With respect to the bards at Augusta National, who would try to channel Herbert Warren Wind if Godzilla was pulverizing Kong at Amen Corner, this is no time for poetry about Tiger Woods’ absence. The Masters is underway with warm spring temperatures, yet a dark, haunting, almost macabre chill hangs in the Georgia air.
In a February crash he doesn’t remember, on a road with a 45 mph speed limit, Woods was driving an SUV between 84 and 87 mph on a stretch of curvy, downhill pavement. In real life, people who drive this maniacally are presumed to be under the influence, mentally ill or on a death wish. In Tiger’s world, the grisly accident was simply “a solo traffic collision,’’ said the sheriff in Los Angeles County, in southern California, which, by no coincidence, is where Woods grew up and made people proud.
If those official police numbers aren’t disturbing enough, given the opioids-and-THC cocktail consumed by Woods before his 2017 DUI arrest, consider this: The vehicle’s event data recorder indicates he hit not the brake but the accelerator before crossing two oncoming lanes, mauling a “Welcome to Rolling Hills Estates’’ sign and striking a curb before smashing into a tree that sent the SUV airborne in a semi-pirouette. Law enforcement officials, who have pulled muscles protecting Woods since the wreck that left him with potentially crippling leg and ankle injuries, think he might have hit the gas by mistake.
See if that line works the next time you’re in a fender-bender. Last time I couldn’t distinguish between the brake and pedal was in driver’s ed class.
I’m not certain how Alex Villanueva, the sheriff, has a job today. Because when Woods could have killed other drivers or pedestrians that morning, or himself, we’re still not getting answers about why a man with a drug-addictive past was going almost double the speed limit on the back roads of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. And why that man, of considerable wealth and fame, was not charged with reckless driving or even issued a speeding ticket, with Villanueva citing procedure that requires a police officer or independent witness to observe the act to trigger a citation.
And why, despite his troubled history, Woods’ blood was not tested for drugs or alcohol. Deputies at the scene simply took the golf great at face value when they asked if he’d used medication or been drinking before the crash. If this had been anyone else with a fairly recent DUI in the police data base, not to mention his previous SUV crash outside his home in 2009, warrants for blood samples would have been obtained and the tests administered. In Tiger’s world, the police believed him at face value, never mind that he was in a stupor after a crash of which he has no recollection.
“Those questions were asked and answered,’’ said Sheriff’s Capt. James Powers. “There was no evidence of any impairment. There was no odor of alcohol. There are no open containers in the vehicle and no narcotics or any evidence of medication in the vehicle or on his person.’’
So Woods couldn’t possibly have taken prescription drugs — say, earlier in his hotel room — only three weeks after undergoing his fifth back procedure in a life of surgical wards and medication? Why would police assume he wasn’t under the influence just because containers weren’t spotted inside the vehicle — a vehicle that was mangled, by the way, and couldn’t have offered much clarity amid the wreckage? We’re just supposed to accept this speculative rationale as gospel?
Further aspersions were cast when TMZ conducted a deep dive into a 22-page police report, which said sheriff’s deputies found an “empty plastic pharmaceutical container’’ inside a backpack close to the totaled vehicle. According to the report, “The container had no label and there was no indication as to what, if anything, had been inside.’’ Um, did they open the container and take a look? The report also indicated Woods was “somewhat combative,’’ telling emergency medical technicians that he believed he was in Florida. Eerily, he had told police during his 2017 pill bender that he thought he was in California.
Even Villanueva acknowledged Woods was endangering himself and others on the road, saying, “The primary causal factor for this traffic collision was driving at a speed unsafe for the road conditions and the inability to negotiate the curve of the roadway.’’ I mean, bystanders at a nearby resort, where Woods had stayed the previous night, have told the Los Angeles Times that he’d sped recklessly out of the parking lot en route to the ill-fated, early-morning film shoot. Wouldn’t they be considered witnesses?
Doesn’t matter. The investigation is over, says the sheriff, with Woods free to continue his long, excruciating rehabilitation in peace inside his mansion in Jupiter, Fla., the affluent village where he was found asleep at the wheel in a daze four years ago.
