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Tiger Woods: Lessons Not Learned … Again

Let’s get this straight first: Tiger Woods’ platelet-rich plasma treatement is not “controversial.” Anyone who says or implies it is can be perceived to be disingenuous.

Despite the fact that only one woman’s alleged trysts with Woods has been substantiated, Tiger Woods’ wife, Elin Nordegren, is said to be seeking a divorce. Nordegrin was seen recently without her wedding band – big money over love, big money over love, baby. On Woods’ side of things, like father, like son. Earl Woods’ first marriage resulted in two children —-  and a divorce. Now, apparently, so has Tiger’s.

Now, onto a USA Today column written by former Washington Post columnist, Christine Brennan. First, let me say that when I was but a pup at the Post Brennan was the one columnist I respected most. She was outspoken when it came to Title IX dealings and intercollegiate sports and was always fair and thoughtful when it came to writing about minority athletes and sports figures.

However, Brennan has altered her takes on sports and sports-related subjects and today is too often knee-jerk in her assessments of subject matter and leans toward sensationalist conjecture whenever possible. And today is no exception.

Brennan’s near wish for Woods to be somehow outed for HGH usage in her Thursday column is as sad as it is sickening. It is, though, too often the new tack taken by mainstream columnists in reaction to the innuendo and pap-filled posts at popular sports-related blogs like Deadspin and Pro Football Talk. It is an overall reaction by editors of newspaper and mainstream sports websites not only to blogs, but to the type of television produced by that unwieldy behemoth of televised sports-related viewing, ESPN.
Despite all of the bluster of Mike Greenberg and Jemele Hill, Skip Bayless and other network talking heads like those on the ESPN afternoon rant show, Around the Horn, that the sports media cannot be blamed for, well, almost anything, the fact is mainstream sports media can be blamed almost entirely for the direction taken by both amateur and professional sports.
That Brennan could use the loosest of ties to link Woods with possible PED use but preface the writing with, “There is no evidence at all, not a known shred, that Woods used an illegal substance or cheated on the golf course in any way,” is telling. Brennan knows exactly what she is doing. She knows how disingenuous her column on woods is. She knows she is walking down the path where TMZ, the National Enquirer, Deadspin, and Pro Football Talk reside.

And yet she remains willing to sink to that level for … what? A mention on ESPN, some extra website hits on her column, and some jackass editor calling her to let her know what a “good job” she did because her column generated controversy, which led to so many more hits to USA Today’s sports section.

But what good is the controversy if it is disingenuous, irresponsible, and is false in its premise?

Intense and incendiary, but honest writing can and does easily achieve the editor’s goal of creating controversy and of extra website views. In fact, an honest assessment of the Woods-Anthony Galea situation would lead to far more viewers visiting USA Today, as that assessment would include the unsavory role played by the U.S. and Canadian governments in Galea’s arrest, would include a scathing attack on Big Pharma companies, and would contextualize the link between the two men so that readers become empowered by gaining a thorough understanding of the various factions and people that must be involved to create such a public situation. In the end, the columnist earns credit for elucidating a complex situation, opens discussion of the situation for further exploration by that and other writers, and can garner the writer a wider and more loyal readership than the writer who is prone to splashy rumor-mongering, or who will create controversy where there is none.

Instead, even normally responsible columnists are excusing their Natty Enq-styled prose, portraying critiques of their mad dashes to derive the snarkiest line about Woods’ travails, to gleefully report the next woman who comes forward saying she bedded Woods as telling the truth despite not having a shred of evidence to substantiate her claims, and the other myriad ethics-challenged offenses as one columnist put it, a “leave-poor-Tiger-alone crusade.”

The thought that any talk of this sort about Woods is a prevailing attitude at all would be laughable if it was not such an overt attempt to bully critics of the columnist who continue to pound Woods in such a wanton and noxious manner. As usual this kind of language is meant to obscure the knowledge that, despite the legions of sports journalists who have devoted thousands of words to Woods which have, at best, yielded the wholly narcissistic and ineffective “cautionary tale,” so few writers have sought to provide the public with an understanding of Woods as a human being, that the examples are next-to impossible to find.

And despite the protestations of so many mainstream journalists, it is they who pull the proverbial apple cart leading the public by its ear, not the other way around. all of the aforementioned writers and most others readily tell the world it is the other way around. This is the media and its representatives’ excuse when they are called out for deciding salacious writing bordering on slander is more preferable to a well-thought out piece of journalism.

If any reader fails to believe that Tiger Woods is preternaturally dominant in the news today, including sports news consider of this: it was revealed recently that Tiger Woods appeared on the New York Post’s front page for 19 days in a row, which is one day more than the previous record holder for front page appearances —– the events of September 11, 2001 and the 18 days subsequent to the events of 9/11.

Surely the NY Post is just one-half step above the Natty-Enq and TMZ.

But.

What say you, mainstream journalists? Don’t use the Post to critique newspapers across the nation? The following are Friday examples from the nation’s widest-read newspapers… Washington Post – two articles on Woods listed on its Internet sports section front; New York Times – one sports article on Anthony Galea article which mentions Woods; Atlanta Journal-Constitution – featured sports “tweet” “how long before Tiger woods surpasses Wilt Chamberlain?”; Chicago Tribune – columnist Fred Mitchell writes of Oprah Winfrey Show producers seeking to have Winfrey interview Woods; LA Times sports section feature headline: “Tiger Woods and Wife: If they split, how to divide?”

