The Waste That is The ESPYs

Consider for a moment that despite only playing two games (and losing both) that a team could be deemed the champion of their sport.

Now consider Serena Williams, who despite her dyn-o-mite dress still only played in two tournaments all year yet STILL won the ESPY for Best Female Tennis Player.  If it is a popularity contest, then sure Serena should win.  But something tells me that ESPN is not wanting the ESPYs to be a popularity contest; they want the ESPYs to be taken seriously as an award.

Yet, how can you take the ESPYs seriously when Williams is winning over Kim Clijsters (Aussie Open champ), Li Na (French Open champ; Aussie runner-up), and Caroline Wozniacki (world’s number one)?  Williams is 175th in the world!!!  And yet was somehow deemed the “Best Female Tennis Player” in the world!

But that was not the only odd choice.  While Cristie Kerr is good, how could Yani Tseng not win Best Female Golfer?  Blake Griffin as Breakthrough Athlete?  Did anyone not see that coming?  Shouldn’t “breakthrough” be more for an athlete that was not expected to suddenly flourish, like Jose Bautista or Arian Foster?  And controversy aside, how is Jimmer Fredette the “Best Male College Athlete” over Cameron Newton!?

Why all of this bullshit?  Because the ESPYs are garbage.  It is simply a popularity contest where fans vote by name and television exposure rather than actual achievements.  The ESPYs are no more than — and should be taken more seriously than — a fan’s choice awards program.

The popularity contest is endemic across the entire sports media universe.  Take the recent “all-star” game for Major League Baseball.  Statistically, there is no reason that Derek Jeter should have been voted into the All-Star game.  However, because it is a popularity contest, he “won” the shortstop spot for the American League.

After he was voted in, the response to complaints about Jeter’s selection was that “no one is tuning in to see Asdrubal Cabrera.”  Well, of course not because sports media cannot get off of the Yankees and Red Sox long enough to allow other players to flourish.  Because of the overexposure to the Yankees, and because there are more Yankee fans in general [market size; longevity of team], it makes sense that in a “fan” vote that a player like Jeter will get voted in over a player like Cabrera.

Thus the All-Star game is not really “All-Stars” as much as it is a popularity contest.  Just call it what it is — Celebrity Baseball — and move on; no one is watching anyway.

Yet still, these “fan votes” are somehow being legitimated as if they are really selecting the best players.  Christ, the “fans” almost voted in Russell Martin as the AL’s catcher over Detroit’s Alex Avila!!!!!!  Thus, how can you take the All-Star Game seriously with that kind of voting!?

Which leads back to the ESPYs.  How can you take the ESPYs seriously when they are voting for Williams, Kerr and Fredette over Na, Tseng and Newton?  Because they are voting on name alone.  How long do you think most “voters” debated the merits of voting for Tamika Catchings over Diane Taurasi?  Not long.  The eyes went right to Taurasi because she was a familiar name.

And the “Best Female Golfer” debate probably went something like this: “Tseng?  Shin?  Choi?  What the hell are all of these foreigners!?  I’m votin’ for the Amer’can!”

Serena Williams.  Blake Griffin.  Lindsey Vonn.  Shaun White.  Well-known names that likely got them the ESPY.  Additionally, you have to wonder if the proximity of the NBA Finals (and to an extent the Stanley Cup Finals for the NHL) to the voting period clouded people’s memory.  After all, look at how many “awards” the Mavericks garnered.

The ESPYs are a nice little acknowledgement from the fans, but that is it.  It shows basically who is popular and who is not more than it shows who is actually the best at her or his sport.  It is simply a popularity contest.

Given the likelihood of fans not giving any of the categories serious consideration, perhaps a better name for the ESPYs would be the GuessPYS.

Hmm………maybe we could do that here.

On second thought, maybe she DID deserve the ESPY!

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ESPN becomes a Mind-Reader; Speaks for Steve Williams

As you have probably noticed, I did not comment on Tiger Woods’ lecture.  To me, it is not sports-related and thus not worth writing about.  I did not even listen to it until the last couple of minutes.  Although I will note that my cable feed was breaking up and it made his reading come off as very robotic.

Nevertheless, since I picked on Yahoo! Sports and their gaffe of having Shaq’s mug appear as Memphis’s logo (I am still digging the Memphis Shaqti), I figured that I can rip on ESPN.com.

