Tiger's Troubles Remind Us that Anyone Can be a Reporter
So I settle in Sunday morning in my usual church pew for the sermon, and the minister, who I know is a golfer, starts his address by talking about the travails humans face.
"We endure a lot, but we get through it," he said. "We can survive cold, we can survive sorrow, we can survive our wife going after us with a golf club..."
Most everyone laughed.
So goes the absorption of the social media, 24-hour access, everyone's a journalist world that is now part of our daily lives.
The timeline of when Tiger Woods crashed his car early Friday morning to when we found out in the "traditional" media, to when gossip sites, bloggers, and "tweeters" started talking about it is almost immediately blurred (the "Where were you when JFK was killed" has been replaced by "Where were you when you found out about Tiger?" "I was on Facebook").
And that's even leaving out the National Enquirer story that allegedly triggered this entire incident.
The reality is, though, that speculation over how Tiger got facial injuries seeped into our mainstream media as soon as we found out he was out of the hospital.
How can you get cut up when the accident wasn't violent enough to deploy airbags? Why would you break out a back window to get someone out of the driver's seat? And did they need diapers so badly that he had to leave the house at two in the morning?
Great fodder for bloggers and tweeters, especially since the longer Tiger doesn't talk, the rest of the social media world will.
How do you stop the speculation? Say something. Anything. You've had days now to get the story straight. Your statements on your website are fine, but those just give us more to write—and speculate—about.
But frankly, I don't blame you for not talking to the police. You don't have to, so you're not breaking the law.
And we've seen too many cases where police information or medical records have been leaked to the public and put on the internet—a police chief in Ohio was just found guilty in connection with a break-in at Sarah Jessica Parker's surrogate's residence. A hospital staffer was convicted of releasing Farrah Fawcett's medical records.
I don't blame you for not trusting anyone outside your circle. Once photos of your injuries get out of the medical file, how long do you think it'll be before we see them on TMZ?
Sure, your cuts may not have healed yet. But you need to fill the media void. Don't let the gossip sites and speculators do it for you. Just get out there and say something. Bill Clinton and Martha Stewart can tell you about the dangers of the cover-up.
You might remember Alex Rodriguez was in a bit of a pickle himself at the start of the baseball season with divorce, Madonna, steroids.
You also may remember he took a few days to figure out the message, arranged an interview with a pretty sympathetic reporter (Peter Gammons) and then said yep, I did something stupid.
Now, of course, you can argue that his explanation wasn't the best, and it opened himself up to even more speculation, but at least he came out and said something.
At the start of spring training, he had one news conference on the steroid issue and said, "That's all I'm going to say on this subject."
And it was. And he had a pretty good year, don't you think?
So when Tiger's folks call me for advice (don't worry, I'm not holding my breath), here's what I'd say: Get the message down on what you want to get across, then call a sympathetic golf reporter.
If there's someone at the Golf Channel you like, or Scott Van Pelt at ESPN (Scott, you owe me one if you get the exclusive), call them for an interview in your living room. Give a lengthy interview. Don't have your lawyer beside you. Have your wife sit by your side. Say I'm going to talk about it once, and this is it.
After this, if you want to ask me anything, it's about golf. Have your message. Deliver it firmly and definitively. Don't waiver from it.
Tiger Woods has this advantage over folks like Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa and other athletes who have found themselves in a scandal: Tiger Woods can play his way out of controversy.
A-Rod has done it, Manny Ramirez has done it, Tiger can do it, too.
Once he returns to the golf course and we marvel again at what he can do with a wedge and a putter, we'll forget this one-car accident.
Let's hope he doesn't forget it either, but instead, learns from it.
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