Talent, Foundation, and Tiger Woods

11th Screen | The Interactive Out-of-Home Blog

I’m a huge sports fan. Sometimes, there’s nothing greater than spending an entire day doing nothing but watching sports. In fact, that’s pretty much my life most Sundays out of the year. Be it football games, the final round in golf tournaments, baseball, basketball – you name it. It’s also a great day to play sports – tennis, pick-up basketball, or just tossing a baseball back and forth. Sports is in my bones.

I don’t know if there’s a more immediate-success-or-bust expectation in any other industry than there is in sports. Over the past decade, I think it’s reached an unrealistic level. Football coaches are rarely given more than 3 years to build a team and make the playoffs. Basketball coaches are often given a season, at most, to make an impact. And all that a player needs to become irrelevant and/or unwanted is 1 injury. It truly is a business always pushing the boundaries of balance between experienced talent and hyped (be it founded or unfounded) potential.

So, longevity in the sports world is something that has become rare. It’s unfortunate because, as a fan, it essentially eliminates and ultimately prohibits rocks to be built/established. Gone are the days of Joe Torre and the Yankees. Phil Jackson and the Bulls (or Lakers, depending on how old you are). Now, Tiger Woods and Steve Williams. Those rocks that were once sacred, defining, and foundational, are no more than pebbles in their ability to build and hold up that foundation. In fact, in many ways, it seems like the foundation is becoming less about people –real people – and more about bodies.

Despite the doom-and-gloom, there is a positive here:

True talent is all around.

And that keeps the sports world – and all others – advancing, evolving, and actually getting better. I hate the idea of my Cowboys never having a Tom Landry again. Who knows? In 2 years Jason Garrett (who was just hired this year), might be long gone and they’ll be looking for the next head coach. But I can bank on the fact that there will be an extremely talented pool of coaching candidates to choose from. (Now, especially in the Cowboys case, whether or not the most talented person is selected from that pool has always been in question. But that’s another story.)

Yesterday’s news of Tiger Woods letting go his long-time caddie (of 12 years), Steve Williams, really surprised me. It seemed like Williams was the only piece of the foundation left. After the head scratching, and getting over the fact that change will never stop, this is what I’ve come to – there are other extremely talented people out there to fill that role. It rests on Tiger (and other organizations’/brands’ leaders) to find, sell (if needed) and select that talent, but it’s there for the taking. And whoever that person is, they have a chance to make Tiger better. Not just fill a void.

The rapid advancements in expectations are also colliding with the rapid advancements in talent. And this can’t be underestimated.

Maybe foundations aren’t built to hold 100-year old structures anymore. Maybe the structure, itself, is a new kind of structure, intended to be rebuilt every few years. And maybe, simply, nothing is sacred anymore in the world of sports.

Photo credit: Warner Brothers


2 thoughts on “Talent, Foundation, and Tiger Woods

  1. Paul Flanigan

    But doesn’t the short life-span of so many of these people indicate a lack of talent? It was like when Major League Baseball added the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays in 1998 (forgive me if I have the teams wrong). Sure, it added more competition, but it watered down the talent because there was less good to go around. The teams had to fill their rosters with warm bodies.

    You can arguably say that money is the root of all evil here. As money continues to explode for these leagues and sports, there is a greater need to ensure success. Money doesn’t care about emotion or talent. Money cares about money, and if you’re not making it, you’re losing it. So teams (and golfers and bowlers and individual sport athletes) will do anything they can to get on top, stay on top. And you need to deliver right now. There is no franchise building. Look at the Yankees: Everyone hates them for how they win – they buy championships. My question, if you had that kind of money, what would you do? Buy a second-tier third baseman, or buy Alex Rodriguez?

    The problem is that talent is no longer about longevity, it’s about success. Superstars are no longer measured by what given abilities they have. They’re measured by how much money they bring through the gate. Brian Wilson is a closer for the San Francisco Giants. He’s a a good pitcher, but he’s no Trevor Hoffman or Mariano Rivera. But MAN is he entertaining. He puts fans in the stands. He’ll make the big bucks.

    When money is at stake, talent and success will forever be married. And they’ll be fighting.

    Wow, what a diatribe. Sorry. You touched a nerve! Hope you’re doing well, Mike!

  2. Mike Cearley Post author

    Thanks Paul. Money distorts everything. And one of the problems with sports is that talent if often-times mis-rewarded via money, based on short-term results. To me, the wonderful ability of talent is to provide long-term, sustainable results. Results that help build solid foundations. But that’s growing more and more idealistic, unfortunately. In thinking about the Tiger Woods/Steve Williams split – Steve Williams is a really good caddie, very talented. Is all hope lost for Tiger now that he lost a very talented caddie? No. There are many very talented caddies out there. But to the point – talent, by itself, is less and less sacred. Entertainment is a powerful trump card. Question is – if organizations are built on entertainment over talent, how long will they be strong? Seems like a risky proposition, one with high reward, but hard to sustain over the long-term.

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