Reflections on the Golf Media during a rainy Greater Hartford Open

First, I just got around to reading Cheyenne Woods’s piece at The Players Tribune.  Until now, I’d only seen headlines, and I still have not read any golf media commentary on her article.  I wonder if any of them will take her comments to heart; my guess is no.  Here are four items from the piece:

  • “I mean, I get it — he’s one of the most famous human beings on the planet and we share a last name as well as a profession. But let me clear something up once and for all: I love my uncle, and I treasure the advice he gives me when we speak every few months, but I am not Tiger Woods.”
  • “On that same note, my grandfather Earl (Tiger’s father) and I were very close, but I was never his protégé. In fact, I only went out on the golf course with him twice.”
  • “When I first began playing professionally, sometimes the media would almost make me feel like I was there just for show because of my last name. I often felt like I didn’t matter, almost like I was a sideshow instead of an actual player.”
  • “I’ve had many interactions with reporters where the only topic of conversation was my uncle.”

The last two scream, “Enough already, golf media!”  Do you remember the incident fifteen months ago when Graeme McDowell said some very matter-of-fact things in a press conference about Tiger Woods not being the force he once was?  The golf media turned his innocuous (and obvious) remarks into one of their “Oh no you diddint!” moments, trying to smear McDowell the way they like to do when a player doesn’t submissively genuflect before the Myth of Tiger Woods.  Anyway, Graeme took to Twitter last year and said, in his own way, the same thing Cheyenne said in her Players Tribune editorial.  Here are a couple of Graeme’s Twitter comments:

  • “I spent 90 per cent of my press conference last week at Bay Hill being asked questions about Tiger, speculating about where his game is right now.”
  • “Many of my quotes have been taken out of context and spun quite negatively.”

That second tweet shined a light on “Oh no you diddint!” while the first showed he was as sick of the Tiger Woods questions as Cheyenne is.

The first two quotes from Cheyenne’s article contain a lot of between-the-lines information.  The “I am not Tiger Woods” wording was not accidental.  This was not an offhand remark, remember, but a statement in a carefully written and edited article.  Where once the world was told it was a wonderful thing for children to march around, solemnly proclaiming, “I am Tiger Woods,” his niece now emphatically states: I am NOT Tiger Woods.

Also note the distancing from Tiger and Earl: About Tiger, she says they speak “every few months.”  (So each year they speak a time or two more than Patrick Reed and his estranged parents…)  That “every few months” phrase was deliberately included; it could have been left out without altering the ostensible point; again, this article was carefully written and edited, so it was not a slip, but carefully thought-out.  She was telling the golf media, “Look, guys, you speak to Tiger more often than I do!”  About Earl, she tells us she went out on the golf course with him a grand total of two times.

What I hear is, “Guys, I’m not really very close to Tiger.  You may or may not know there is bad blood between Tiger and the children of Earl’s first wife, including my own father.  Please stop asking me Tiger Woods questions.  Instead, why not ask me questions about — oh, I don’t know — me!”

—–

My second comment about the golf media comes from a writer far removed from the world of golf.  I read a New York Times review of Michael Wolff’s new book, “Television Is the New Television.”  These two paragraphs jumped out at me:

The idea of a publication of any new Michael Wolff book inevitably elicits discomfort in those likely to come into his line of fire. Mr. Wolff’s studied unpleasantness has emerged as a brand of sorts. USA Today has even capitalized on it, running an ad campaign for his column featuring a potential subject running away from his office via a rope and grappling hook just to avoid an interview with the feared columnist.

The catalog of Michael Wolff feuds extends far beyond journalistic subjects. He has picked fights with restaurateurs, family members, other writers and a long list of former employers. The publishers of his latest book have gleefully played up this reputation by plastering his book jacket with ad hominem attacks by “Wolff’s enemies” using phrases such as “needy and amoral” and “mindless jerk.” And the blurb holds out the promise of vicious payback.

