My hibernation was interrupted a few days ago, by calls from a couple of radio stations, both of which were interested in what I might think about the latest Tiger news. I of course couldn’t help, due to the fact that, as I’ve mentioned in this column before, in the CBS off-season, I don’t pay any attention to what’s going on in the golf world. I don’t get any magazines, and I don’t read the sports pages either. Besides, who isn’t distracted by this election rumpus? I think it’s brilliant, and very Irish in a way. You see in Ireland, about a week after a presidential election, nobody knows who the president is either.
Then of course, some idiot just has to fax me a bunch of the stuff. I hate it when that happens. There I am, minding my own business, laughing hysterically at the secretary of state for Florida, when whammo, all of a sudden I have another opinion in my head. At this time of year, my brain is completely full, so in order to make room for anything new, I have to toss something out, which upsets me. Most of what’s in there is like my underwear — you know, sort of dilapidated and stained, but comfortable, and hard to part with. But anyway, out went a bunch of stuff I found terribly amusing, like the fact that more people voted for Fuhrer Buchanan by accident than on purpose. I love a happy ending, even if it hasn’t ended yet.
But, out with that, and in with this. After I had read all this stuff about Tiger and TV contracts, and use of his image and whatnot, my extremely full brain was visited by a strange and disturbing thought. I found myself imagining, in my mind’s eye, a scene set in the penthouse office of a tall building in Cleveland. In my mind’s ear, a telephone is ringing. A gray, high-backed steel and leather chair swivels around to reveal a tall, gray-haired man who is wearing a black monocle, and stroking a great, big, hairy cat on his lap. He picks up the telephone and listens for a while. The man, not the cat. In my mind’s nose, I can smell a litter box that needs emptying in the worst possible way, and the unmistakable stench of money. Or it might just be the litterbox, I don’t know. My mind’s nose is a little stuffed up.
“I don’t think so, your holiness,” says the man sternly. “I’ll have 10 percent, and you can throw in one of those big red hats too, or we’ll be seeing a lot of white smoke followed by a big, fat Irish Protestant waving from the balcony. Now don’t bother me with this again, you old fart, I’m busy rigging an election here.”
The chair swivels once more, and the man stares out at the gunmetal surface of Lake Erie far below. “Unbelievable, Mr. Diddlesworth,” he says. “Spreading evil tentacles over the earth isn’t as easy as it used to be. Heck, even that Woods kid has us whittled down to five percent.” He stands up and drops the cat softly to the floor, smiling and wagging a finger at it as it stretches luxuriously on the Berber. “Of course, you know what this means Mr. Diddlesworth, don’t you? I’m just going to have to hammer the sausage into something else to get my money back, aren’t I?” The cat throws back it’s head and lets out an evil hiss, as the man starts to laugh maniacally, and then I lose the plot. Damn, my brain is full again.
This is just a bit of fun of course, but here’s what I do know. IMG has pretty much held European title sponsors to ransom for years. If sponsors want a decent field, they have to pay, that’s just the way it is, and naturally, this has stunted the growth of prize money. However, anyone who thinks that nobody pays appearance fees here in the U.S. is kidding themselves. When Buick pays Tiger a throbbingly large sum of money to represent the brand, part of the deal would involve Tiger playing in a certain amount of events in which they are the title sponsor. Few would blame them for that, but it sounds like appearance money to me. If Tiger has negotiated a better deal with IMG than others, and I think he probably has, then IMG will try to find a way to get the bottom line back up. It’s just the nature of the beast.
Whether these latest developments are Tiger’s idea, or have been germinated by IMG, I am kind of surprised at the way the whole thing has been handled. Of course, I’m a huge Tiger fan, and this is a thinly veiled and pathetic attempt to put a decent spin on the whole thing, even though I’m not in on the deal. Everybody makes mistakes, and I think in 20 years or so, if Tiger reflects on his career, he will consider this episode to be one of his. Sometimes we’d all like to be able to withdraw what we just said, or at least alter it. I’m living proof of that. In fact, I probably should delete most of this, but I’m pushing the button now.