Saturday, April 17, 2010

Oh, the hypocrisy...

The eyes of the world were fixed on the Masters golf tournament last weekend as Tiger Woods emerged from seclusion to resume his career.

It was a wild scene down in Georgia. Television ratings went through the roof. Hundreds of media members hounded Woods' every step. The public reacted in a polite and supportive way.

Then again, the public had no choice. The folks at Augusta National Country Club are known for the iron-fisted way they run their tournament. People knew if they tried to heckle Woods, they would be booted out of the tournament with ruthless efficiency.

Lots of people had commentary about Woods and his return. However, some of the most hypocritical words were spoken by Billy Payne, who is the chairman of Augusta National and the Masters. Augusta National and the Masters definitely qualify as a closed-gate community, so his decision to make public statements about Woods stunned many.

"It's not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here," Payne said in reference to Woods' womanizing. "It is the fact he disappointed all of us and more importantly our kids and grandkids.

"Our hero did not live up to the expectations as a role model that we sought for our children.

"As he ascended in our rankings of world's greatest golfers, he became an example to our kids...But, as he now says himself, he forgot in the process to remember that with fame and fortune comes responsibility not invisibility.

"But certainly his future will never again be measured only by his performance against par, but by the sincerity of his efforts to change."

Wow. Payne definitely said a mouthful. On the surface, there does not seem to be much we can disagree with here. However, if we look a little deeper, Payne's words do ring hollow when examining the actions of his organization.

For example, Augusta National still remains an all-male club. True, it is a private club and members have the right to run it in any way they choose. However, what kind of message does it send when an organization chooses to ignore half the world's population? What kind of message does it send to kids and grandkids (especially girls) to have this type of policy?

There is also hypocrisy in the Masters allowing Woods to play last weekend. I had no problem with Woods playing, but in Payne's own words, Woods did awful deeds. Yet, they welcomed him back with open arms. Compare this treatment to the treatment they gave golf analyst Gary McCord in 1995.

The Masters is known for its firm and fast greens. McCord, who is known for being an outspoken analyst, joked that the greens that year were so fast that they might have been treated with 'bikini wax.'

It was a funny joke, but Augusta National was offended. It pressured CBS to drop McCord from future Masters telecasts, and he has never returned despite his involvement with CBS covering other tournaments.

So, a comment about 'bikini wax' earned him a lifetime ban, but Woods' sexcapades barely made Augusta National twitch. Despite Payne's distaste for Woods' actions, he understands Woods brings television ratings. The all-mighty dollar wins again.

Finally, for years the Masters had an abysmal record when it came to race relations. The tournament began in the 1930s but an African-American player did not play there until 1975. Since then, progress has been made. Let's hope it continues.

Despite the contents of this column, I love watching the Masters. It is one of the greatest spectacles in sports. As for the people who host it, I get a little queasy when I watch them.

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