Feb
23
2017
Stop with the overblown outrage over Pat Perez’s hot take on Tiger Woods
By Stephanie Wei under Tiger Woods

I will remember February 23rd as the day where WUP’s theme was “chill out, everyone” to all golf-related news. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been so preoccupied with the real news the past few months that my perspective is different than when my entire world was golf 24/7. Well, I loathe myself a little that I’m joining the masses in commenting on the latest Tiger-related circus because I’ve been over it for years, yet I have felt forced to partake in the mass media frenzy over everything Tiger Woods.

I’m not in denial that he moves the needle. I know he’s helped golf become more popular to the mainstream and non-golf fans are more likely to watch when he’s in contention or I guess these days if he’s simply playing any kind of competitive round. He has revolutionized the game. He inspired this new, current generation of young and exciting golfers who grew up worshipping him — the same group of guys I wish we could focus on talking about instead of hanging on to ghosts from the past. It’s doing everyone a disservice.

And yes, I GET IT. You don’t care, you just want Tiger. Well, I know there are at least a few people who appreciate reading more about this amazing crop of young guys dominating the Tour, along with the underdogs and relative no-names.

In my humble opinion, there’s no doubt Tiger is the GOAT (with all due respect to Jack Nicklaus). Golf was indeed more fun to watch — and cover — when he was playing well (though I witnessed very little of it in real life). It makes my job *so much* easier when Tiger Woods is around. In fact, I can get away with being extremely lazy. I mean, Tiger walks out of the airplane and I can write the most-blah-ever account of it, and still, it will generate tons of traffic. In theory, all this time, it was not in my best interest to even criticize Tiger! (To be honest, I believe I owe him some credit with regard to helping launch my career when he had the most high-profile confrontation with a fire hydrant in 2009.)

For at least a solid five years, I used to check my traffic and site numbers so often that it was seriously unhealthy. It was like I was held hostage to the beast that never sleeps (the internet). This is pathetic to admit, but I used to have anxiety over being out of pocket because I had to go to a doctor’s appointment because I was so freaking concerned that the most trivial of golf-related news would break and I would not have access to immediately respond and post about something that really didn’t matter.

But I digress. Back in WUP’s heyday, I vividly remember tolling for five hours trying to wax lyrical over an incredible and inspiring story of a relative no-name player at Q-school in 2011. There were like two comments. Almost immediately after, some relatively small Tiger news broke and I spent like 15 minutes hastily writing it up and within minutes, thousands had clicked on the link and in the next hour, there were 20-plus comments on that post. Though it was early days, I wasn’t surprised, but I guess that was the first time where the disparity was so blatant and disappointing in a way.

For longtime readers, I’ve been consistently critical of Tiger, but I’ve also consistently defended him when it comes to empathizing with his injuries. For the former, I’ve received tons of backlash and criticism, but remember last month I was called a “Tiger apologist” or some version of it by a few people on Twitter. That was a sure sign we are living in a whole new world because of all the things I’ve been called, that was a first. I am still laughing at those tweets.

I wrote something very long and very personal re: back injuries when the news broke that Tiger was withdrawing from Riviera and the Honda Classic, but then I didn’t feel comfortable publishing it right away because it was personal. I held back for various reasons, but one of them was I wasn’t in the mood to inevitably accused of “comparing myself to Tiger Woods,” which is so, so far from the case. In actuality, it’s that I empathize with him to a degree and I understand the inner conflict and battle of trying to play through pain and injury, and again, I know this on a very amateur level and I don’t claim to understand the reasons behind Tiger’s thinking. However, I know what it’s like to keep trying and inflicting further physical and psychological pain on myself because anything short of not continuing to try would equate to “quitting,” “giving up” or “failing.” So I decided to shelf all the gory personal stuff and take some time to read it over and think about it. I’m considering reworking it a bit and perhaps publishing it next week, but I’ve completely gone off point again.

