Graeme McDowell and being taken out of context
Graeme McDowell is one of golf’s most intelligent and engaging personalities. In a game that is often referred to as dull and boring, the native of Northern Ireland seems to have a ton of fun out on the course, and along with that, he brings a perspective that is thoughtful and sorely needed in a time of media training and canned responses.
All of this may have changed yesterday.
In a piece filed two days ago for PGATour.com, Brian Wacker received quotes from several players about Tiger Woods and how the aura around him, while still present, is not as strong as it once was. McDowell’s exact quote from Wacker’s piece is below:
“He’s lost that sort of force field of invincibility around him,” Graeme McDowell told a group of reporters. “The aura is not as strong. He’s still Tiger Woods, still the greatest player ever in my opinion.
“I don’t remember the first time I played with him but there was a real ‘wow’ factor. He was playing a different sport than me. But guys get older, stuff happens.”
That’s not too bad, right? Well, as usual when it comes to Tiger, some people apparently took it as a shot at the world’s number one ranked player. Soon, both McDowell and Wacker were asked to clarify comments, and stories were written about Wacker’s piece, as if either person had done something wrong in the entire exchange. McDowell was asked some questions and he answered them honestly. Wacker used those quotes for a topic, that while completely bludgeoned to death at this point, is still something that people want to discuss. I saw Wacker responding to some people on Twitter the other day and then yesterday, McDowell took to Twitter to clarify some things:
There’s a large issue at play with the way that the media and fans all react to anything related to Tiger, but what struck me here is the last tweet where he used the #nocomment at the end. As I said above, McDowell is one of the best in the game when it comes to dealing with media and providing insight into what’s going on not only with his own game, but with everything that’s happening inside golf in general. Losing him to a sea of clichés would be a big blow, but the question is, why exactly in 2014 do players need to talk in the first place?
Now, like I said above, I’m not putting any blame on Wacker at all. He’s very good at what he does for PGATour.com, and from what I can tell, he didn’t do anything wrong for his piece. My point is more about the logic behind talking to the press in general. It’s easy to forget that not too long ago, the media was looked at as a connector between athletes and fans in every sport. By talking to the media, the players were able to show a side that the fans couldn’t see when they were on the field of play. They were able to be funny and thought provoking, or they could promote whatever product they were being paid to talk about. The media got their quotes for stories, the athletes got to show who they were and promote, and the fans got a window into their favourite, or not so favourite players. It was a win-win.
In 2014 though, with social media being as popular as it is and being incredibly easy to use even for the most dimwitted of people, what benefit is there for the player to talk at all to the traditional media? Obviously, long feature stories where someone can really dig into a piece are different, but on a general level, are post-round or post-game comments and press conference snippets really even meaningful any more? For the media they absolutely are, but for the players themselves, they provide no value.
McDowell has nearly 570,000 followers on Twitter. In a few minutes, he can promote Cleveland/Srixon, interact with his fans and poke fun at his fellow players all from his phone. Rightly or wrongly, if he feels like his quotes are being taken out of context, he can control the message perfectly and reach out to his fans and sponsors all through his social channels. Other players started to pick up on McDowell’s situation too, most notably Luke Donald:
We saw this exact same situation play out a few weeks ago at Doral when Patrick Reed caused a fire storm for saying what was on his mind. For his part, Reed has thankfully stuck to his guns and not backtracked, but the reaction that he’s gotten from the comments really made me wonder if it was even worth saying to Golf Channel and NBC in the first place. McDowell’s situation is the exact same thing, and no one even said or did anything wrong.
My hunch is that McDowell will continue to talk, and that’s great for everyone involved, but at this point, I wonder how many players will keep doing the same thing. When it comes to giving quotes, especially when it’s about Tiger Woods, it’s just not worth it any more.