I visited that site to do the Streak for the Cash (not that I am any good at that or anything; frankly I suck at it).  But a headline in the, well, “Headlines” column caught my attention:

“Tiger’s caddie: Heckling won’t be tolerated”

Here is a screenshot of that headline.

Misleading headline from ESPN.com

Close-up; just in case it is not clear enough for ya!

Now, for some reason it grabbed me (exactly what a good headline is supposed to do, yeah?).  I guess I figured that Steve Williams, Woods’s caddie, would have something idiotic to say, as he usually does.  But here is what he had to say:

“Nothing changes.  . . .  My job is to give him the best information I can and get him around in the fewest possible strokes. And as I have always pointed out, it is to try and give him a level playing field.

I won’t do anything differently. I won’t view him any differently. I will do the utmost best to be as professional as I can.  . . .

There are always going to be people who are going to knock you . . . Being the No. 1 player in the world and being as successful as Tiger has been, there have been people who have knocked him anyway. I am sure there might be a few more, it goes with the territory (Associated Press via ESPN.com).

Now, I do not see anywhere in that statement where he says he will not tolerate hecklers.  The headline makes it out as if Williams will personally hunt down hecklers.  However, as the article notes, “Williams has a reputation for not tolerating heckling or unauthorized use of cameras in the galleries when Woods is playing.”  Thanks to Jim Rome, the whine “Not in my swing” quickly comes to mind.

Granted, once you open up the article, the headline reads “Williams firmly in Tiger’s corner.”  Although, the window heading states otherwise: “Steve Williams, caddie for Tiger Woods, says he won’t tolerate hecklers.”  But, nowhere in that article, written by the AP, does demonstrate where Williams says that.  In fact, the article notes he a reputation for not tolerating hecklers previous to Woods’ mishaps.

The point here is that Williams already showed little tolerance for hecklers, yet ESPN makes it out like it is some sort of revelation.  In fact, Williams never even made mention of not tolerating hecklers.  The only thing insinuated is that he [Williams] is standing by Woods.  So why is this news?

And why am I writing about it?

Or better yet, why are you reading this?

(Drunken) Tiger Style?

YEAH! We're going to Perkins!!!! Woohoo!!!!!!!!

We at Uncle Popov do not get into drama and tabloid bullshit.  But the Eldrick Woods nonsense is worth noting.  The more that comes out the more bizarre the entire situation seems.  I mean, he is now allegedly boinking a waitress from Perkins?  What is this, an LL Cool J song?  And now paramedics were called to his home early this morning!?!?  What the hell, Tiger?

Look.  We’ll keep it to sports.  Tiger is still going to be viewed as one of the best (if not the best) golfers of all time.  What he does on the course is tremendous, even if we are not Tiger fans (even before these “transgressions”).  What happens off the course damages his “image,” but is for concern for those who care about morals.  It does not change his on the course legacy.

Let’s put it this way.  Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth are considered two of the top baseball players of all time.  But the Georgia Peach was rotten, due to dirty play and alleged racism.  The Great Bambino was an alcoholic (which probably led to his death) and a womanizer.  But that was rarely publicized during their times because of how the media worked then.  Now, with so many media outlets and the 24/7 news cycle, it is impossible to take extra packets of ketchup at McDonald’s without getting scrutinized.

The off-the-field issues of Cobb and Ruth, even viewed today, do not take away from their accomplishments on the field.  The same should apply to Woods, regardless of the different mediascape of today.  On the course, he is/was as dominant as anyone to play golf.  Off the course, apparently he is a dumbass (where did that Stanford education go?).

For more on the off-the-course garbage, see this article by our friends at El Mao’s Path of Wrong Speech.  It focuses more on Tiger, his marriage, and the media.  And, speaks to what we think of Tiger and Elin’s marriage — that it is, and always has been, a front…a show.

You Can Hate Tiger Now; But He Won’t Stop Now…

Maybe “hate” is too strong of a word for you.  Perhaps “dislike.”  Or you are “not a fan of Tiger.”

Or maybe “hate” is an appropriate word and, in the words of Henry Winkler in The Waterboy, you “hate him…hate him…hate him.”

Whatever you word(s) of choice, I am here to tell you that it is okay to not like Tiger.

