Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Reilly Overload

I've got Rick Reilly on the brain. In the past month, I've read three of his books (Missing Links, Shanks for Nothing, and The Life of Reilly) and continued to monitor his spot on ESPN.com for his weekly column. I watched his Homecoming special with Michael Phelps. I'm entirely convinced I'll never in my lifetime be as great a writer as he is. I love his metaphors. He's just fantastic. And today, he came out with what I think is his best column of the year. It deserves more than just a link; I'm quoting the whole thing right here for simplicity. Enjoy.

Tiger Woods has outgrown those Urkel glasses he had as a kid. Outgrown the crazy hair. Outgrown a body that was mostly neck.

When will he outgrow his temper?

The man is 33 years old, married, the father of two. He is paid nearly $100 million a year to be the representative for some monstrously huge companies, from Nike to Accenture. He is the world's most famous and beloved athlete.

And yet he spent most of his two days at Turnberry last week doing the Turn and Bury. He'd hit a bad shot, turn and bury his club into the ground in a fit. It was two days of Tiger Tantrums -- slamming his club, throwing his club and cursing his club. In front of a worldwide audience.

A whole lot of that worldwide audience is kids. They do what Tiger does. They swing like Tiger, read putts like Tiger and do the celebration biceps pump like Tiger. Do you think for two seconds they don't think it's cool to throw their clubs like Tiger, too?

He's grown in every other way. He's committed, responsible, smart, funny and the most talented golfer in history. I just thought we'd be over the conniptions by now.

If there were no six-second delay, Tiger Woods would be the reason to invent it. Every network has been burned by having the on-course microphone open when he blocks one right into the cabbage and starts with the F-bombs. Once, at Doral, he unleashed a string of swear words at a photographer that would've made Artie Lange blush, and then snarled, "'The next time a photographer shoots a [expletive] picture, I'm going to break his [expletive] neck!"

It's disrespectful to the game, disrespectful to those he plays with and disrespectful to the great players who built the game before him. Ever remember Jack Nicklaus doing it? Arnold Palmer? When Tom Watson was getting guillotined in that playoff to Stewart Cink, did you see him so much as spit? Only one great player ever threw clubs as a pro -- Bobby Jones -- and he stopped in his 20s when he realized how spoiled he looked.

This isn't new. Woods has been this way for years: swearing like a Hooters' bouncer, trying to bury the bottom of his driver into the tee box, flipping his club end over end the second he realizes his shot is way offline.

I can still remember the 1997 Masters -- arguably the most important golf tournament ever played. Woods, then 21, was playing the 15th hole on Sunday. He had just hit a fairway wood out of the rough and was watching it. A young boy came up from behind just to touch him -- just to pat the back of this amazing new superhero. That's when Tiger pulled the club way back over his head and slammed it down, nearly braining the kid he couldn't see behind him. And this was with a huge lead.

Look, in every other case, I think Tiger Woods has been an A-plus role model. Never shows up in the back of a squad car with a black eye. Never gets busted in a sleazy motel with three "freelance models." Never gets so much as a parking ticket. But this punk act on the golf course has got to stop. If it were my son, I'd tell him the same thing: "Either behave or get off the course."

Come to think of it, if I were the president of Nike, I'd tell him the same thing.

Put it this way: Will Tiger let his own two kids carry on in public like that?

I know what you're saying. We see more Tiger tantrums because TV shows every single shot he hits. And I'm telling you: You're wrong. He is one of the few on Tour who do it. And I keep wondering when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is going to have the cojones to publicly upbraid him for it.

Golf is a gentlemen's game. Stomping and swearing and carrying on like a Beverly Hills tennis brat might fly in the NBA or in baseball or in football, where less is expected, but golf demands manners. It's your honor. Is my mark in your way? No, I had 6, not 5. Golfers call penalties on themselves. We are our own police. Tiger, police yourself.

Tiger does a boatload of work for kids. He raises millions for his Tiger Woods Learning Center, which has helped teach thousands. But teaching goes the wrong way, too. Tiger is teaching them that if he can be a hissy hothead on the course, they can, too.

I remember Tiger's dad, Earl, telling a story. One day, when Tiger was just a kid, he was throwing his clubs around in a fuming fit when his dad said something like "Tiger, golf is supposed to be fun." And Tiger said, "Daddy, I want to win. That's how I have fun."

Well, it's not fun to watch.

Hope you liked that. As much as I love watching Tiger, I have to agree with what Reilly is saying. I used to be a lot worse with my golf tempter tantrums, but I'd like to think I have at least calmed them down enough to make the game more fun for my playing partners. Way to stand up and say something, Reilly. You never seem to disappoint me. Nice work.

3 comments:

Everyman said...

Hits the nail on the head, Cameron. The QOR Club, too, will require manners, and our code of conduct will be strictly enforced. Civility needs a champion in almost all areas of life these days.

Tyler said...

I read that too yesterday. I would agree with Reilly but I'd feel guilty, considering I used to make Tiger look like Nick Lidstrom by comparison back when I golfed.

When fellow Deke-er Brent and I were 15 or so, I nearly killed him. I was about to tee off and he was standing directly across from me about 30 feet away. I took a terrible shot, and my reaction was to blindly throw my club straight ahead from where I was standing. The club helicoptered inches past Brent's head. I think he still wakes up in a puddle of his own piss with nightmares about that day.

Cameron Kittle said...

@Tyler...we've all had our moments.

I remember a couple years ago I hit a mammoth drive on a par 5 and had a chance to get on in two with only my wedge (I cut the corner and had about 130 left). I chunked it, of course, and threw my club way ahead of me. Then I heard a splash.

Yep, it went straight into a pond. And, since it was a nice wedge, I did the only thing a man would do and strip down to my boxers and wade into the absolutely disgusting muck to feel around for that good ol' Cobra 52 degree. Took me about 15 minutes to find. Then I got out, dried off with golf towels, which probably made me dirtier, and played out the rest of the hole (Luckily, it was the ninth anyway).

The friend I was playing with couldn't stop laughing the entire time...especially when I asked him "How deep do you think this is?" and he said, "It can't be more than waist deep..." Immediately after he said that, I slipped on the muddy ledge and fell all the way in to my ears.

Since that day, I've been better about my golf tantrums. You can imagine why.

Keep those hilarious line combos coming...they're a nice break in the work day.