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Tiger, Sign Your Score Card … As Detractors Come Out Of Woodworks

December 8th, 2009 · Tags:Arts · Cities · Politics · Satire · Sports

Dating back to the time when I first began to interview celebrities, I always stuck with one rule. No autographs. I mean, if you are trying to get a celebrity to interact on a human level during an interview, why would you lower yourself and put them on a pedestal? Pretty much common sense …

Anyone who knows me, knows I love The Clash. Yet, when I interviewed punk rock star Joe Strummer — no autograph.

Over the years, I made very few exceptions. Ravi Shankar — the guy who turned The Beatles on to the sitar — and more recently became Nora Jones’ father handed me his autograph backstage, without my asking. What was I going to do, turn down an artist who literally had millions of devout followers — in addition to the Fab Four. I took it.

A friend brought to me the autograph of satirical newspaper columnist Art Buchwald back in the day, rest his soul. His comment: “Kent, where were you when I needed you?” Good question.

Film director Spike Lee was the first person whom I asked for an autograph. It was such an unlikely situation when I met him, I couldn’t resist. I was in Manhattan, looking for the offices of a PR Agency. I went to the right block, but entered the wrong side of the building. Instead of a bustling PR shop, I walked into an empty room, with an escalator. As I rode the escalator up, I saw that it was a theater — still closed before the matinee showings. There were four or five guys sitting on a bench outside the theater stuffing pocket folders with news releases. Nice fellows. They explained that the offices of Edelman New York that I wanted were just around the corner.

One of the guys bore a striking resemblance to Spike Lee. The folders they were stuffing were the press kits for the film “Jungle Fever.” At first I thought that a member of Mr. Lee’s entourage had taken on the same style as his boss. Nope. It was him, Spike in the flesh. Uncanny that Spike Lee would be stuffing his own press kits for a premiere and even more unlikely that I would happen upon this PR moment in a city the size of New York. I couldn’t resist. He signed one of the press kits upon request, and I still have it today.

Nolan Ryan’s signature is in my collection too. But I didn’t ask for it, technically. It is handwritten on my copy of the book I edited/co-wrote, NOLAN RYAN: The Authorized Pictorial History. Nolan hand-signed more than 7,000 copies — a number equal to his career strikeouts. Google it or Bing it … nice book.

The second autograph I requested and received is penned inside that same copy of the book I just described. Another contributor to the Nolan Ryan book autographed my copy when he was still governor of Texas. I don’t care what you think of him … and if you don’t like him, I bet you haven’t met him. I have on three occasions, and he is as outstanding a person as you or I will ever meet — President George W. Bush.

One of the reasons W gets such a high mark on my scorecard is because of the way he treated my children. When my kids were really young, they stood in a receiving line to meet then Governor Bush. W made all of them feel special for just being there. But to my horror, my youngest son proudly presented Bush with some weird paper mache, wadded, torn apart, streamered school project he brought with him. Who knows what it was, and who knows why my boy wanted to unload it on the future leader of the free world. But he did … and Bush accepted it graciously.

I am sure there must have been a breach in security that day for my son to have smuggled in a paper, hollow, scale model of Uranus or the Crab Nebula or whatever.

Conversely, there is only one time I have asked for an autograph, but got nothing.

All of this namedropping has a point. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat your kids. My older son and I had the fortune to stand in line for an autograph one year at the Colonial Invitation golf tournament in Fort Worth. As I was saying, I usually don’t do autographs. But this time, it was for my boy. He was about 8 or 9 at the time. I gave in … after all it was Tiger Woods!

Trouble was, there were about 150 other autograph seekers hanging over the barriers to get to Tiger as he hit practice balls on the Colonial driving range. After a while Tiger approached the crowd and started signing autographs on just about any object handed his way. It was kind of pandemonium. Grown ups were pretty much climbing over each other to get to the front of the mob to get Tiger’s signature. Several times, adults cut in front of my son. I “politely” told them what I thought of this. They didn’t care.

It was one of those fatherhood moments, where something came over me, and I wanted to positively influence my young son … to do the right thing.

Tiger was noticeably frustrated by the rude crowd, largely professional autograph/souvenir seekers. Tiger was within earshot of me and my son although we had little chance of pushing to the front. Intentionally, so that Tiger could hear me, I said loudly, “No son. Just because everyone else does, we aren’t going to act like animals. If we wait patiently, I am sure Mr. Woods will sign an autograph for you too.”

Tiger Woods heard me and he looked me in the eye momentarily. I couldn’t read his expression … but I just knew he gave me a look of approval and that he would somehow reward my son for behaving more maturely than the adults. Finally my son was at the front of the line.

I kid you not. Tiger Woods looked at him and stopped signing autographs!

I couldn’t believe it.

I was still giving the golfer the benefit of a doubt and thought maybe he had something else in mind. I thought of a quick strategy. The practice tee at Colonial is several hundred yards from the clubhouse. And there is one cart path that leads back that way. Tiger and his caddy without a doubt would have to go on that path to finish their day.

My son and I separated from the crowd, following the cart path, while the other fans all cut across the field toward their cars.

So … as Tiger and his caddy finally loaded his clubs and headed toward the clubhouse, my son and I were waiting right beside the path … at least a hundred yards from anyone else. There was no chance that we were going to start another scene.

Woods’ cart approached. “Mr. Woods, I was trying to teach my son to behave civilized, even though he wanted your autograph more than anyone there. Will you stop and sign his program? My son was pushed aside by the crowd.”

Tiger heard me, clearly.

As he and his caddy sped on by, he wouldn’t even make eye contact with us this time.

Ha! He probably had a hot date.

So, although there are many people as of late saying that no one had any idea of this “other side of Tiger Woods” … this different character than the person we see on TV. Well …

In my humble opinion, I have known Tiger Woods’ character for years. Like I said, there is nothing like seeing an adult dis a child, to indicate a lack of character. Any time someone will listen, I tell the story of Tiger Woods snubbing my son — all because he did the right thing.

Know what I sayin?