As the results from the final round of the Masters came in on Sunday, the sports media dutifully covered the fact that Tiger Woods had won another green jacket. After all the media hype surrounding the event, which marked Tiger’s return to professional golf after the sex scandal that consumed his life last winter, it was only justified that Tiger should win…
Wait, what’s that? Phil Mickelson actually won the event, for his third green jacket?
OK, so I’ll admit that the major media outlets did grudgingly agree to suspend their “all Tiger, all the time” approach when he didn’t actually win the event. However, the extreme overdose on Tiger coverage rivaled Heath Ledger’s (too soon?), and left me pretty sick.
To take one example, ESPN ran coverage of Tiger’s practice putting on Thursday, the first day of the event. The majority of the golfers in the event are lucky to get on TV for a stroke or two, and yet here was ESPN’s entire crew virtually fixated on just one golfer who hadn’t actually done anything in the event yet.
As the Masters continued into Friday, the Tiger bonanza didn’t diminish – if anything, it picked up speed. In the recaps all over the Internet, articles obsessed over Tiger’s position and mentioned the actual leader, Fred Couples, only at the tail end. On SportsCenter, broadcasters always mentioned Tiger and his position first.
I suppose it’s just a silly notion to think that the athlete who’s actually winning, not the one with the celebrity, should get the media accolades.
Even as the cut was made and the event shifted to CBS, the Tiger binge refused to slow down. His every shot was watched and carefully categorized, with the announcers dissecting his every move in painstaking (and painful) detail.
At times it felt like the golf itself was just a sideshow. There were stories on the event from such prominent sporting web sites as E! Online.
Who cares about the sport when we can watch a celebrity instead and gleefully follow the cult of personality that has surrounded Tiger for so long?
I was incredibly relieved when Mickelson won the event and the sports media was finally forced to acknowledge that golf had actually been played – and that yes, Woods had actually failed to win and complete his glorious comeback. In Golf.com’s final recap, Woods only merited mention twice: first, along with the other golfers he ended up tied for fourth with, and in a short paragraph about how he began the week as the most prominent storyline of the Masters.
Of course, Mickelson had a story of his own, obscured by the whirlwind that had surrounded Tiger over the course of the tournament. Both his wife, Amy, and his mother, Mary, are currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer. As Mickelson has spent more time with his family and away from golf, his game has suffered somewhat, but his return to Augusta and his victory in this event was every bit as significant and emotionally uplifting as a win for Tiger would have been. I certainly like Mickelson’s story – I think it’s far superior to the sordid details of Tiger’s life.
Admittedly, I’m happy that Mickelson won for another reason – it prevented the nearly unfathomable media orgy that would have occurred if Tiger had won the event. I was already sick and tired of Tiger Woods before the Masters and before Sunday, and I don’t think I could have stomached the triumphant declarations that would have undoubtedly accompanied a Woods win.
You will probably agree with me that something would have been incredibly amiss if people were tuning in to celebrity-following networks like MTV to get their Masters coverage.
Until Tiger Woods regains his former form and begins winning regularly, I will continue to scoff at a media that continues to deify him and a willing public that laps it up. Right now, he is both a golfer and a celebrity, and respected sports media like ESPN should ignore his celebrity status and treat him just like any other golfer. Leave the celebrity coverage to People Magazine, and keep it out of my Sunday golf.
Kabir Sawhney’s favorite golfer is Thongchai Jaidee. Ask him who that is at firstname.lastname@example.org.