Lost in the Woods

We’ve received a few letters lately regarding the media’s poor treatment of Tiger Woods and his recent troubles (see this month’s Your Say page for a sample). 

Readers may have noticed our lack of “coverage” regarding Tiger’s woes over the past few years. This has been a conscientious decision. We have always preferred to take the “High Road” at Inside Golf—and celebrate the positives of this great game—and thus we intentionally avoided publishing any of the negative points surrounding Tiger and his personal life.

But I feel it’s time to speak up about something that’s been nagging me recently.

The general media, I believe, has gone too far. Pictures and videos of Tiger during his recent run-in with the law, combined with the wholly negative commentary of many publications, have not only harmed Tiger, but the game of golf itself.

In the modern era, ‘Tiger’ and ‘Golf’ have been strictly intertwined. Indeed, for a time Tiger WAS golf, and golf WAS Tiger.

Tiger has been golf’s single-greatest asset since he burst onto the scene, and has done more for boosting the game of golf than anyone of his generation. If you look at the impact he made during his heyday (prior to the extramarital controversy, etc), we would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the modern era who could compare to Tiger as both a competitor and ambassador for growing the game.

Many golf businesses (and even some of the golf media outlets themselves) owe their very existence to the rise of Tiger. It’s easy to forget that the game of golf was at a very shaky point in the pre-Tiger era. It was stagnant, sluggish and potentially living on borrowed time. Tiger changed all that, creating excitement and zing to the game, which brought the youth into the fold. And the money began to flow in. He single-handedly saved the game.

The media, however, are quick to forget these things. The media’s treatment of fallen stars in general—publishing mug shots, videos, etc—is, in my opinion, a disgusting travesty. Not just for a golf star, but for anyone in the public eye (sports stars, actors, etc). It’s time to start letting people live their private lives…in private.

Many will argue that a public figure like Tiger should be treated differently.  I disagree to a point.  Yes, public figures are role models, and they must take necessary steps to be responsible, etc. But I believe there’s a difference between an intent to break the law (or circumvent the rules), and an unintentional addiction, or personal/mental battle, etc.   Athletes who, for example, take Performance Enhancing Drugs, or knowingly break a rule in their sport or community, should be punished severely. Absolutely. But a player who has unintentionally become addicted to painkillers, or struggled to battle inner demons, etc, should be given support to help them overcome their problem.  Help them heal.  (That said, if a bit of publicity serves as a wake-up call to the individual, and leads to healing, then that’s fine, in my opinion. But let’s not bang-on about it ad infinitum. )

At the end of the day, don’t treat them differently because they are in the public eye. Treat them the same because they are human.

See you on the fairways,

Richard Fellner

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