Maybe you do not like him because he does not play in every tournament.  From an outside perception, it appears that Tiger only plays the big tournaments.  I am sure that you say to yourself, “Shoots, I wish that I could just show up to work one day a week; or every other week…just like that damn Tiger Woods!”

And it’s cool.  You can hate him for that.

Or maybe you hate him because he is so dominant.  He has been at or near the top of the World Rankings and the money list since his first full year on the tour.  He wins going away and he hunts down the leaderboard and wins.  He blasts the ball out of the box and can compliment it with his short game.

And it’s cool.  You can hate him for that.

Or, in addition to that, maybe you hate him because he seems so flawless.  When he needs the chip, he’s got it.  When he is spending time on the beach, he digs out and sticks in near the flag.  And when it is all on the line, he hits a sweet drive that sounds like doom for the field.

Even when he is hurt, he can beat you, as he proved last year at the U.S. Open.

And it’s cool.  You can hate him for that.

With his flawless play comes his robotic personality, and some people hate that.  As Jim Rome likes to note, his speeches are all the same and are essentially recorded sound bites pieced together to explain the swing feeling good and the course looking nice.

Furthermore, he does not seem to be too fan-friendly and at times seems distant, despite his massive following.

And it’s cool.  You can hate him for that.

Its Tigers Time!

It's Tiger's Time!

Perhaps it is his emotions that you hate.  The fact that even though is robotic and cold, he does fist pumps and incites riotous behavior amongst the gallery.  Maybe you feel that golf is a humble sport and is no place for [missed] fist bumps and what could amount to taunting.

And it’s cool.  You can hate him for that.

A small percentage of golf fans hate him because he is not white.  Some feel threatened by the fact that their sacred sport is being tainted by a “colored” who is mowing down records set by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.  In other words, golf’s sanctity is being soiled by Tiger’s dominance.

And…well, that is not cool.  But some do hate him for that.

Yes, you can hate him for all of those things, or you can mix and match.  But each of these reasons to hate (or dislike or not be a fan of) Tiger have flaws in the logic.

Tiger might not play in every tournament, but how many golfers actually play every PGA tournament?  The PGA Tour holds 48 events (some are held concurrently).  While Tiger only played in six events last year (due to injury), he played in 17 in 2007, 16 in 2006, 22 in 2005 and 20 in 2004.  Over those four years, that is an average of 18.75.

Aside from Tiger and Robert Karlsson (who only played in nine PGA events last year), the average number of events played among the World’s Top 10 was 17.75.  Yes, some of the Top 10 play on the European Tour, but the numbers would not be inflated too much.

Point is, Tiger plays in as many tournaments as other golfers, if only slightly fewer.  Golf, much like tennis, allows for its participants to miss tournaments.  There is no mandate to play in every tournament.  So it is within Tiger’s right–or any other golfer for that matter–to pick and choose tournaments.

Certainly, Tiger does not win every tournament.  Nor does he make every clutch putt.  Nor does he always comeback to win on Sunday.  Does he make runs on Sunday?  Sure.  But he is not the only golfer to do that.

Tiger does fail.  But more times that not, he does not fail and he makes that clutch chip-in.  He works hard to be the best and it pays off on Sundays.  The likely reason some hate him for his comebacks and clutchness (is that a word?) is the comeback likely happened against a golfer that the “hater” follows.

And Tiger is definitely not robotic.  His interviews might be dull, but he recognizes his own flaws.  This is why he has tweaked his swing.  Recognizing and correcting imperfections is what makes someone great at what they do.  Perhaps because he can correct those “mistakes” in his game, detractors cannot stand him.

As for his lack of accessibility for fans, you do know who the hell he is?  No, I do not mean that because he is Tiger Woods, he can do what he wants.  Simply that because of the popularity and following that comes from being Tiger Woods, appeasing all fans would be difficult from the start.

This morning (9 April), Dan Patrick mentioned this similar notion when discussing Jack Nicklaus at an autograph session at Augusta.  The group waiting to receive autographs was, in Patrick’s words, ten feet wide and 30 people deep.  There is no way the Golden Bear can sign autographs for everyone.

I imagine it is the same with Tiger Woods.  Plus, there is safety concerns with dealing with such a large following.  So can you blame Tiger?