I’ve also remained consistent that I’m so sick and tired of the constant “need” to feed the Tiger Woods narrative, especially when I’ve seen the same movie with the same ending at least a dozen times in seven years. Every time he “comes back” (I’ve lost count), there is so much hype that I grew jaded. I am all about nostalgia and reminiscing on the good old days, but I’ve been beyond ready to move on for *years. The search function on my site isn’t up to par, but I did my best to dig up some old stories and I’m sure I can find other ones that date further back. There was that time in 2012. There was that other time in 2012 in the final round at Pebble when Tiger’s pro-am partner Tony Romo beat him (I know they were playing from different tees). Perhaps one of the first indications in recent history of the beginning of Tiger’s long battle with his back. More of the same in 2013. And another example later that year. Three years ago at the Honda, he withdrew because of his back.

There are more stories about his back injuries from 2014 to present than there are about anything else Tiger-related, and trust me, I would have written and covered them all the same. But I’ve written and talked so much about Tiger and his back that I was very realistic and years ago said I didn’t think he’d win another major. Naturally, I was slammed and criticized, so now I get to say, I TOLD YOU SO. I feel like even the most fervent members of the Tiger cult have even come to grips with reality.

He’s done. He’s been done for so, so long. And I think it would be more courageous for him to simply stop the madness than to continue the suffering. He will always be relevant, but again, I don’t pretend to understand the Tiger Woods braintrust.

Someone tweeted at me earlier and said golf is more fun with Tiger regardless of how he’s playing. Well, I had a front-row seat to every shot he hit en route to an 82 in the first round of the 2015 Phoenix Open, and let me tell you, that was *anything* BUT fun. It was downright painful to watch and I genuinely felt pretty bad for Tiger’s obvious struggles with the chipping yips.

My favorite question from readers has always been, “What do you have against Tiger?” or “Why is it so personal?” Well, I have nothing personal against Tiger. He owes me nothing. I am just writing my opinion based on my observations covering golf and giving up any semblance of a real life outside of golf for the last 7-8 years. That’s all. I remember the two times where I felt a genuine vintage magical Tiger feeling. The first was at the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach during the third round (having issues with the link, but this one includes an excerpt from the post I wrote in reaction). The second was the front nine in the final round of the 2011 Masters before fizzling away to one where like five or six players were in contention coming down the stretch. By that point, Tiger wasn’t one of those guys because he had already dropped off. Those brief moments, especially at Pebble, were truly special and I feel fortunate to just have had a whiff of a glimpse of his former greatness and the unmatched excitement in the galleries (“Tiger roars”) when there were brief sightings of Vintage Tiger.

OK, I have gone on for too long without addressing Pat Perez’s recent comments on Sirius XM Radio. Before I even read the story and just saw the headline, I was like, oh, great, here comes the shitstorm!

Here’s the audio:

Here’s the transcript:

“He knows he can’t beat anybody. He’s got this new corporation he started so he has to keep his name relevant to keep the corporation going. So he’s going to show up to a few events, he’s going to try to play, he’s going to show the Monster bag, he’s going to show the TaylorMade driver, he’s gonna get on TV. He’s got the Nike clothes, he’s gotta keep that stuff relevant.

“But the bottom line is he knows he can’t beat anybody. He knows it. He shot 77! That guy can’t shoot 77. What does he do the next day? ‘Aw my backs gone.’ He knows he can’t beat anybody!”

Some took even greater offense to these comments.

“Personally, I don’t think you’ll see him again this year. The guy can’t show up to an interview!

“If he doesn’t play Augusta it’s over.”

“I said when he pulled out — I said he was going to pull out in one of these events, and you’re not going to see him play (four) events (in five weeks).

“There’s no way. I called it early. Nobody believed me.

