No Topic Too Far Afield For This Sports Nut

My first piece of journalism, 26 years ago last week, was about Chris Lapriore, a high school tennis star in my hometown of Marshfield, Mass.

For most of my first half-dozen years as a reporter, the bulk of my work was sports writing. Football, basketball, baseball, hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, track and field, golf…if it involved some element of physical competition, there was a good chance I covered it.

But over the last 20 years, my opportunities to write about sports have come in fits and starts. Along the way, I created an inflation index for home runs, wrote a stats column for Sports Illustrated for Kids, and reported on sports icons like Tiger Woods and LeBron James.

Still, the sports-related work has been largely bumped off my plate. So if there’s an occasion to weave in an athletic reference, I jump all over it. Such was the case three weeks ago, when I tied in the Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup triumph with my summary of a NAIOP-Chicago meeting (“The Rumors Are True, Capital is Back”).

I didn’t waste any time, either, referring to the hockey franchise’s great win in the very first paragraph. I look forward to my next gratuitous sports tie-in, especially if it has to do with a certain Bay State team winning its third World Series in the past six years.

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5 Things I Know About Tiger Woods

Millions of words have been written about Tiger Woods over the past 18 days. And billions more will be expended in the time to come.

Here I will share five things that I know about the man and the saga that is unfolding:

1. Tiger’s life, as it relates to the press and, more specifically, the tabloids and paparazzi, is forever altered. He will be shadowed, stalked, followed and hounded for at least the next decade.

2. What’s more shocking than the revelation of his infidelities is that he kept it under wraps for so long.

And what’s even more shocking than that is he thought he could keep it all bottled up forever, particularly since it’s looking more and more like he did not confine his extramarital activities to only one woman (to say the least).

3. Amid all the PR counsel flying about, the most important piece is this: Tiger shouldn’t lie to the media. So rather than commit that offense, he has circled the wagons and communicated only through written statements.

Insufficient to satisfy the media wolves? You bet.

But at least he hasn’t compounded his mounting PR problems (to say nothing of his other woes, marital and otherwise) with outright lies. Half-truths and veiled language, perhaps, but that’s to be expected when you’re between a rock and a hard place.

4. This story in GQ, written in 1997 by Charles P. Pierce, explains much that the world either didn’t realize, or chose to overlook, about Tiger.

5. I bet Tiger wishes he could turn the clock back to, oh, July 2000. That’s when Time magazine dispatched me to the Western Open to provide some background reporting in preparation for a cover story that staff writer Dan Goodgame penned later in the summer.

An excerpt from my reporting:

“Teen-age girls with two-inch thick heels. Pubescent boys seeking autographs and climbing up trees for a better view. Blue-collar, white-collar, tank-top and Izod—all bobbing heads, straining their calves as they go on tip-toes.

Some are golf aficionados, having grown up in the sport with Arnold Palmer and, a short time later, Jack Nicklaus. Puffing on cigars, they frown in disdain when Johnny-come-lately fans move en masse because their favorite has sunk his putt, either not caring or not realizing that it’s a breach of etiquette when one or two others have yet to finish the hole.

Others barely know the legendary names of Palmer and Nicklaus, and just about none of the names or backgrounds of today’s top golfers. They seem oblivious to their faux pas, interested only in getting a good vantage point for the next hole.

This is the diverse face of Tigermania.”