A binky for the Tiger

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles CEO, sportsnetwork.com

Tiger Woods Only the true golf fan will attend a tournament without Tiger Woods stepping up to the first tee at some time of the day. (Lyons/Allsport)
HUNTINGDON VALLEY, Pa. (Sports Network) -- There's no end to it. Call it what you will. Greed, avarice, selfishness, a mercenary mentality, an insatiable appetite for wealth. It eventually boils down to being childish, petty, cranky and petulant. The latest addition to our growing family, grand-daughter Marissa, age 8 months, gets a binky when acting like a cry baby which, in fact, she is, and she becomes soothingly quiet. Delightful. Maybe it is time for Tiger Woods to carry one of those in the pocket of his golf bag or windbreaker.

Just when you thought he had matured he slides back into the womb of IMG, International Management Group, and his personal keeper of the coffers, Mark Steinberg. Stroked or spanked? That is the question. A fine line evolves and so enter the binky. But what is that to be? More money for Woods? His personal tour? A golf cart for his father when he shows up to trail him on the tour? He has become golf. No doubt about it. Larger than life? That is to be determined but he certainly thinks so at this stage of his game and that of the PGA. Bigger than the Tour? Just ask him. Of course. He is the Tour.

Only the true golf fan will attend a tournament without El Tigre stepping up to the first tee at some time of the day. He is to golf what Barbara Streisand, Whitney Houston, Neil Diamond, Britney Spears, and Ricky Martin are to concerts. Woods is the undisputed number-one player and gate attraction in the world for golf. That means that when he growls, or whines, the golf world listens and that world presently consists of the PGA and its commissioner, Tim Finchem.

The young man with the bronze cheeks that he would like most of the civilized world of golf to kiss when he bends down to set his putt in place, or pick up a $1,000,000 check that he might have dropped, has accused the Tour of taking advantage of his very being and that Finchem only engages him in dialogue when he needs something. Before someone shoved a binky in his mouth Woods implied that his new conflict with the Tour has some serious undertones and could expand. Sort of like his ego. "It could easily escalate into a bigger situation," is what he told Golf World Magazine. Are we to take that as a threat against the Tour?

Michael Jordan brought the crowds, so did Wayne Gretzky, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Shaquille O'Neal, Joe Montana, Ruth, Gehrig, Williams, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Chris Everett, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, and lots of others. They all generated money for the sports, games and tours. Not good enough for El Tigre. He wants a piece of every pie on the table. And will probably devour the plates as well. TV pays more these days because of him. But, lo and behold, the Tour was here before he came along and it will be here when he is telling tales with other seniors. Noticeably absent are any comments about how much of the gold he wants he would share with those who paved the way for him to be able to savor gazillion dollar pay days.

When he is playing the Tour has every right to announce that and he is not endorsing the companies that do business with the Tour but they are, for every dime they pay, entitled to have their name up there with the name of the particular Tour stop and those of all the players, himself included, that are expected to compete and/or are competing. If the pouting one wants to slink off to a corner of the locker room with his IMG entourage and bemoan the fact that he is not earning enough, which is more than most Third World countries have in their checking accounts right now, or the private jets, limos, comped suites and all else that befalls him are not enough, then he should buy larger binkies.

The "kid," for that is what he still is, walk-in vault in Switzerland aside, has won 24 tournaments since turning pro in 1996. Maybe 2000 will be the best ever recorded with nine victories and three major championships. Now he claims he just wants people like Finchem to come up and ask how he's doing, how's the girlfriend, did the check clear, does he need some bearers to take him to the practice range, how's dad these days? OK, let's ask the commish to do that and see what happens. There is a difference between feeling unloved and unappreciated and asking for a piece of the TV rights revenue to compensate for that lack of "Hi, howya doin'?"

Remember when Greg Norman challenged the Tour back in 1994, mounting a challenge with Fox Sports to create a World Tour, a series of high level tournaments for the world's best to compete with, and operate independently of, the PGA Tour? He had also claimed that he, and others, were not getting enough credit and pesos for playing. Nick Price and a few others made quiet sounds of support but then Finchem threatened to take away their playing privileges if they took part in non-sanctioned events. So much for the revolution. Even before that, Nicklaus and Palmer, in the 80's, joined Tom Watson in questioning whether the winners were getting enough and why were lesser players receiving any monies at all. Hmmmm, let's cut out the guys struggling to make it to a higher rung on the ladder. Not a good idea, and the ladder was put back in storage.