I immediately wondered: Where is such a person in the golf media?  Which golfer writer “elicits discomfort” in those he writes about?  There isn’t one.  So the question turns into: Why isn’t there one?  (Dan Jenkins and Steve Elling come to mind, but Jenkins is not very active these days, and Mr. Elling — whom I think the world of — seems a little gun shy after the way his final year at CBS played out.)

I became increasingly interested in Michael Wolff and found a short interview with him in the New York Times Magazine:

Question: Hillary Clinton has been largely unavailable to the media. Do you think she has an obligation to take questions from the press?

Wolff: I certainly don’t. Again, this is one of those things. Why does the press always become the center of its own story?

Why does the press always become the center of its own story?”  I thought of how often the golf media writes about television ratings, page views, why they cover Tiger Woods, etc.  And the never-ending investigation about the “future of golf” is really an investigation into “the future of our jobs.”

Asked a question about Brian Williams, the NBC newscaster:

Wolff: I just find more and more that the media consensus is always wrong. Whatever they say is going to happen, whatever the consensus is about what should happen, is wrong.

A media consensus?  In the world of golf, the media walks in lockstep.  There is a podcast available online of a discussion between Shane Ryan (“Slaying The Tiger”) and Kyle Porter (CBS Golf blogger) where they discuss how they sometimes write for each other [note: I meant golf writers writing for other golf writers, not Ryan and Porter, specifically, writing for each other] and how they are reluctant to challenge the views of their fellow members of the golf media.  I say this not to condemn Ryan and Porter — it was a good open, honest conversation, allowing listeners to be a fly on the wall.  However, Ryan and Porter are what pass for “rebels” in the golf media.  It’s troubling when the rebels in a media sector are reluctant to ruffle the feathers of their peers because that says a lot about how the golf media provides one monolithic narrative — and you need to learn to love it.  Journalists and readers/viewers alike.

Why doesn’t golf have a Hunter Thompson, a P.J. O’Rourke, a Matt Taibbi?  Why doesn’t golf have a Michael Wolff?  There’s a lot of unmined territory, waiting for the right person.  There’s a wide open fairway, with every other golf reporter in the deep rough.

ADDENDUM:  Here are some further quotes from the New York Times book review mentioned above (here’s the link again):

In “Television,” Mr. Wolff focuses on the structural tendency of digital media to be subject to constant downward pressure on advertising prices even as use grows. This, according to him, creates corresponding pressure to produce more and more content of lower and lower quality. In turn, that only intensifies digital ad rate compression.

It is the very efficiency of digital markets that drives this inevitable downward spiral. Mr. Wolff contrasts this with the “old hat and clumsy” television marketplace, in which advertising capacity is constrained but somehow ad rates continue to go up even as audiences decline.

Mr. Wolff is at his best when highlighting the inconsistency between digital media’s self-conception as hot, sexy and new with advertisers’ perception of the medium as “lower-end junk.”

That explains why Internet content gets worse and worse while Internet advertising gets more and more intrusive.  Downward spiral indeed.

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One Response to Reflections on the Golf Media during a rainy Greater Hartford Open

  1. Sports-realist2 says:

    Corporatism is the answer…Freedom of speech has eroded with the insane court systems passing ‘hate speech’….This hate speech suddenly made ‘politically correct’ communication the ONLY way you are ALLOWED to conduct yourself as a media person(esp the mainstream)…..
    ESPN has eroded into a pc talking head…But why when they are supposed to be ALL about sports? Because they are owned and run by a select FEW who tells them what to talk about..The same is true for the golf channel and most networks now….It is VERY obvious the agendas they are pushing now…..These MUST be all controlled by a very select few EVIL people…
    Now political correctness is the new freedom of speech……Did you see how a few comedians made fun of whacky bruce jenner? They comedians are not only being attacked, but some are calling for the end of their careers…………….? Welcome to the new freedom of speech…..

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