Anyone who knows me will tell you I used to be Tiger Woods’ #1 fan. His book How I Play Golf has a prominent place in my book case. In 2006-07, I was so confident of Woods’ links superiority, I took Tiger against the field in seven straight tournaments. The stakes being a free lunch. I never lost the bet. I owe you, man.
I still rooted for Woods after the November 30, 2009 car incident when he was exposed as a serial cheater. I dismissed his arrest for driving under the influence this past May. He was not the first, nor will he be the last person, to become addicted to painkillers after an accident or surgery.
That all ended yesterday afternoon. On the ESPN talk show Pardon the Interruption there is a segment called “The Word!” during which he and co-host Tony Kornheiser (though New York Daily News reporter Frank Isola was subbing for Kornheiser) are asked to fill in the blank about an upcoming sporting event. Yesterday, they were asked, “Tiger Woods returning to the pro golf tour is _____________.” Wilbon’s reply, “TITILLATING.” He explained his response saying he was interested to see if Tiger’s body could survive four rounds of competitive golf and whether there was any trace of his former greatness. In any normal world, I would have shared Wilbon’s anticipation.
But we do not live in a normal world anymore. And Wilbon, especially, should know that. In the previous segment on yesterday’s show, Wilbon opined the offer by the National Football League to commit $100 million to social causes as a response to pre-game protests “was not enough. This is not about money. The NFL can’t buy its way out of this issue.” Wilbon has also been a vocal critic of those who say NFL players had no right to use a game as a protest venue or those who criticized Stephan Curry for refusing to go to the White House after the Golden State Warriors won the NBA championship. And he regularly points out the disparities between the ways whites and minorities are sometimes treated and viewed by management and fans.
Did Wilbon fail to see the irony? Here is what he should have said:
Tiger Woods returning to the pro golf tour is CONFLICTING. Of course, I want to see if he can survive four rounds of competitive golf and whether he can beat the odds and Father Time. But I have a problem. I know Tiger. I know he has made a decision in his life to stay out of the forefront on political issues. He chooses to give back through his foundation. That is his right. I thought Jim Brown was wrong when he called Tiger out for not using his platform to advance social causes. But his decision to play a round of golf with Donald Trump who has called black athletes “sons of bitches” in public and probably worse in private is a political statement. He should have just said NO!
So I hope Tiger’s physical rehabilitation continues to go well. But he is also in need of an emotional and spiritual rehabilitation. Until that time, he has joined the posse of professional golfers I vociferously root against. My definition of “shadenfreude” is a Michelson three-putt.
I know the counter arguments. When the President* of the United States asks you to play golf or dine at the White House you go. It dishonors the office to refuse. In normal times, I would agree. But, once again, these are not normal times. When a grown man acts like a five year old, he needs to be treated like a five year old. Some TIME OUT is in order. This applies not just to athletes, but everyone.
Yesterday, British Prime Minister Theresa May called Trump out on his re-tweeting videos posted by a member of England’s ultra-right, anti-immigration party. As Mike Wilbon would say, that “was not enough.” Parliament and the Queen should immediately rescind Trump’s invitation for a state visit. To do otherwise, sends a message to Brits and particularly Great Britain’s Muslim population, we have to tolerate this kind of behavior. No you don’t. JUST SAY NO.
Yesterday, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi were right not to attend a White House meeting after Trump lied about their positions on immigration and taxes and suggested it was a waste of time, tweeting, “I don’t see a deal!” Grown-ups don’t negotiate with children. The look for teaching moments to reinforce the difference between right and wrong. This was one of those moments.
If everyone, and I do mean everyone, including the spineless Republican leadership in Congress, followed Schumer’s and Pelosi’s example, it would send a powerful message. We will give the Office of the President its due respect, when and ONLY when the current occupant does the same. Until then, JUST SAY NO.
For what it’s worth.