The effect of arguments

A message came in over Twitter from a private feed (I’ll identify him if he likes), asking a good question: “Why on earth do you engage with complete morons?”

This was in response to last night’s Twitter fight, in which I was arguing with two guys with a combined Twitter followership of less than 50 people about the incident at yesterday’s Masters in which Bergen Record columnist Tara Sullivan was denied entry into the locker room.

No one credible is jumping to say Sullivan shouldn’t have been in the locker room. Her male colleagues rallied to share quotes with her. Augusta National very quickly apologized and pinned the blame on a misinformed security guard.

Don’t confuse the Sullivan case with the question of whether the locker room should be open in the first place. That’s a legitimate question, raised recently by Toronto FC’s Aron Winter. The norm in other countries and many smaller-scale U.S. leagues (including Women’s Professional Soccer) is to keep the locker room closed but make athletes available for interviews in a timely fashion. Some sports handle it better than others, of course.┬áBut if the powers that be have decided that the most expedient way to handle interviews is to open the locker room, then barring women at the door is an impediment to their jobs.

As my buddy hoover_dam said: “Either you let everyone in or you do a mixed zone where you let nobody in. Get with it, ya jerks.”

Continue reading The effect of arguments

Phil, Tiger and more perils of groupthink

When Phil Mickelson is asked what to serve at the Champions Dinner at next year’s Masters, he should ask if everyone has had enough Tiger barbecue.

It takes a lot to make anyone feel sympathy for a serial adulterer, but the breathless Tiger coverage has done it. Over the weekend, Woods’ every word has been scrutinized as much as the Bill of Rights has in the last 220 1/2 years.

Indeed, the Masters weekend has shown us that media coverage tends to be consistent — within a finite period of time. Commentator A will usually agree with Commentator B, disagreeing only over to what degree they agree — in other words, who agrees the most.

But over a longer scope of time, media coverage is wildly inconsistent. Tom Hanks’ “Mr. Short-Term Memory” would’ve been a good pundit.

Consider Phil Mickelson, cast as “good” in this weekend’s “good vs. evil” morality play. That wasn’t always the case, of course. A couple of years ago, Mickelson was fair game for teasing such as this. And he hasn’t always been the friendliest guy with the media. Not sure anyone could blame him, given the way he was constantly criticized for being too aggressive on the golf course, always embracing a risk-reward shot no matter how great the risk.

It would take a brave or foolish pundit to go against the grain on Mickelson this weekend under any circumstances. His wife and mother were diagnosed with breast cancer within a few weeks of each other last year. And that swashbuckling form that many in the media hated had always earned him a cult following. (Disclosure: I always considered myself more aligned with the “cult following” than the “media,” though perhaps that’s because I almost always go against the mob mentality.)

This weekend, everyone’s applauding Phil’s daring shots and bemoaning Tiger’s intensity. Three years ago, you could’ve flipped that. Tiger’s profanity might get the same mild tut-tut that a wayward Mickelson shot would today.

That’s because Phil’s insane aggression and Tiger’s intense mindset are the same. And we like people doing whatever it takes to win … when they win.

Until, of course, you start winning too much, like Duke. Or Tiger. And then the underdogs get a free pass to hate.

Just like that musical about a guy who makes a deal with the devil to help his team beat some other team … what was it called? Oh yes …

Damn Yankees.

Better not repeat that show title out on the course, Tiger.