The emotional side of Tiger—the fist pumping; the crowds going wild—should be seen as a positive for golf.  Golf is an individualistic event, meaning that it is all about the golfer; not some team.  So a celebrating Tiger Woods and an energetic gallery should be embraced.

Yet, some want to be like Christopher McDonald’s character in Happy Gilmore and view Tiger’s “antics” as disgracing the game.

However, all golfers show some form of emotion when winning or making a huge putt.  No one is lamenting how Lorena Ochoa (or any of the winners of the Kraft Nabisco Championship) jumping into the water on 18 is a disgrace.

Tiger has “been there and done that,” so maybe he should be humble.  But there is nothing wrong with a little energy.  And the crowd reactions are beyond his control.

As for the race issue…well, I want to believe that most people who dislike Tiger do not take race into account.  I am sure those who do represent a small minority of those who hate Tiger.  So I know it is not all fans who feel that way.

But before you go thinking that race is not an issue in golf, one only has to be reminded of the reaction that the “noose” comment received last year.  And the Shoal Creek (Alabama) controversy happened in 1990, which I do not know about any of you but that definitely occurred within my lifetime.

[For those who do not remember, in 1990 Shoal Creek was set to host the PGA Championship when controversy arose surrounding the fact that the country club had zero black members.  The firestorm that followed led to some sponsors to pull advertisement from the event].

Now, I write all of this not to get you to change your mind and like Tiger Woods.  I write this as someone who is not a fan of Woods.  But I am not a fan of Tiger because I am not a fan of golf in general.  I stopped following it on 25 October 1999.

But while I am not a fan of Woods, I do recognize that he is by far the best golfer in the world.  He will most likely end up being the greatest golfer to ever play the game.  But I would not call him the greatest golfer ever because he is still active in golf.  I stand by the rationale that Tiger is not the greatest ever until his career is complete and we can look back on his career.  Maybe we will find out that someone was remotely controlling his golf balls in the air, or that his opponents’ drinks were drugged on Sunday and that caused them to collapse down the stretch.

But in the end, I do believe he will be judged as the greatest ever and he is certainly the best in the world right now.

Anyway, what I have noticed is that all of the above reasons are not really reasons that people dislike Tiger Woods.  Or at least, those are not the real reasons for the hatred.

It comes from two sources.

Yeah...this is what you are jealous of!

Yeah...this is what you are jealous of!

First, his success breeds jealousy.  And maybe it is because you are a fan of Mickelson or Harrington or Kim and you do not like seeing your boy get humiliated.  But anytime someone (or some team) is successful for an extended period of time, there is bound to be jealousy.

We like for people to be successful, but we want everyone to be successful, not just one person.  In this case, Tiger Woods.

But what can Tiger do?  Lay up?  Maybe he should just decide, “you know what, I think I will let Katayama win the Masters this year.”  Wanting him to not be successful when he clearly possesses the tools to be a winner makes no sense.

Second, the oversaturation of media exposure on all things Tiger.  ESPN, the Golf Channel, and the PGA Tour absolutely love Tiger Woods.  The latter two especially, considering the viewership and revenue that he generates for those two entities.

And the extensive media coverage only accentuates his dominance, a point that I did not return to yet.  We are flooded with information on a daily basis thanks to cable/satellite television and the Internet.  It is easy for us to know everything there is to know about sports and athletes.  This site is an example of that.

Information overload highlights Tiger’s dominance more so than any other athlete at any other time in history.  Imagine if Babe Ruth or Wilt Chamberlain had similar media coverage.  I am sure that they would receive a similar reaction that Tiger receives today.

But, again, what can Tiger do?  It is not his fault that the media coverage is so great.  Because his following is so large, when he is not around, golfing as an industry suffers.  Even when he was healthy, if Tiger was not in an event, the highlights were relegated to the end of ESPN’s SportsCenter, if any were shown at all.

Let me use Michelle Wie as an example.  In 2006, she competed in the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic.  On Thursday and Friday episodes of SportsCenter, the event was high in the pecking order of highlights for the show.  Once she withdrew, the event was  merely an afterthought on Saturday and Sunday.

Michelle Wie is/was deemed newsworthy.  Tiger is deemed newsworthy and he sells.  That is not his fault.  Well, those who hate him will argue that it IS his fault because he is so damn successful.  If he was not successful, then he would not be the lead story.

