I generally don’t go out of my way to pick up a USA Today unless I’m traveling. But while at Whole Foods after work today I grabbed today’s copy; lo and behold, Bob Nightengale has a more-access piece on Frank McCourt splashed across the front of the Sports Section. Keep in mind, this is the preeminent national newspaper in the United States – the Dodgers owner’s divorce is front page news nationally. Harumph.
Besides touting the reliable and in-depth www.dodgerdivorce.com, Nightengale uncovers such gems as this from Hall of Fame Dodgers broadcaster Jamie Jarrin: “Frank has been a very good owner, but people in the community worry his personal problems can affect the team.”
McCourt, predictably, defends his position thusly: “This is not San Diego.” As in, the Padres, who had their own in-house divorce mess that has left the Padres bereft of talent (outside of Adrian Gonzalez), fans and cachet. On the other hand, he admitted to personal struggles:
“It’s tough. I’m not going to lie to you,” he says. “It’s a very, very sad thing. Nobody wants to go through this privately, never mind publicly.\”But in L.A., so much of it is about drama. L.A. is so much about personalities. It’s just how the city functions. This is a juicy story for people until it’s not juicy anymore. Then, they move on to somebody else’s story.”
and here’s where it gets utterly bizarre:
“Tiger Woods was fantastic for me.”
Fantastic that he wiped you off the front page? It’s logical, even respectable on a subersive level but did McCourt really need to go public with that? Interesting that he has adopted the Los Angeles persona enough already that Image really his paramount in his world.
Regardless, the numbers are alarming, and I quote from Nightengale: If the divorce indeed has no bearing on the club’s operations, critics suggest, how to explain the Dodgers’ shrinking payroll? It was $118 million in 2008. This year, without deferred payments, it will be about $83 million — about $12 million less than the rival San Francisco Giants. According to Forbes, the Dodgers’ annual revenue are about $241 million, compared with the Giants’ $196 million. The decreasing payroll is starting to resurrect fan concerns from when McCourt bought the team from Fox. The McCourts originally tried to buy the Boston Red Sox. When they bought the Dodgers, the perception was that they were underfinanced.
Sidenote from YKI: The Count & I split season tickets with our friend Jim C., great location in the Loge, right behind the visiting dugout – fifth row up; the price has increased each year under the McCourt regime to last year’s outlandish $50/game price, enough for me to seriously consider not re-upping. When I went to pick up this year’s selection from my Dad, I was aghast – the printed ticket price is $70/ticket. Yes, SEVENTY DOLLARS FOR A DODGER GAME, and I’m not even on the field level. A 10% increase I can understand, but this is 40%. And McCourt leaves the payroll the same? Unbelievable.
McCourt’s constant defense mechanism continues to be his defense of the young talent, as if retaining guys that are not full-on free agents yet is a big achievement. The trio of two-year contracts he gave out to the homegrown studs wasn’t nearly comparable to the Rays or Rockies long-term outlook. The best part, and the scariest for Dodger fans is his Polyannish conclusion (and kudos again to Nightengale for just excellent framing of the story):
“Our mission is to win the world championship, too. And we’re 100% committed to doing that.
“I know how people like drama, but ironically, there’s just not a lot of drama with this team. Everything is very stable and quiet here.
“Really, it couldn’t be better.”
*incidentally, the oft-interesting USA Today ‘Snapshot’ in the bottom left corner featured the question: “What is America’s Favorite Sport?” For the record, 35% NFL, 16% MLB, 12% College Football, 9% Auto Racing, 5% NBA. The results would be definitively different – if not completely reversed – here in Los Angeles, as everything Laker-oriented is golden, and the lack of a professional football team phases nobody.
TigerWoods.com announced that Eldrick will have his initial post-beatdown press conference tomorrow morning. This is a very interesting, unique PR move by a very media-savvy entity – the nebulous, nefarious Tiger Woods “Team.”
Marital transgressions and behavioral choices aside – this is simply PR analysis – it is noteworthy that the sole source of reliable Tiger Woods information has been his very own website, not a small feat in this era of ubiquitous media. The Kim Jung Il-caliber lockdown of all information about El Tigre’s whereabouts has led to rampant, TMZesque rumors and speculation (is he in sex rehab? is he golfing? is he paying Elin to remain with him?), and of course demand that Tiger “give us what we’re owed” as a collective public.
Presumably, we are owed a heartfelt, tearful apology in primetime – my guess is that Oprah is ideal, Bob Costas would be more relevant, 60 Minutes would suffice – but the fact is, we are owed nothing. That’s a debate for another day, though – because that’s not what we’re getting.
And good for Tiger. The continued Gestapo-Media tactics from Tiger’s camp make his approach ingenious.
Not only is he NOT kowtowing to public (and media) opinion, he is running a completely counter-intuitive campaign to address the ‘scandal,’ which by the way has been brewing for FOUR months – what amounts to eons in our cultural milieu. Here’s a look at the facts from tomorrow’s event:
1) The press conference is on a Friday, the political ‘dead period’ heading into a weekend when stories can more easily be buried.
