Published January 13, 2015
A mentor once told me that at the start of his career, he stressed over his ability to generate column content on a weekly, deadline-driven basis.
He assured me, though, that his anxieties quickly quelled with experience. He found there was always a story. Every week, someone would do something worth editorializing: something great, something historic, something altogether baffling.
And, boy, was he right.
This week's case in point: the always reliable Sergio Garcia.
A repeat offender, Garcia rarely fails to disappoint when it comes to generating a divisive story. And he outdid himself Tuesday at the European Tour awards dinner when he told emcee Steve Sands that he would serve hypothetical dinner guest Tiger Woods fried chicken.
Fried chicken? Really?
Garcia went full, despicable, Fuzzy Zoeller on us. He took the distinctly unprofessional bait offered by Sands and did what Sergio does: insert adiZero directly in mouth.
To be fair, Zoeller's comments at the 1997 Masters were worse. He called Tiger "that little boy" and added the meal could include "collard greens or whatever the hell they serve." He also made the comment from a position of authority, as an established tour professional commenting on the rise of a burgeoning 21- year-old, who was about to become the first African-American golfer to win a major.
Garcia has no such authority. He's always been in Tiger's shadow.
But the parallels between Zoeller and Garcia don't end with their initial fried chicken comments. They extend to their subsequent backtracking.
Here's Zoeller's apology:
"My comments were not intended to be racially derogatory, and I apologize for the fact that they were misconstrued in that fashion."
And here's Sergio's:
"I answered a question that was clearly made towards me as a joke with a silly remark, but in no way was the comment meant in a racist manner."
Guess what, they're both wrong.
Both statements were undeniably racist. Sergio didn't choose fried chicken as a hypothetical meal because he assumed Tiger really enjoyed the flavor. He chose it because he doesn't like the man, wanted to take a verbal jab, and did so by calling attention to Tiger's race through an established stereotypical devise (fried chicken), using that distinction as a slight, or a lazy, unfunny joke. Either way, it was definitely racist.
The thing is, when trying to get a laugh, people frequently fall back on unoriginal stereotypes. But most do so in private, around friends. And when those same people are in public, around strangers, they keep the lazy attempts at humor to themselves. It doesn't make said people right, but it does make them pretty typical.
But Sergio's not that self-aware. He's too awkward and clumsy. This is the guy who said, "I barely remember; Alzheimer's" when asked about a poor Ryder Cup performance. He called himself a victim after the Players two weeks ago. He shouldn't be attempting jokes.
It reminds of a scene from "Seinfeld," when Tim Whatley, played by Bryan Cranston, now of "Breaking Bad" fame, converted to Judaism:
Jerry: I wanted to talk to you about Dr. Whatley. I have a suspicion that he's converted to Judaism purely for the jokes.
Priest: And this offends you as a Jewish person?
Jerry: No, it offends me as a comedian.
Sergio is no more a comedian than Whatley, or the painfully unfunny Zoeller, for that matter.
Tiger's response echoed that sentiment:
"The comment that was made wasn't silly. It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate. I'm confident that there is real regret that the remark was made. The Players ended nearly two weeks ago and it's long past time to move on and talk about golf."
Tiger's right, it is time to talk about golf. And some are arguing the best way to change the conversation is for Tiger to accept Sergio's public apology; to do what he didn't do for Zoeller and save the unfunny dolt from himself.
Publicly forgiving Garcia will certainly help put an end to this lackluster feud, but Tiger has no personal or professional obligation to do so.
After the Players, people were split over who was at fault when Tiger pulled a club and elicited a distracting crowd reaction when Garcia was about to hit a shot during the third round. Some thought Tiger was to blame for his questionable timing, others argued Sergio was using the incident as an excuse.
Now the narrative has shifted, Garcia is the antagonist and Woods the victim. Only the unwavering Tiger haters disagree. But they don't count. They are zealots.
Tiger didn't come to Zoeller's aid in 1997 and the guy got what he deserved. His reputation as the tour's likeable jokester suffered. He lost sponsorships with K-Mart and Dunlop.
So here's another fool insulting Tiger in a very similar manner. Tiger can throw him a line if he wants, but maybe we'd all be better off if he let the unfunny, slow-witted whiner sink.