So the saturated media coverage and the success-bred jealousy are the reasons most people hate Tiger Woods.

And it’s cool.  You can hate him for that.  He is still going to play when he wants to, be dominant, pump his fist, be robotic, and wear a red shirt on Sunday.  He will still be successful and ESPN and Fox Sports and all other media outlets will be there covering it.

This extremely long article first appeared on the Bleacher Report (9 April 2009).

Clark dominated Tiger; Just Admit It!!!

Tim Clark won yesterday.  But you probably did not know this because Tiger Woods lost!

The golfer from Durban, RSA played a terrific round on his way to winning 4 and 2 against His Highness Woods.  Six birdies and no bogeys for Clark putting down Woods in 16 holes.  It was the PGA equivilent of deicide.  Yet, you probably did not know this because Tiger lost!

Certainly Tim Clark had to play the round of his career in order to top Mr. Roboto.  And he did, kicking Tiger’s ass all over the course.  It seemed like role reversal as Clark played more like Tiger and Tiger played more like some “no name” from South Africa.  But you probably did not know this because Tiger lost!!!!

Just stop it!  Look, I know that it is the media’s crush on Tiger that creates headlines and “breaking news” that Woods actually lost rather than the fact that Clark won the match.  Writing for the AP, Doug Ferguson referred to Clark as “pesky.”  Has Tiger ever been referred to as “pesky”?  No, he is just “lurking”; after all he is a “Tiger.”  Give Clark some love!  And yes, it was mentioned that Clark played well and won.  But from the tone of most of the reports, it was clear that Tiger lost more so than Clark won.  Some on ESPN seemed to simply question if Tiger came back to early [from surgery] rather than give Clark credit!

Anyone who has ever watched golf would know that Clark outplayed Woods and won.  On Wednesday, no once claimed that Brendan Jones lost to Woods.  Had Woods beat Clark because the South African had eight bogeys, no one would have stated that Clark lost to Woods.  It is plain and simple — Clark beat Woods.  He played better than Woods.  It had little to do with his surgery recovery.  Keep in mind, everyone was raving over how awesome Tiger was on Wednesday when he exploded out of the gate.  “He is better than ever.”  There was even a headline that claimed a “rusty” Tiger was still dominate.  So where was the dominance yesterday?  It was still evident; Clark just played better.

This is not an anti-Tiger rant.  I recognize that Tiger will end up the greatest golfer of all time and he is certainly the best golfer currently on the PGA Tour.  This is towards the media ignorance of the fact that it was Clark who played better than Tiger; not that Tiger played worse than Clark.  And while some stories did give Clark credit, many did not seem to do so.  Even Tiger himself recognized that Clark played well and won the match.  Here is Tiger’s quote:

That is the nature of match play.  . . . You can play well and go home and you play poorly and advance. I just happened to catch Tim playing really well, and I didn’t make enough birdies to answer him. (Ferguson via Yahoo! Sports)

It is the media that has spun it.  That is who I am upset with; not Tiger Woods.

What is amusing is that people on Around the Horn and like shows claimed that the Match Play format favored Woods’ return because he could play fewer holes per day than a normal tournament, assuming he put away his opponent.  And it was all but assumed that Tiger would at least make the weekend.  But they also seemed to forget that Match Play also lends itself towards upsets.  One great round by your opponent could spell the end for you.  And that was the case here.  When it is one round versus one round, Clark’s chances of winning were great.  Had this been a four-day tournament, maybe Clark puts up one or even two strong rounds, but it is highly unlikely that he outplays a golfer like Woods, Harrington, Mickelson, or even Anthony Kim.  It was not a normal tournament but one that actually benefited Clark and he took full advantage of his moment in the spotlight.

We all know what is going to happen.  Clark beating Tiger is only going to make Woods more determined; more focused; more dominant than before.  That is Woods’ nature when it comes to the game of golf.  By the time that the Masters rolls around, I doubt that Tiger will be hitting cart paths.  By the time He is at Augusta, he will be hitting greens and players like Clark will be a specter.  And in the end, he will likely be putting on another ugly green jacket after dominating the course.  But just for one day, Tim Clark dominated Tiger Woods.  Get it right.