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|It is largely through Tiger Woods' affable relationship with the media that he has remained such a crowd favorite. (Courtesy: PGA of America)|
When Barry Bonds hit career home run No. 756, the yawn was nearly audible. Having made strides toward breaking Henry Aaron's all-time home run record for the past several years, it was a moment that everyone had accepted was coming. But when that historic ball flew out of the park, they didn't have to like it.
For now, put aside the allegations that Bonds used illegal performance-enhancing drugs - the many and creditable allegations. Instead, look at Bonds' relationship with the media, and with society as a whole. Make no mistake, the claims that the media doesn't like Bonds are just as strong as the claims that Bonds juiced.
Bonds wants to be hated, or at the very least could not care less whether he is or not. He has spent a career treating members of the media like lowly underlings, there but to grab any scraps they could from him. His disdain for the media is palpable. And his general disinterest in the world not directly related to him is legendary.
Now look at Tiger Woods. There are similarities between Woods and Bonds that are striking. Both are "chosen ones" in their respective fields. People knew Bonds would make his mark on Major League Baseball when he was but a child. Woods could barely walk and he was smacking golf balls on the Merv Griffin Show. Both Woods and Bonds are gifted like the average human could only dare to dream.
But Woods has always shown a natural understanding of the media. Put a microphone in front of Tiger Woods, and he's as affable, intelligent and humorous a superstar as you'll ever see. Is being in the public eye something he loves? Very likely not. He's been a public figure for some time now, and very likely longs for a day Elin, Sam Alexis and he can go out and have a burger somewhere.
But Woods' genius is not purely on the golf course. All it takes is to see the reaction he received at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., after closing out his 13th career major victory at the PGA Championship. The ovation and appreciation he received was likely more impressive than anything Bonds has seen his entire career. And that comes from Tiger's willingness to talk to the media - despite whatever inane question may be thrown his way. And with Woods, his media-friendly persona is even more impressive when you realize he was a stutterer in his youth.
In the end, Bonds has made his own decision on how he's perceived by the world, and that's his right. That it's cost him millions in potential pitch-man dollars is also his business. That baseball has a new home-run king that is at best grudgingly appreciated and at worst flat-out despised is the price we've had to pay for it, however.
The world of golf doesn't have that problem, however. More than ever, Tiger Woods appears ordained to break the all-time record for major victories held by the legendary Jack Nicklaus. And unlike with Aaron and Bonds, there will be no question that Nicklaus will be there to shake Tiger's hand when Major No. 19 rolls in for Woods.
And it's all because of this fact: As much as his talent, drive and focus is respected, so is his personality. Sure he controls his image, but he does so brilliantly. He has wowed us on the golf course and seduced us off of it, and, unlike Bonds, he consistently reaps the rewards. And unlike baseball fans, golf fans have a champion they can truly respect and enjoy.
August 13, 2007
William K. Wolfrum keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. You can follow him on Twitter @Wolfrum.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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