“Personally, I don’t think you’ll see him again this year. I think he’s out. The only thing he’s going to care about is Augusta. … It’s not like he’s got his favorite major courses after Augusta. I’m telling you, I don’t think you’re going to see this guy again. The guy can’t show up to an interview. You think he thinks he can beat somebody? The guy can’t stand during an interview.”

Preach, PP! And I believed you and said almost the same thing. Naturally, I was also crushed for voicing an opinion that some delusional people who can’t let go of a Tiger Woods comeback still can’t come to grips with, but like I’ve said, many have come around in the past few weeks. But, PP, I feel ya, man.

First, an aside: I was more outraged about the outrageous response by the golf media when the news broke that Tiger was canceling his press conference. And the fact that those tweets were almost interchangeable with the tweets in my timeline by political reporters of real-life drama, like our national security, among other things, was befuddling, to say the least. OK, just wanted to get that out of the way.

My opinion to Perez’s hot, hot take? It’s perhaps too harsh and he could have done a better job with phrasing his words, and I don’t think he meant to imply so strongly that Tiger was “faking” the back injury in Dubai and merely showing up to cash checks. But the rest of what he said is probably closer to the truth than anything you’ll hear on the record from a fair number of Tour players who have similar sentiments as Perez — they would just never say it on the record. Instead of directing all your outrage at Perez, appreciate his candor. I hate that I have to write this so often, but we complain about hearing boring, cliched, scripted answers from players, and then when we hear an honest, real opinion that doesn’t fall in line with our own, the response is complete and utter OUTRAGE. I MEAN, GOD FORBID, ANYONE HAVE A DIFFERENT OPINION THAN WHAT WE CONSIDER ACCEPTABLE. Or simply an opinion! How dare he speak his unfiltered feelings!

The truth hurts, I guess — depending on your opinion, of course. Remember this is coming from Pat Perez, who really doesn’t give an F about what you think and is also a current Tour player, so he probably has a better grasp of the reality and/or the “general sentiment” in the locker room more than the average golf fan with a remote control, WiFi and Twitter account.

I commend Perez for sharing his unfiltered, honest take. Thank you, PP. And again, I don’t think his general message is that far from the truth. I thought I finally saw Tiger Woods accepting his fate during that bleak presser at the Hero World Challenge in 2015. He was a golfer coming to terms with the fact that he cannot physically compete at the highest level any more. It was really sad and it had to take a lot of courage to admit and say what he did that day and the glimpses of truth he’s uttered since then. I get it. When he took a redeye from LAX to Dubai before the first round and subsequent withdrawal, I questioned the decision not to leave sooner.

Actually, I initially had questioned the aggressive schedule Woods had unveiled, which included playing four out of five weeks, with one being halfway across the world. Flying (regardless of cabin or private or whatever) takes a massive toll on the body, especially the back. Last month when I went to Abu Dhabi, I got in late Monday night, I felt like crap on Tuesday, but on Wednesday, I was in so much pain that I literally couldn’t get out of bed until the afternoon. So, I wasn’t surprised when Tiger looked like he just wasn’t with it from the get-go in Dubai. And no, I’m not saying all this to try and be like, look, I was right, omg! Not at all. I’m just saying, I get it. I feel for Tiger.

Naturally, all of this has made me question why he’s still putting himself through the dog-and-pony show. It’s mentally and physically agonizing and it’s masochistic to a degree. I don’t think he enjoys withdrawing, but perhaps he’s gotten used to it that it’s become numb. I bet it was really, really tough the first time he had to come to terms with not physically being able to play or simply recognizing he was doing more harm to his body.

The other week I asked a veteran, well-respected journalist whom is one of — if not, the foremost — few pseudo insiders in Team Tiger. I’m paraphrasing here, but the response was something along the lines of Tiger having too much on the line to retire. I asked for clarification and again, to paraphrase, he mentioned Tiger’s endorsements, design company, foundation, etc. To sum, the money machine, major global corporation that is the Tiger Woods brand.  Remember, last fall, Woods announced the “next chapter” of his life, which unveiled his new company.

