Tiger Woods' Golf Domination Bad for the Sport?
FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
I'm Farai Chideya, and this is NEWS & NOTES. It's Thursday, and time again for a look at the week in sports with our very own Tony Cox. Hey, Tony.
TONY COX: Hey, Farai. So here's our sports question of the day. Can an athlete be so dominant in one sport that he or she becomes bad for the sport itself? What do you think?
CHIDEYA: It sounds like an SAT essay question for me.
COX: Well, I'll let you pass on that one because it is what some people who follow golf are actually saying about Tiger Woods, who's been on a tear so far this year, and that is the first topic we put to our sports analyst, New York Times columnist Bill Rhoden. Hey, Bill, nice to talk to you.
Mr. BILL RHODEN (Columnist, New York Times): The great Tony Cox.
(Soundbite of laughter)
COX: Well okay, eight weeks into the PGA tour season, and Tiger has won everything that he has played. He is on an incredible pace, and people are actually, Bill Rhoden, talking about the possibility of a perfect season. Now, I don't know about that, but I do know this.
Some golf writers are suggesting that Tiger's terrific tournament stretch may be bad for the sport. Now, why? Because when he's on the course, they're saying the winner is a foregone conclusion, and to follow that point, golfer Hal Sutton said just this week that he was watching Tiger last Sunday, quote, �until I got bored.� What do you make of all this?
Mr. RHODEN: Sour grapes.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. RHODEN: That's what I think. I mean, have you heard such a thing, that somebody begins to deride excellence and dominance? I mean, I think that's sort of what's wrong in competitive sports is, particularly in the NFL, where you know, they talk about parity and parity. I think sometimes you need this dominant force, this Attila the Hun, that is so dominant that everybody else is chasing him. It sets the standards.
I mean, Tiger is a phenomenal story probably of - I don't want to say the entire century, but certainly of the last part of the 20th century. His dominance is unparalleled, and to Hal Sutton and those guys, I have one thing to say: get better.
COX: Now there is something to the idea of rooting for the underdog, and you mentioned the NFL. I think about the Patriots and how the country was beginning to root against them as they were getting closer to a perfect season. There's a parallel, isn't there, between that and this with Tiger?
Mr. RHODEN: Well, you know, I think the thing that's so interesting about Tiger or whether you, you know, call him an African-American or a person of color, whatever, is just so uncanny that you've got a guy who's been such a pied piper in golf, brought so many people to the golf course, that in a way, you still pull for him even in his near-perfection.
I mean, he's just so, so, so ahead of the crowd. I mean it's really unprecedented. And yes, would it be great if he had a rival? You know, well I'm sure - in 10 years, somebody�
COX: Somebody'll pick him. But you know, probably not at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which is his next tournament coming up on the 13th of March.
Let's move on to another topic, because here's a follow-up to a topic that we hit the last time you were on. And we talked about baseball, steroids and the appearance of Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee before a congressional committee. And you said then that you thought this should go to the Justice Department for an investigation of perjury against Clemens. Well Bill, looks like you were right.
The committee has now sent a letter to the DOJ requesting a probe into whether Clemens did, in fact, lie under oath about taking steroids. It is the same accusation that got Barry Bonds indicted. Here's what's interesting, though. The committee did not, I repeat did not, ask Justice to look into whether McNamee was lying. So what does this all mean?
Mr. RHODEN: Well, it means Roger Clemens is facing an 0-2 count, you know, with a three-out, bottom of the ninth. You know, it does not look good for him. Now, we still have the specter of a presidential pardon, you know, but on the facts of it, on the merit, he is right where he is supposed to be. He is in Barry Bonds territory, and to be honest with you, Tony, it somewhat looks worse because now, you know, we're talking about the government's witness is Brian McNamee, is sort of - not only an eyewitness, but he said I did it. I did it several times.
So I think a lot of the congress people were looking at it the way I was looking at it and said you know what? Roger, you've got to be kidding me. This is - you know, the nanny whole thing. I mean, you can't even tell the truth about your nanny? You know, you say you weren't at the party, and the nanny says you were there, and you stayed there.
So yeah, yeah, Tony, I mean, this does not look good for Roger Dodger.
COX: All right, more trouble for a guy in another sport, college basketball. Hoop fans know that Indiana University basketball coach Kelvin Sampson resigned Friday amid allegations of five potential major NCAA violations, including the coach lying to IU and to NCAA investigators about making wrong recruitment telephone calls.
What makes it worse is that this is the very same thing that he got in trouble with when he was coaching at Oklahoma, said he wouldn't do it again. Apparently, he did. He received a $750,000 buyout from IU, $550,000 of which came from an anonymous donor. Did the punishment fit the crime?
Mr. RHODEN: First of all, I'm not an NCAA fan. I think that this whole thing of, you know, this semi-pro, on-campus entertainment in the name of football and basketball is just completely fraudulent, you know, with student athletes are on a plantation, have no rights, you know, can't move around freely like the coaches, can't get shoe contracts, you know, money from shoe contracts, you know, while the coaches are, you know, making money from radio, TV and all that.
So I think the whole premise of it, Tony, is fraudulent, you know. So yeah, I think that anything he got was really unfair, but he did the same thing at Oklahoma. I like Kelvin Sampson. I think he's a good guy. He had Indiana - the tragedy is that he had Indiana playing great. I mean, Indiana's playing really wonderful. Why Kelvin - I guess he's just like a lot of our children are addicted to cell phones.
COX: Likes to text.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. RHODEN: He just likes to text. Come on, Kelvin, cut out the text-messaging.
COX: Well, we wanted to get to one more topic, but time has run out. We will have to talk about the NCAA and the rankings and the seedings heading into March Madness when we get back with you next time.
Mr. RHODEN: I look forward to it.
COX: Thanks, Bill.
Mr. RHODEN: All right, Tony, take care.
CHIDEYA: That was NPR's Tony Cox talking with William C. Rhoden. Rhoden is a sports columnist for the New York Times and author of "$40-million Slaves: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of the Black Athlete."