sticks — heck, I darn near have a section in my closet just for Nike golf garb. (Check out the pic in this entry.) But over the last few years he’s blown through it. After yesterday’s Masters telecast I’ll make it the official position of the Jenkins family parents vis-a-vis Reese and Finn: do not be like Tiger Woods.
His crime yesterday was being short — very short — with CBS interviewer Bill McAtee. The latter asked some fair questions in his quick interview with El Tigre after the latter had finished his final round — “Did you feel like you played well enough to win?,” “What will you do now?” etc. Not the stuff of Tim Russert to be sure, but par for the course for a thirty-second interview. Tiger’s curt responses — basically, “We’ll see” and “I’m gonna eat” — would have made Bill Bellichick blush. (More.) He didn’t even wait for MacAtee to sign off before he walked away. Must have been mighty hungry.
This was hardly Tiger at his worst. His philandering, club throwing and on-course profanity (YouTube: Tiger Woods profanity) are the stuff of legend. The first was done in private and isn’t my business, but the latter two, which have caught the scorn of some pretty big names in the golf world (1I2), are done on course, on camera, and all the time. I’m pretty sure Tiger yelled a “f–k yeah” after making eagle on 8 yesterday — this from a guy who’s publicly admitted he needs to show more respect for the game. (Ya think?) This MacAtee incident was not only on national TV — it was done directly to another professional, and a pretty good one at that.
Professionals just don’t do that to other professionals on national TV. Jack, Arnie, Ernie, Phil — none would have treated an interviewer so dismissively. Tiger’s suspicions that he’d probably come up a few strokes short in his quest for green jacket number five doesn’t justify it. Luke Donald, Adam Scott and Jason Day all came up short in their quests for their first ones, yet somehow they were able to handle their post-round interviews with the class the occasion demanded. Ditto for Rory McIlroy, a kid fourteen years Tiger’s junior who knew he’d just made history for all the wrong reasons with his epic final round collapse. (Watch.) But Tiger couldn’t. He may as well have jumped on top of his playing partner’s line. I’m sure MacAtee would have preferred it had Tiger just said Heismanned the interview request altogether. At least then he’d have been spared being disrespected in front of millions.
None of this is to say that I don’t respect Cheetah as a player — and playah, for that matter, so long as he’s not married. His career record is second to one, he’s dominated the last decade-plus inside the ropes like no other, and he pulls off shots I — and probably some of his peers — can’t even imagine. Nor is it to say I don’t think he treats his peers on Tour well — at least those in its upper echelon. Nor is it even to say he should be more like Phil Mickelson, the proverbial anti-Tiger. I like Phil some, but he’s not without fault either: his sheepish, family guy persona strikes me as a bit contrived. (According to this article in GQ, I’m not alone.) What it is to say is that he should be more like a good and decent human being. Not just to his peers and the corporate fat cats who butter his bread. To everyone — fans, writers, even announcers whose questions he may not like.
Until he does, that sound you hear coming from casa de Jenkins on Sunday afternoons will be the Jenkins Family parents rooting against him.