That’s not far from what Perez said. Again, I would have chosen different words and again I will defend Tiger to the death when people even make the slightest suggestion that he’s “faking”  the injury and/or pain. That shit is completely unfair and utter crap — and those who imply such a cynical perspective clearly have never endured debilitating back pain and such an implication seriously infuriates me. However, I’m not convinced that’s exactly what Perez meant or intended to say, nor do I think he was trying to be malicious.

However, the more I think about it, the more I realize Perez is implying that Tiger is basically being a PoS by cashing a generous seven-digit appearance fee check and then “faking” injury/pain because he’s not playing well is one that I even find overly cynical. Perez has gone through his own physical setbacks with injuries and surgery. He knows how much it sucks being sidelined. But if Tiger’s back pain is as bad as I think it is, sometimes simply functioning as a human being and managing to get out of bed the following morning and swing a club are huge achievements — anyone who’s been there and has chronic back issues knows how debilitating it can be. I mean, I wouldn’t wish my worst enemies to endure whatever Tiger’s battling. (But perhaps those who have implied Tiger faking the extent of the pain should for just a day for a lesson on compassion and empathy.)

I hate to be cynical, but if I’ve learned anything from the past seven years that involves Tiger Woods and golf, it’s never to underestimate the a sliver of reality with regard to the most pessimistic, world-weary takes.

*Update: ESPN.com’s Bob Harig reached Perez via phone on Thursday for comment.

“It’s our radio show,” Perez said of a show that is co-hosted by ESPN.com’s Michael Collins. “We’re just two guys talking about the stuff we always talk about. I had an opinion on Tiger, and I said it. No one wants to see Tiger come back, compete, and win again more than me. I was the one saying that none of these guys out here today can hold a candle to what Tiger has done or still does. But we’re talking about when is Tiger gonna play again? I don’t know. If the guy can’t do a press conference, how’s he gonna play golf?

“I’m getting killed by all these people, but I’m a Tiger fan who wants to see him back playing again. I just don’t know when that would be. Now I know kind of how Fuzzy Zoeller felt, but I was praising [Woods], and I’m still getting killed by all these people for an opinion I had on our radio show.”

I have one serious gripe. Perez comparing his remarks to Fuzzy Zoeller’s infamous comments are completely different. Zoeller made a racially-charged, off-color and inappropriate “joke” — I wouldn’t put opinion and arguably a racist comment in the same category. But if Perez feels like he’s receiving the same amount of backlash for voicing his opinion, then that’s unfair to PP. I wasn’t covering golf back when Fuzzy made that unacceptable “crack,” so I don’t know if the fallout is comparable. I’ll have to ask my older, wiser colleagues.

Again, I don’t agree with the implication that Tiger never intended to play these events and only showed up to collect appearance fees, etc. , but I’m never going to criticize a golfer or any athlete for voicing an opinion even if I don’t agree with it. I will stay up until 2am writing a 5,000-word screed defending any player to the death on this right.

Perez has never been one to shy from speaking his mind, but these particular remarks blew up only because it had to do with Tiger Woods, and holy shit, PP gave an unfiltered opinion. Uh, PP doesn’t give a shit what other people think at the end of the day and I have nothing but respect for the few who prefer to stay silent instead of share an opinion. I guess it’s easier to give the PC response and avoids dealing with these shit-storms, but having gone through quite a few of these myself, some of them were simply just me being stupid and making rookie mistakes and reacting in the heat of the moment, but most of the time, I was just sharing my candid opinion and god forbid, I or anyone else express anything that may steer away from the company line.

From my understanding and knowledge, I’ve always known Tiger and PP to be friendly with each other. And PP wasn’t trying to take away from Tiger’s many contributions to golf. Another argument I hate: How dare anyone criticize Tiger — we owe him our livelihoods and he’s why pros get paid so much money now. I don’t think any player would disagree and not acknowledge what TW has done for the game. Still doesn’t mean he’s not entitled to an opinion.

