Tour Confidential this week offered up a question about Rory’s off-hand, meaningless comment about pro athletes being paid to play, not to talk to the media. Shipnuck disagreed, which is fine, and even obvious. However, his explanation left me laughing:
Reporters are the fans’ representatives — we ask the questions they wish they could, and offer them a glimpse of who they are cheering for. Why does NBC clog the Olympics coverage with so many vignettes? Because when you get to know an athlete’s story you have a rooting interest. We, the media, make that possible. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of anonymous jerseys or polo shirts out there who nobody cares about.
They ask the questions fans wish they could ask? Oh, come on. You guys are afraid to ask Tiger Woods anything that is the least bit provocative. Still not a single question about Biogenesis or “Blood Sport.”
The part about “anonymous polo shirts” about whom “nobody cares about” completely cracked me up. For 17 years, the golf media has been pushing the idea that Only Tiger Matters. I’m just not sure how that makes fans “care about” the other players. For crying out loud, the golf reporters routinely asked other players not about themselves but Tiger Woods.
The idea that fans were made to care about Rory McIlroy because of golf reporters is laughable. Rory has won four majors in four years and is riding a two-majors-in-a-row win streak, yet golf reporters think the biggest story in golf is that Woods going to try to make the cut in Phoenix. I can’t point out often enough that Rory is now the favorite to pass Jack’s record, not Woods. Yet the golf media made fans care about Rory?
While Rory was getting ready to win his second consecutive major last year, those golf reporters were swarming around Woods’s empty parking space in the hopes that he would play a practice round.
If Rory wasn’t so damn dominant, the golf writers wouldn’t even have bothered telling us who he is. Forget about “lesser” golfers who have only won two majors since Woods last won one. (Bubba, Kaymer, et al.)
For Shipnuck to pretend his ilk has done anything in the past 17 years other than PR work for Steinberg and Woods is just plain funny. When other players win with Woods not in the field, they don’t consider it a worthy event, reminding us that only Woods moves the needle. They tell us the television suffer when Woods doesn’t play, i.e., when the guys they never write about play. When other players win with Woods in the field, they write about Woods not winning.
That kind of coverage is a left hook to the solar plexus of every other touring pro and does nothing to build them up in the eyes of fans. This might not be the stupidest thing Shipnuck has ever written — he’s written some doozies — but I’d say his comments show a casual mean-spiritedness toward “anonymous jerseys and polo shirts” of which he isn’t even aware.
By the way, the Tour Confidential title this week was not about Rory starting his year in Abu Dhabi this coming Thursday. It was not about the Tournament of Champions or the Hawaiian Open. No, it was “Tiger RSVPs to Phoenix Open.” A tournament which is three weeks away. QED.