Whiffle: verb – to blow lightly in puffs or gusts; noun – something light or insignificant.

Friday, February 19, 2010

"Rehab" vs. "Therapy"

I just got off the phone with one of our local newstalk radio hosts, who was fielding questions/comments about Tiger and his "press conference" later today. Basically, he was going off on Tiger for blaming a "disease" and/or an "addiction." He didn't give me much time before hitting the off button, perhaps because if he had conceded my point, it would have pretty much ended the discussion, as he had framed it. My point was simply this: Tiger has not said one word about either of those things.
     Maybe he will and maybe he won't, but we won't know until 10:00 a.m. today (11:00 Eastern).
     What prompted the topic was the word going around that Tiger is going to be returning to "rehab" following his one-way presser today. And yes, I'd heard the word "rehab," too, but not directly or from anybody official. In PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem's letter, he stated that Tiger will be returning to "therapy" after today's event; hence, the inconvenient/inconsiderate timing of his statement (Tiger has received a lot of criticism for interrupting the Accenture World Match Play Championships going on this week, which coincidentally or not, is sponsored by the first company to officially drop Tiger as its spokesman).
     But in my view, there's a world of difference between therapy and rehabilitation. It looks as if it really was Tiger in those blurry photos taken outside a sex-addiction clinic in Mississippi. But we don't know what type of treatment, counseling, therapy, whatever he's getting there. If he comes out today and says anything even resembling "it's not my fault; I have a disease," I'll be surprised and disappointed, and will lose a measure of respect for him. If he says, on the other hand, something like, "I have a problem, and I'm getting help for it," I'll say, "Good for you, Tiger" and wish him well.
     In other related controversies, Tiger is drawing a lot of fire for making his press conference so limited. Only a select assortment of friends, family, and trusted advisers will be on hand, with only a single camera covering the event – presumably to limit the number of reaction shots while he speaks. He invited the Golf Writers Association of America (GWAA) to hand-pick a small "pool" of reporters to be there. But he also said there would be no questions allowed -- so, then, really, what's the point of having any reporter show up in person? In response, as of last night, the GWAA has voted to boycott the event.
     I can't really say I blame them. By and large, the press -- and this organization in particular – has treated Tiger very fairly. Many would say preferentially. And now, Tiger seems to expect them to just fall into line and do his bidding. The rules of the game have clearly changed.
     What will Tiger say today? Chances are, dear readers, that by the time you read this we'll know. But in the meantime, it's best, as always, to avoid jumping to conclusions (and that includes you, Mr. Radio Host!). My only guesses are these:
     I think Tiger will say that he and Elin are trying to work things out.
     I think he'll say he's sorry, but probably in some vague, too-formal, non-specific way.
     I think there will be an air of resentment in some of his words.
     And I think he'll give some indication of when he'll return to golf, though not necessarily a specific date. I still think it's possible he'll sit out the entire year.
     And I think it's better than 50/50 that Elin will be there, too  – though not necessarily literally "at his side" by sitting next to him. Her presence would go a long way toward explaining the very restrictive nature of this event.
     That's about it.
     More than 13 years ago Tiger sat in a room filled with reporters and cameras and famously said, "Hello, world." Today he'll sit essentially alone and make some sort of attempt to explain to that same world what has gone wrong. As always, the Whiffler is hoping for the best – but preparing to be disappointed.

Update: I thought this piece, by SI's Joe Posnanski, was nicely done. Very respectful.

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