On a similar but slightly different note, Perez also recently said this in a Golf.com podcast, which really hits the nail in the head:

“[The story] is old, just in general,” Perez said on the latest GOLF.com Podcast. “Tiger changed the game, we do know that, but even if he came back, you’re not going to see the Tiger of old. It’s just not going to be there. There’s actually more of a question now. It’s not, ‘We can’t wait to see Tiger come back and win the Grand Slam.’ It’s, ‘We want to see Tiger come back and see if he can chip…’

“The media, it’s so old to keep listening to, ‘When’s he coming back? When’s he coming back?’ The guy is 40 and he’s won 79 times. In my personal opinion, he doesn’t have the same drive he had when he was 24. I guarantee that. He’s got two kids now…they’re in school, they’re active, they’re doing sports and he wants to be there for them. That’s understandable. The guy has earned the right to do anything he wants and the media keeps wearing him out by whatever he does and doesn’t do.

“It just gets old because it takes away from the Rory [McIlroy], the Dustin Johnson the Jason Day, all these great kids…we’ve got a lot of great kids that are carrying the torch right now. I wish people would just focus on it as opposed to Tiger’s comeback.”

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. I couldn’t agree more. I was absolutely baffled at the glowing stories after Tiger finished 15th out of 17 players last December. I understand it wasn’t so much about his scores, etc., but things looked promising. I wasn’t convinced at all and I was like, uh, are we talking about the same tournament here??? I’ve been trying to silently protest feeding the Tiger machine, but that’s a lose-lose situation. At least, finally, even the most fervent members of the Tiger cult appear to have come to grips with reality.

OK, let’s move on…for the day at least. Ugh.

/end rant


 

Update: I lied. I’m not done with my rambling outrage over all the

Oh, one last thing: I dare you to try and slam Perez by arguing he has no “right” to comment on Tiger and/or have an opinion by downplaying his professional career and pointing out that he only has two wins, so HOW DARE HE provide an opinion on anything or anyone that is by far superior to him, blah blah. I can’t emphasize how ridiculous that “argument” is (which if I recall correctly was one that many NFL players used to patronize and denigrate reporters this past season).

If no one is allowed to provide an opinion on a sport or specific player unless that person’s personal achievements match that of said player, then no one would be able to ever write about Tiger Woods and/or basically any professional golfer. Same goes for similar patronizing rationale that “you have no place criticizing me or questioning me because you’ve never been in my position.” Well, no shit, that’s why we’re trying to do our job by asking questions so that we can better understand an athlete’s mindset and thought process to accurately represent them in our story telling. And by that logic, the only people qualified to report and/or opine on pro sports are retired athletes. We are the public’s friend!

Part of the job description involves public scrutiny and getting yelled at/called names comes with the territory, but there is a fine line between constructive criticism and hate-mongering/trolling/cyberbullying. The latter is not OK and can really mess with your head and emotional wellbeing. Necessary requirement: Thick skin or learn to grow it.

With the digital era and various platforms for anyone with internet and a PDA, “journalism” is ever-changing, but I believe even we, lowly bloggers, who are products of new media, still have a standard and do our very best to adhere to journalistic ethics. We all make mistakes. If a journalist claims to have never ever gotten a story wrong, he/she is lying. It happens to most ethical, principled and renowned scribes. When it comes to blogging, we are basically pundits who share our opinions and react to news reports. Since these days, everyone does a little of everything and wears multiple hats in the modern 24/7 news cycle, I’m not a fan of labels and/or titles.

Important reminder: We, the media, serve the people. We are not enemies of the state. We are merely trying to do our job by asking questions (sometimes one’s that aren’t “friendly”) to get to the truth because the public has a right to know. It’s a bit different when it comes to covering sports, but whenever there’s money or sponsors or endorsements involved, anything and everything becomes fair game.

/end rant, part deux