The legal system, in this case, has failed America. Tiger Woods ignored the road signs, tried to drag-race himself to an appointment and is very fortunate not to have arranged funerals for himself and others — the vehicular equivalent of holding a loaded gun. But the fix was in from the minute his 2021 Genesis GV80 settled in a twisted, smoking heap 70 feet from the road. Whether they were starstruck or sympathetic to the endless health and personal dramas that have disrupted Woods’ life, Villanueva and his obedient deputies investigated a horrific crash with all the seriousness of a litter violation. When they had every right to consider his drug history and be suspicious about his erratic driving, they refused to hold Woods accountable.
Meaning, I don’t want to be in the same zip code — or county, or state — the next time he drives an SUV. Having been given a break, Woods might push the pedal to 100.
The proper tone, according to the assembled fraternity at Augusta National, is to voice deep sorrow for Woods’ condition and hope that he’ll return to play competitively. Two of his closest friends on the PGA Tour, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, visited Woods at his home recently and reflect what the golf community feels as a whole: He is missed dearly.
“Spent a couple hours with him, which was nice. It was good to see him,” McIlroy said. “It was good to see him in decent spirits. When you hear of these things and you look at the car and you see the crash, you think he’s going to be in a hospital bed for six months. But he was actually doing better than that.”
Said Thomas: “I went over and saw him a couple times last week and try to go over whenever I’m home and see him. We texted Friday morning, and he said it’s kind of starting to set in. He’s bummed he’s not here playing practice rounds with us, and we hate it, too.”
I feel the same way about Woods, the all-time sportsman, except for the little thing about going 80-something in a 45 zone. I’m also braced for reality. Even if he resumes a normal walking function, which was becoming a problem before the crash, his days of battling for major and even minor championships are over. He’ll serve as a captain of a U.S. Ryder Cup team or two and help his son, Charlie, develop his promising golf skills through his teens. But with a club in his hands, Woods faces a future as a ceremonial player.
Golf will proceed without him. Yet as the first round showed Thursday, it’s unclear who, if anyone, will create interest among the masses. McIlroy hit his father with a wayward shot in what remains a perplexing career. Defending champion Dustin Johnson, on a course playing much more difficult than it did in October, struggled and shot 74. Jordan Spieth, the betting and sentimental fave, already was far behind leader Justin Rose. Bryson DeChambeau, lighter and supposedly smarter about crushing his way to glory, imploded with an early double bogey and bogey.
“I should ask him for an autographed glove,’’ said McIlroy, whose dad must be as mystified as the rest of us.
It only confirmed the obvious: Woods, in recovery, remains golf’s biggest story as the sport fades into meh-dom without him. We forget he has missed the Masters four times in eight years and that his famous final scene, in a life made for a movie, was his comeback victory at Augusta two years ago. Golf needs to move on from Tiger.
But whither Tiger without golf? At this point, his friends are trying to keep him alive and well. “What I want to do for him is just be like, `Dude, I’ll do anything you want,’ ’’ Thomas said. “If you need me to help out with your kids, I can do that. If you’re craving McDonald’s and you want me to bring it over, dude, I don’t care. I’m here for you, and I’ll help out however I can.’’
The unspoken concern at Augusta, of course, is that Woods is dealing with tragic life issues he refuses to address. Are his fellow golfers too intimidated to intervene with tough talk? It should bother his friends — and all of us — that Villanueva’s press conference was followed almost immediately by an online statement from Woods. Was the entire day orchestrated by Tiger and his control-freak agents? “In the last few days, I received word from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department that their investigation regarding my traffic accident back on February 23rd in Los Angeles has been completed and closed,’’ Woods wrote. “I am so grateful to both of the good Samaritans who came to assist me and called 911. I am also thankful to the LASD deputies and L.A. firefighter/paramedics, especially L.A. sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Gonzalez and LAFD Engine Co #106 fire paramedics Smith and Gimenez, for helping me so expertly at the scene and getting me safely to the hospital.’’
Sorry, but my first thought was that he’d cut a deal with the authorities. He publicly thanks them, they let him off. When the heart suggests we should feel compassion and encourage him to walk 72 holes again, amid the dogwoods and azaleas of Georgia, the mind says Tiger Woods was dangerously close to committing manslaughter. Even Herbert Warren Wind would know as much.
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.