I woke up this morning to the sound of SportsRadio 610’s John Lopez slamming Tiger Wood’s new commercial. Talk about shit in your cereal. Full disclosure, I am no fan of John Lopez, and not because he’s an Aggie. I have plenty of Aggie friends. No, it’s because Lopez is emblematic of the Baylessification of sports media. It’s no longer enough to be able to write or discuss sports. One must bloviate about sports. Rant about them. Scream, debate, insist, shout down.
Lopez is a master of taking an observation and running with it. Running off a cliff in a Ford Thunderbird convertible, the chortling Thelma carrying the Journalism’s Louise with him.
I know I’m digressing here, but let me give you an example. I was on my way to the Shell Houston Open last week and Lopez was yelling about Tiger again, this time insisting that since he hadn’t seen any Tiger Woods logo’d apparel, that meant people were ashamed to wear his brand. It’s not that Lopez probably wasn’t right. If your school is in the news for major recruiting violations you probably think twice about proudly flying your colors around town. But it was 8:30 a.m. on THURSDAY. The first round! Play had barely started! People were just starting to trickle in and Lopez is drawing conclusions, staking out his position, refusing to give an inch.
So, let’s look at the commercial that Lopez slammed as “selfish.”
Um, what? Now, Lopez is far from alone in his sentiments. A lot of people seem to feel that way about this commercial. Even Bill Simmons’ mom, who seems to be the flag-bearer of the non-sports savvy, wrote “That Tiger ad with his Dad’s voice is truly unconscionable. Who in the world is advising this person?????”
The problem that Lopez and Simmons’ mom seem to have is that it’s appropriating Earl Wood’s comments about Tiger’s golf game and applying them to his current situation. They say this is classless, because Earl is dead, and not here to say what he would really want to say.
Look, the relationship between Earl and Tiger might be the most definitive father-son relationship in sports. Here you had two men, both absolutely dedicated to the end goal that one of them become the best ever in his field. One of them began this journey as a small child, yet was never forced to play golf, or forced to practice, contrary to all the popular stereotypes of Earl as a “stage dad.” What more evidence do you need than at the end of the journey, both described the other as their best friend? Or Tiger’s breakdown after winning at Hoylake?
No one ever criticized Tiger or Nike for playing on the relationship of the child Tiger and his parents before.
That’s what makes everything Tiger did sadder in retrospect. Earl died thinking his son was perfect, much like all parents are prone to do. Earl isn’t here for Tiger to apologize to, at least not in a tangible way. Earl really thought Tiger was a transformative figure. He thought Tiger would change the world. Now? Part of his legacy is always going to be that voicemail. Earl is probably is one of the people Tiger wants to apologize to the most, and he can’t tell him he’s sorry.
But I think the commercial is more than just a way for Tiger to acknowledge those that he’s let down. I also think it’s a new, “Hello, world” moment. You’ll recall that was Tiger’s famous phrase when he announced he was turning pro. For the past 13 years, that’s the Tiger we’ve known. Competitive, brilliant, the perfect golf machine. The stare. This:
Now watch the commercial again, and look at his eyes.
That’s the real Tiger. One fully cognizant of the magnitude of what he’s done, what he’s lost and what he might yet lose. He’s putting that out for everyone to see. To me, the opposite of selfish.