Culbreath: Drop drama and get back to golfWritten by Matt 'Shaggy' Culbreath | | firstname.lastname@example.org
This spat between Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia is getting straight-up stupid.
If you need a refresher, two weeks ago now, at the Players Championship, a silly moment occurred when Sergio was lining up for a shot while Tiger was deciding on what club to use on his shot, one fairway over. The crowd reacted when Tiger picked a club, right at the moment Sergio was in his downswing. Garcia claimed he was distracted by the crowd noise, and — that’s where the whole story should end. Garcia continued to hold a share of the lead until he put two balls in the drink on the 17th.
Somehow, though, this story has endured. Mostly through the media’s insistence of bringing it up every chance they get to talk to either one of the golfers. The story took a turn for the “Oh please, let’s not do this” on May 21, when Sergio was speaking at a banquet for a European Tour event. A reporter asked Garcia if he would invite Tiger over for dinner:
“We’ll have him ’round every night. We will serve fried chicken.”
That sound you heard was every face being lowered into every palm. All of the facepalms.
Since then, Garcia has apologized twice, saying “I was caught off guard. What seemed to be a funny question, and I tried to give a funny answer. It came out totally wrong.” And while I’m normally quite skeptical about athlete apologies, I’m extra skeptical about this one. He may be sorry now, but I don’t think he was sorry when he said it.
When you’re dealing with a statement like this, there are two levels. There’s the “I didn’t mean it like that” type, where something that was said innocently can be construed as racist. And then there’s the type of statement where the speaker knows precisely what he’s saying. Unless Sergio was trying to come up with an example of take-out food, and skipped over McDonalds and pizza and went straight for Colonel Sanders, he knows precisely why he said “fried chicken.”
The more mystifying bit about this is that we’ve already seen this play out with Fuzzy Zoeller in 1997. He took it one step further by throwing collard greens into the mix, but it was the first time I can remember fans of golf standing up collectively and saying “Not cool, dude.” Fuzzy apologized, and Tiger accepted, but it still makes my skin crawl when I watch my favorite episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and Joel says “Man, Fuzzy Zoeller, what a great guy.”
Tiger has also responded to Sergio, but I’m not exactly calling it an acceptance of his apology. There were some very well-chosen words in his response:
“The comment that was made wasn’t silly. It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate. I’m confident that there is real regret that the remark was made. The Players ended nearly two weeks ago and it’s long past time to move on and talk about golf.”
“Wrong, hurtful, and clearly inappropriate” are the perfect terms to describe the comment, because that’s clearly how it was meant. If Sergio was trying to be funny, there’s a million of other foods he could have used. You know what food is funny? Corn dogs! Heck, he could have just said “chicken wings” and probably gotten away with it. Instead, he went for the two words that he knew had a racial connotation to it, because that’s the phrase he knew would dig deep.
There’s a bit of wisdom in that second sentence of Tiger’s statement, though. The idea that Garcia has “real regret” about the remark. I think Tiger is right on that front. In ‘97, Zoeller did the “I apologize if it offended” non-apology. Sergio, however, admitted that night he knew he shouldn’t have said it.
Most of all, I’m all about the third sentence. Off-the-course drama reporting is unnecessary filler for the four days between tournaments. Can we please, pretty please, just talk golf?
Matt “Shaggy” Culbreath is sports director at 1370 WSPD.