by Jeff Skinner
So my favorite writer from the New York Post, Mark Cannizzaro (covers my NY Jets too), has reported that Tiger Woods will return to the PGA Tour at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Soon after that The Associated Press counters that report with a story that contends that Woods will stay dormant until The Masters. The Woods Camp made headlines by hiring public relations specialist Ari Fleischer and his fledgling “sports communication” company. Fleischer is the former press secretary for former President Bush and lord knows he must have earned his money playing for “W’s” team. The word among some in the sports business is that Fleischer’s firm hasn’t quite made the splash he was envisioning and the only reason is got this gig is due to some ties with Tiger’s agency, IMG.
In my book that is part of the problem. Tiger’s public relation problem right now isn’t the fact that he’s a serial cheater with the low moral standards of a sports agent, we all know that. His problem is that he is still surrounded by sports agents and handlers that are more concerned with image over substance. IMG and the rest of the crew blew this fiasco from the start. IMG has had Tiger from the start of his career and they have served him well financially. Woods has earned more money than anyone could imagine and IMG had a big hand in all of that. But they have failed him in handling this personal situation. True, Tiger is at fault here but he was able to carry out this episode on IMG’s watch. Where I come from that’s grounds for dismissal and IMG should be gone for letting Tiger spin out of control. Now they bring Fleischer on board, a professional “Spin Doctor.” Here is what Fleischer’s website looks like. The last line says it all,”Ari Fleischer Sports Communications can help you handle the bad news and take advantage of the good.”
Yes, we have to “handle the bad news.” Is this what Tiger needs now, more handling? Tiger has always done everything different from the norm. He has accomplished much and his unusual methods and goals have served him well, up to now. Now it’s time for Tiger to do something really different, something Woods has never done before. This time calls for Tiger to be his own man and not the phony, fabrication of a bunch of image consultants.
I don’t care where or when Tiger returns but this is what I’d like to see. Take note Ari and IMG and try a little honesty for a change. Tiger, and only Tiger, walk into his pre-tournament press conference. Let Woods stand there by himself without agents, publicists or spin doctors by his side. Then Tiger can be different, as he likes to be, he can answer the questions without a script or rehearsed answers. He shouldn’t even entertain questions concerning his wife and family and all those mistresses, those are out of bounds. Those questions he can give the “It’s personal, I’m not answering” response. But a question that asks him about himself, his feelings, his rehab, his self-image and of course his game should be answered. Here’s something new for you Tiger: sit there and answer all the questions. Take a page from Paddy Harrington, Phil Mickelson, Kenny Perry, Steve Stricker and Ernie Els. They are huge stars that take the time to answer each question the press can ask and they do it honestly. You don’t have to make a habit of it, but this one time a long, honest question and answer session will do more for you than anything else the “handlers” can come up with.
I find it comical that at a time when Tiger should be jettisoning some of “his people” he is hiring more. Tiger has to realize that he isn’t the “all powerful Tiger” right now. He’s a guy on the comeback trail and a little dose of honesty and humility would go a long way in putting this episode behind him.