Excuse me? Don’t use the Post? Okay. Pray tell, which which national daily newspaper should be used as that beacon of ethical journalism that understands that the salacious reporting and editorializing on Woods has gone altogether too far?

For Brennan, her piece on Woods acts to pigeon-hole her as a shock columnist, makes her untrustworthy as a disseminator of sports news; all this in addition to the fact that the premise of her column, Tiger Woods used HGH = the end of his career, is such a Captain Obvious statement that not one word need be devoted to it. At least not by any responsible mainstream journalist. The premise is elementary enough to be shunned by professional writers and juvenile enough to be found in blogs penned by undisciplined, juvenile, adolescent-thinking twenty-somethings who believe snark and creating shock value is the path to fames and riches.

Equally unfortunate is that Brennan can fall back on the BALCO-Barry Bonds case as a way to excuse herself and the New York Times for its reporting of the Galea arrest and his tie to Woods. What Brennan so quaintly leaves out of her column is that the reporting of Galea’s arrest and that he treated Woods is not at all the problem here. Brennan’s attempt at reductionist thinking is a tried-and-true method used by the media and by legislators to devalue people who are critical of the two institutions of mainstream news outlets and government. When Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent at IMG, was critical of the New York Times article on Galea written by a cadre of Times writers led by Michael Schmidt, strongly and rightfully questioned Schmidt’s journalistic integrity, mainstream writers and newscasters like Brennan, Hill, Greenberg and nearly anyone else with access to a television camera went on air to admonish Steinberg and defend Schmidt – and themselves.

These people are still stung by the largely irresponsible writing surrounding the BALCO case, especially as it pertained to Bonds. It seemed every mainstream writer took a turn at editorializing when Bonds’ name was mentioned. all the writers who failed to contextualize the BALCO case relative to the mal-acts of government and who failed to treat government representative Jeff Novitzky with the same jaundiced eye they did Bonds, did the public a monumental disservice.

By failing to make the obvious tie of Novitzky’s personalized pursuit of Bonds to the Bush Administration and its proclivity to engage in precisely such vindictive and opportunistic behavior, mainstream journalists from Brennan to near to San Francisco, San Jose Mercury-News columnist Tim Kawakami to Mark Fainaru-Wada, who wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle which was ground zero for the case, our sporting press aided and abetted Novitzky and the federal government in all sorts of illegal and unethical acts. They so emboldened Novitzky that later he refused to obey Judge Susan Ilston’s order to turn over the names of MLB players he quite literally stole from the lab where tests for PEDs were conducted as part of an agreement by MLB and its player’s union. Not one mainstream journalist – not one – ever questioned Novitzky’s act.

Not one.

Here is Brennan’s personal effort to excuse irresponsible sports journalists:
It was foolhardy of Steinberg to believe any news organization would not report on an association between someone like Woods and someone like Galea. Since 1988, when the Ben Johnson scandal broke at the Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, the enormously important topic of performance-enhancing drug use has been the biggest worldwide issue in sports.
Associations between doctors and athletes, or sports medicine/nutrition gurus and athletes, have led to some of the most crucial performance-enhancing drug stories in sports, including those involving Johnson, Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Marion Jones. We are better as a society for having found out about them.

We are a better society? By whose measure? Is there no more PED usage among athletes? Have all the pursuits for better, undetectable through testing PEDs stopped? Are high schoolers no longer using PEDs? Have PEDs been properly contextualized so that their benefits are now widely understood; so that legislators are seeking to amend laws concerning PEDs to allow their use, under the care of a physician, by U.S. citizens; so that they are readily available and cheaply priced medicines because of their capabilities to enhance the well-being of their users?

The answer to all of those “better society” questions is a resounding NO! And so goes tumbling to the ground Brennan’s straw woman argument.

But now we have another easy target in Tiger Woods. And what do journalists seek to do today? Write of Woods in the same manner they wrote about Bonds. Tell the public it is is the fault of the public that they are compelled to write in the tenor in which they do. Now, journalists are suddenly separating themselves from Woods when for the past 13 years they have sought to suck his wake as it passes them and then tell the world about how close they are to the man.

The blood-sucking ways of sports journalism never ends. The twisting of sports figures to suit an idealized perception of that figure relative to us -ina positive or negative manner – never ends.

We refuse to look in the mirror and grow up.

We refuse to point to ourselves and ask why.

We refuse to refuse to succumb to what makes money with the least effort, no matter how damaging it is to our society.

We are so self-centered that we just do not give a damn who we hurt and who gets pulled under by the wake tide created by irresponsible manner in which we report our news.

We just do not care.

And the mainstream sports writers who continue to treat Tiger Woods travails as if they were headliners at their local comedy club or their personal moral playground tell us with their every written word that, as we watch the certain decline of this portion of Western civilization it is better to hop on the splintered merry-go-round that is today and die than it is to put in the hard yards and seek an enlightened, hopeful future that includes everyone.

D. K. Wilson writes for Sports On My Mind. He can be reached at: mesoanarchy@gmail.com

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