ESPN’s Rick Rilley should know better

In his March 29th column “an ad doesn’t take care of everything” ESPN’s Rick Rilley criticizes the recent Nike ad featuring Tiger Woods with the caption “winning takes care of everything.

First off, Tiger never said “an ad takes care of everything.” He said “winning takes care of everything.”

Mr. Rilley seems intent on leading readers to the impression Tiger Woods is somehow mockingly callous, insensitive and unremorseful for his deviancy in years past.

Not only is the Rilley piece factually incorrect and a deliberate gross misrepresentation of what the ad aims to get across, a veteran ESPN sports writer should – and probably does – know better.

The Nike ad is not about Tiger seeking winning absolution for past transgressions off the course. Rather it speaks squarely of Tiger’s rebuke when many so called expert golf analysts were doubtful of a Tiger comeback, some of whom even ridiculed Tiger for adopting and sticking with the Sean Foley approach. Their logic, I assume, was infidelity meant the gift of winning was forever taken away.

What a crock!

I very clearly remember, and so should the venerable Mr. Rilley, a television interview in 2012 at a time when Tiger’s emerging new swing and comeback was not quite giving him the winning results he and most of the sports world were looking for. Many, including such notables as Nick Faldo and Greg Norman, began to openly doubt and make sarcastic comment that Tiger’s efforts were futile.

During the interview when Tiger could see that none of his insights into swing change mechanics were giving a satisfactory answer to why he hadn’t yet seen a more consistent result, Tiger somewhat frustratingly quipped that “winning takes care of everything” in an effort shut down the chatter and to put his money where his mouth is.

When Tiger made the statement in 2012 it was meant to convey two additional important points of conviction. First that Tiger truly believed in the mechanical changes he and Sean Foley were trying to incorporate into his swing given past injuries, and second it was a not-so-subtle jab at those writing Tiger off. In other words Tiger was telling himself, and at the same time all who were listening, ‘all I have to do is win to put an end to the skepticism.’

And win Tiger has done. All Nike has done is cleverly take advantage and at the same time remind people what Tiger said, and perhaps too, a subtle reminder that Nike was one of the only sponsors who stuck by its man at a time when others, e.g. Accenture, Gillette, Buick, and Tagg, bolted at the first sign of difficulty. Is Mr. Rilley also missing the point that perhaps Nike is entitled to capitalizing on Tiger’s renewed winning record … that perhaps it was worth it to Nike, in the long run, to stand by Tiger at a time when others were questioning Nike corporate wisdom?

All Tiger needs now to bury the few hard-core Tiger bashers – most of whom are saintly women – who think the comeback is illusionary or will be short-lived is win a few Majors which he is likely to resume doing starting with next week at the Masters.

It’s a sad comment on the state of journalism when a person of Rick Rilley’s stature lowers himself to 1) never letting the facts gets in the way of a good tabloid-like story, 2) feeding the minions incapable of forgiveness, and 3) mostly for twisting himself in to knots in a deliberate effort to misrepresent a well known adage in sport; that winning is always preferred over making excuses.

It’s put-up or shut-up. Care to guess which I would hope for Mr. Rilley?

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