College hoops analyst Bill Raftery – who is far, far and away the most entertaining analyst in any of the big time sports – has a word he likes to use when describing courage, moxie and guts.
The word is “onions.” And when it comes to Tiger Woods, I ain’t got any.
I can say I won’t watch when he returns to professional golf at the Masters. I can express all the disgust I can muster at how he has treated his family. I can pretend that I’m completely saturated with Tiger coverage, like a stuffed diner who walks away from the table unable to eat another bite. I can say all those things, but they would be lies. I’ll be watching the Masters; I don’t have the onions not to. And neither do you.
Oh you’ll watch. Say you won’t but you’ll be lying to yourself. Remember, it was Jay Leno’s interview with Hugh Grant back in 1995 that shot Leno past David Letterman in the ratings.
Sean McManus, CBS News and Sports president, recently told SI.com that “I think the first tournament Tiger Woods plays again, wherever it is, will be the biggest media event other than the Obama inauguration in the past 10 or 15 years.” Accuse McManus of self-serving self promotion all you want; his claim is at the very least debatable.
There is a whole litany of reasons why I don’t want to watch, starting with the man himself. His acts were despicable. Revolting. And don’t bother with your “throwing stones/glass houses” E-mails. I’ve been faithfully married for 15 years; when it comes to this topic I can shoot rocks from a machine gun if I want. I understand he’s a Very Important Person, and that Very Important People live their lives by a different set of rules. But that excuses nothing. And while I didn’t applaud the extreme reaction by his wife, I can tell you I wasn’t bothered by it either.
But despite that, I’ll watch.
I’ll watch even though I think, in many ways, choosing to make his return at the Masters is a cowardly move for Tiger. You remember his public apology? No questions allowed. A tightly controlled environment. Playing at the Masters is basically the same thing. He’ll be able to hide behind their sense of tradition. They keep out the riff-raff at Augusta, literally and figuratively. What better place for the control freak to control the message. You can argue – successfully I might add – that Tiger doesn’t owe us anything beyond what he’s given us. But I want Tiger to have that Jay Leno/Hugh Grant “what the hell were you thinking” moment and I’ll tell you right now it won’t happen in the post-tournament interview at the “cabin” with Jim Nantz.
But I’ll still watch.
And still part of me has simply lost the capacity to give a damn about Tiger. I’m full. Stuffed.
But still, I’ll watch.
I’ll watch because it’s like standing in the middle of the Four Corners Monument. It’s great theatre, pop culture, athletic immortality and golf traditionalism all in one spot. I’ll watch because I’m curious. Does he fail miserably? Does he triumphantly return? I’ll watch for the simple reason that it’s the Masters.
And so will you.