In the wake of yesterday’s rant about excessive Tiger Woods media coverage, I received a critique from someone who has been a friend for about 60 years. At one time in his life, he was a staff writer for People magazine – – in the days when People was arguably the most influential magazine in the country. Here is the relevant portion of his e-mail critique:
“I have no complaints about your story. I rather like it. But … you should realize that what you were trying to do — diminish the importance of celebrity in our society — is hopeless. I beg you to forsake this noble crusade. You will lead a happier life if you do so.
“Tiger Woods is as important to America as Princess Diana was to Great Britain. Well, almost. But he was and is at the very top of the pantheon of publicity-worthy Americans. The stories will never cease, and America will mourn — maybe flags at half-mast — when he finally rolls his car over and dies in flames.
“You know what? I’ll miss him, too.
“Last comment: As a columnist, you should pick the fights you have a chance of winning, and this isn’t one of them. And if you continue to do such stories because you believe it is in the public good to speak out, you probably should mention somewhere high up in the piece that you know it is a battle you cannot win but you believe the fight is a good and noble one.”
Color me chastened. I shall try to resist the temptation to fulminate on this topic too often in the future. I guess I am as obsessed about my view of this situation as are the golf writers who cannot cover any aspect of the game unless it is through the prism of Tiger Woods. Point taken …
There is another category of “sports celebrity” that receives coverage on a sporadic basis. Tiger Woods is not in this category; Tiger Woods does not need the coverage to live a contented life; members of this “other category” need to be part of the conversation. My favorite person in this “Need to be seen/heard category” is José Canseco. About once every 6 months, I can count on him to do or say something outrageous that puts him in the spotlight for a day or so. My favorite of his antics was when he suggested that he had a plan to expand the US economy by 25% and suggested to former President Trump that he be named either Treasury Secretary or Fed Chairman (I forget when post he “sought”.)
Another sports figure who seems to be squarely in the “Need to be seen/heard category” is Terrell Owens. However, if T.O. wants to climb the ladder in that category, he will need to expand the spectrum of the outrageousness of his publicity seekings. To this point, T.O. seems to have only 3 main behaviors that might put him in the news for a day or so:
- He can toss out some “new morsel” of information about his feud with Donovan McNabb.
- He can proclaim that he could be a #1 receiver in the NFL today if a team gave him a chance.
- He can continue his boycott of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The first of those behaviors has a long shelf-life. The second one is fast approaching its sell-by date. The third one has pretty much run its course. Anyone who cares even marginally about T.O.’s boycott of the Hall of Fame knows the story and realizes that there is minimal meat on that bone. T. O. tried to resurrect that story about a month ago and it went over like a roast beef recipe in a Vegan cookbook.
In case you missed it, T. O. remains well beyond chagrined that he was not elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot and was even more miffed this year confronted with the fact that Calvin Johnson was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Recall that T.O. boycotted the induction ceremony in Canton, OH and staged his own ceremony at his alma mater – Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Here is a prediction:
- Next year – and the year after that – when the electors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame announce the new members for the Hall of Fame proximal to the Super Bowl, T. O. will find a way to get a reporter or a sports radio host to give him an opportunity to opine on a player who was elected or one who was not elected – – but T. O. is sure he should have been.
I have no idea if his “take” will be full of sound and fury – – but I am confident that it will signify nothing. [Hat Tip to Billy Shakespeare there…] However, the folks on “Radio Row” at the Super Bowl will feast on the opportunity to fill a segment with whatever is the pronouncement of the day from T. O. and he will bask in a few days of limelight.
Now here is the head-exploding circumstance for T.O. Should this come to pass, he will be on radio shows and SportsCenter and in papers around the country for the better part of a week:
- Donovan McNabb – – the Hatfield to Owens’ McCoy – – is a finalist for induction to the Hall of Fame.
That would combine two of his tree categories for getting his name in the news; it would be a second Christmas in the Owens’ household…
Finally, since today’s rant has dealt with “celebrity” and “celebrity status” to a large degree, let me close with an observation about celebrity from historian, Daniel J. Boorstin:
“A sign of celebrity is that his name is often worth more than his services.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………