Why would Woods care if companies sponsoring a particular Tour were tied to his image when he is competing in that event? Likely he does not but those sending him checks too large to get through the front door of his home(s) do. The Tour owns the media rights of each player to the extent it can use them to promote the Tour. Sounds like a solid plan to me. They cannot, and should not, infer endorsement for any companies by Woods, competitive to his present sponsorship entourage or not.

Enter Steinberg and IMG stage left. They toss around words like "implied endorsement" and threats such as "We won't stand for it." I haven't seen anyone pick up the gauntlet yet. The binky, yes; the gauntlet, no.

Time for an accounting. Golf World estimates that Woods will earn $54 million a year in endorsement money, including a $20 million per year five-year contract with Nike. Amex and Buick (reportedly worth $30 million) also pay him millions a year. When He (whoops! Freudian slip) plays David Duval or Sergio Garcia in exhibitions (hmmmmm, that pay $1,000,000 to the winner) he resents, so he and IMG say, the fact that the Tour gets major money from networks like ABC. But no mention of the seven-figure paychecks he demands for just showing up in an overseas tournament.

Oh yes, and we, the adoring public, do not understand. It reminds me of Patrick Ewing once stating how he and other NBA players needed more money because they spend more. The world would be perfect, so states Tiger, if he got a direct cut from all new contracts. What about the other players? Who? Be serious. He feels that the Tour would fold without him. And IMG is right there, around the perimeter of the green, waving pom-poms and banners, encouraging, perhaps directing, this stance. While Woods was perfecting his take-away and follow through, improving on his mental and mechanical approach to the game, he left out tutorials on life.

Michel Jordan made certain demands of the NBA and they folded. His caricature did not appear on NBA licensed T-shirts sold at the league's All Star Games because he had his own line of sports apparel and an NBA licensed video game was not allowed to include Jordan because he had a deal with another company. So, the Tour should not be able to put Tiger's image out there as if he arrived in a Cadillac or was endorsing it. I can live with that. And, no other apparel company can be seen, by implication or inference, to be supported by him while he has Nike on his bank account. Nor should Visa be seen near his image as long as American Express chips in for the college educations of the little Tigers to follow.

But, demanding a piece of the TV revenue and dictating terms to the PGA Tour? I don't think so. His is big, on a given weekend bigger than life. But bigger than the sport? Close but no cigar or Big Bertha. Let's just make sure that Tim Finchem calls him now and then to ask how he is. That should do it, according to El Tigre. We have a world-class ego here that needs stroking. Would he boycott the Tour? I don't think so. Why? Play only in the four majors, apart from the Tour? Not likely. Go to Canada and Europe and all the other Americas plus Asia? Anti-American and not a good move.

His youthful arrogance, and he is still only 24, was reeled in quickly and the million-dollar smile with all the cordialities attendant to it, surfaced mightily in recent years. But, he now wants the golf world to revolve around him. Bad step backwards. It is okay to be a businessman and capitalist, eyes set on more than the roll of the green...actually the deposit of the green, but there is much confusion here between principle and principal. Take away the "implied endorsements," ask how he is from time to time and keep the binky clean. You have a winning formula on and off the golf course.

They say that there are other players out there, top ones, that feel like Woods does for other reasons - high and heavy-handed, monopolistic approaches by the Tour. If he made the bigger rights paychecks possible then so, too, did everyone else in one way or the other. Divvy it all up and what do you think will be left for the Tour and prize money? Each stop will turn into one giant exhibition.

How much love for the game does he really have, how much respect for the grand players that preceded him? The Kid focuses on money, money, money and improving his game. He has never been known to speak out on any other meaningful issue to use his image in a positive fashion to stop or improve upon Nike sweatshop labor or ridiculous membership policies of so many country clubs that he routinely plays.

Tiger Woods has started to come across like one of the very characters he has said he dislikes. That makes him one of them. He was, oh, so close to becoming one of us outside of the depository. Right now a binky suits him. It could be replaced with a simple handshake between him and Tim Finchem. Maybe. Do I think that is in the cards, or on the first tee, any time soon? You gotta be kidding!

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