2) The press conference is a prepared statement
3) He will NOT be taking questions.
4) He invited only FOUR journalists, of his choosing.
5) The conference is in his backyard, mere miles from his home in Florida.
6) Tiger is having the conference during the PGA Tour season kickoff – a relatively major event – the Match Play Championships, otherwise a celebratory period for the PGA.
7) The aforementioned tournament is sponsored by Accenture, the first business partner to drop Tiger from sponsorship after the Elin scandal broke.
The most intriguing aspects here are 6 & 7- Tiger’s Timing. Why now? Why distract from the Tour, and draw attention both to and away from his former employer? Obviously intentional moves by the Woods Camp.
Prior to Elingate, Tiger and his people have guided his career perfectly, from selecting the events in which to compete, public appearances, opening the Tiger Woods Learning Center, branding tournaments in his name, crafting a perfect PR image that culminated in reliable journalists becoming trained to receive the ‘breaking’ Tiger news solely from the aforementioned TigerWoods.com site. Beautiful work, and his people produced a cottage industry worth over $1billion (with a ‘b’) to his coterie/family, and an indescribable amount to the PGA Tour, media outlets covering the Tour and all companies affiliated with The Brand.
In short, this is a very calculated move, and though it’s being universally panned as “arrogant,” “selfish,” “misguided” and “reprehensible,” it may be the most intelligently crafted facade of fakery seen in recent times. He is leaving himself very vulnerable to a multitude of criticisms – he wasn’t genuine, he was too controlling, he detracted from the Tour, he disrespected his sponsor, ex-sponsor and soon to be ex-wife – but he is also controlling his own image yet again, in the exact fashion that he so chooses.
This era has proven that even perfect athlete/celebrities are not insulated from critqiue, criticism and controversial commentary – accordingly, Tiger is leaving the modern media to do what they do best; disseminate stories with gossip & speculation masquerading as news.
The fact remains that Tiger’s Return to Golf – whether it’s at the Master’s (shhhh), or in 2015 – will be the biggest sporting event outside of the Super Bowl, and the sport of golf & the sports media will find themselves yet again at Tiger’s mercy. . .and on his terms. Don’t forget – this is, after all, The Year of the Tiger.
Despite the spate of trouble recently, Tiger Woods celebrated (we assume) being named the AP’s Athlete of the Decade. 64 tournament wins (12 majors) will do that for a man. Lance Armstrong, Roger Federer, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Tom Brady round out the Top Six.
UCLA Hoops is back. . .kind of: Rips New Mexico 100-68. Sylmar High grad Tyler Honeycutt has a breakout game with 14 points in his first extended minutes.
Bill Shaikin comes through again with a promise of “bombshells” in the May 24th trial date between the McCourts. Hopefully the Dodgers can acquire a player or two prior to that date. . .Jamie’s lawyer Dennis Wasser may have crossed a line or two by accusing Frank of having RAIDS: “recently acquired income deficiency syndrome.”
Kobe – broken finger and all – leads the Lakers to another win, this time vs. the Bulls, by scoring 42 points. Pau has only 7 shots, though, and is getting more discouraged by the DAY as he becomes a smaller part of the Lakers offense.
L.A. Kings are on TOP of the Western Conference – 2nd overall in the NHL – after another win yesterday, this time against the Oilers. With Quick in goal, they’re phenomenal.
UCLA football netted more All-Americans (3: Kai Forbath, Brian Price, Rahim Moore) than USC did (2: Taylor Mays, Jeff Byers). . .another sign that the momentum in the crosstown rivalry really is changing?
Tiger’s Kobe-esque turn in the Media will NOT be accompanied by a Financial Demise, according to Forbes.
Other big Woods’ sponsors like Nike ( NKE – news – people ) and Electronic Arts ( ERTS – news – people ) have come out in support of Woods.
You would think consulting firm Accenture ( ACN – news – people ) might be anxious having made Woods the face of the company with its ubiquitous ads in the business press featuring Woods in action. Not judging by their Web site, which as of today still featured a picture of Woods covering half of its home page with the slogan: “Opportunity isn’t always obvious,” as Tiger lines up a golf shot in a field of cactuses.
Electronic Arts and Nike have been with Woods for more than a decade and both have strong partnerships. Electronic Arts this year released its 12th version of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour golf videogame, and each year it is one of the best-selling sports videogames on the market.
Nike announced Tiger’s arrival when he turned pro in 1996 with the ad campaign of “Hello World.” The Swoosh’s golf business was almost nonexistent when Woods turned pro and 14 major championships later the division puts out golf apparel, balls and equipment and has annual sales of $800 million.
Is this the end of Tiger and his financial empire? Hardly. We estimate that Tiger is halfway to his first billion dollars in terms of net worth. No doubt this scandal is going to slow down his march to be the first athlete worth $1 billion, but he will get there. If you stripped away all of Woods’ income this year from appearances, golf course design and endorsements (except Nike) and only totaled his prize money (including his FedEx ( FDX – news – people ) Cup bonus) and his Nike deal, Woods would have earned $55 million.
*Thank you Forbes for this story.*