I’ll preface this by saying that I buy the sincerity and believe genuine Sergio Garcia’s apology. I completely believe that his comment was not meant with malice of forethought and that his regret was both (at least nearly) instant and overwhelming. If I’m wrong about that, you might want to print this and use it to kick start your fire-pit because what follows has little value if that is not true…
For you non-golfers (or golf news followers) out there, here is the mini version of the events in question:
- Tiger Woods grabs a club a little early (while Sergio Garcia is still swinging). Sergio, distracted by the crowd responding hits a bad shot and glares at Tiger
- Sergio, interviewed after the round alludes to the fact that Tiger may have done it on purpose and comments on how tiger is not “the nicest guy in the world”
- tiger counters with something like “it’s no surprise he is whining about something” (Sergio has a reputation for looking outside himself for explanations for his less than stellar moments)
- For the remainder of the last two weeks the media has consistently kept the story alive seeking (and getting) comments from either golfer whenever possible
- This reaches its zenith when Sergio, sarcastically asked if he would entertain Tiger for dinner during the next tournament they played together in, responded (in jest) affirmatively… including disclosing the menu for the soiree… “fried chicken” (oops)
Now, if you’ve ever read any consecutive string of my posts containing more than three or four posts, you know my position on reaffirming stereotypes (you know this because I won’t shut up about it). If you have never read anything else I have written, in short, I think it is one of the leading causes of racial, gender, and most (if not all) other types of bias, inequality and bigotry. Therefore, the following will probably come as a bit of a surprise to many of you.
While I certainly do not condone Sergios comment or any other similar comment by anyone, I also do not condemn him to the ranks of racist, villain, or bigot as so much of the media and general public has done.
Why, you might ask, the sudden “tolerance” for this sort of outburst? I’ll tell you…
Because, while for the past two weeks Tiger and Sergio (at the encouragement and to the delight of the media) have acted like petulant children having a spat, for the last 24 hours or so, after Sergio’s Kentucky-Fried F*%# up, both of our protagonists (I’d call them antagonists, but I think that’s the media in this story) have risen above the muck and mire and conducted themselves like self-respecting adults.
Starting with Sergio, he issued a (relatively) instant apology. He didn’t follow the standard “I’m sorry to anyone I might have offended with my remark that didn’t mean what you thought it meant” script (well, he did that… but he did more… I’ll continue), but instead stepped up to the plate in a very personal way to take accountability for his transgression. He called himself and his actions “stupid,” he said he felt “sick about it,” he tried to call Tiger (through is agent) despite both him and Tiger saying over the past two weeks that no reconciliation was going to happen. Sergio has spent the past two weeks trying to paint himself as a victim (many would say he has spent his entire career doing this). This week, when excuses and deflections would have best served him, he eschewed them and stood tall in the face of his egregious error. This is admirable, and is the most valuable lesson I can see coming out of this whole fiasco.
Tiger, for his part, (correctly) refused to diminish the effects or importance of this type of racial stereotyping:
While acknowledging Sergio’s earnest effort to demonstrate his regret (read: his apology):
And finally, directing the attention of everyone where it really should have been for the past few weeks (which, if it had been, would have prevented this unfortunate incident from every happening):
That last point really resonates with me. If the media had just let this story die, and not poked and prodded each golfer at every chance for another pissy soundbite, Sergio would never have been in position to make his blundering buffoonish remark.
Again, I’m not excusing the remark, however I do refuse to ignore the circumstances leading up to it. If you let (condone/encourage) people to act like children for weeks on end, someone is going to say something colossally stupid. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say this is nearly universally true. I can’t even have an extended argument with a loved one without saying something I regret, and yet we are somehow shocked when two rivals with no love lost between them wind up resorting to sordid personal attacks? Sorry friends, but Sergio is not the only “stupid” one in this story (although, he is the only one who has admitted as much about himself).
Which brings me back to my big takeaway from this. My hope is that people will look at Sergio’s response and see how a person can (and arguably should) respond to a huge mistake and bout of monumental irresponsibility. Further, that they will look at Tigers retort and see the importance of acknowledging the real issues these situations represent while also recognizing regret and a sincere effort at apology, and finally moving on from there without taking the baggage of the situation along with you.
The media doesn’t appear to have changed it’s tack and I’ve seen no sign – based on reading comments from a few online articles (never a pleasant task) – that the general public has had it’s appetite for conflict curbed. However, from Sergio and Tiger, I have seen actual responsible adult behavior. I find some level of comfort in that, and a real life example I can use the next time I’m giving my “it’s not the messes you get yourself into; it’s how you handle them that defines you” speech to my children (or myself).