I think this new video by Nike is the equivalent of a batter in a 0-24 slump walking up to heckling fan and spitting in his face… after hitting a game winning home-run. Nothing Phil Knight does surprises me anymore and for good reason. He’s a very smart man and so many people hate him… mainly because he’s wealthy and because he supposedly “supports” child labor in the country that makes his company’s products. It’s kind of ironic that most of the hate aimed at him is hammered out on HP (Product of China) keyboards like the one I’m using to write this post. The reality is that nobody can truly explain why they dislike Phil and the child labor thing is lame on so many levels that I won’t even touch it. This post is about something entirely different… Redemption.
I love a good “comeback” story. And, while Tiger Woods neither left nor needs a comeback, the made up competition between him and Rory is tiring. A lot of people want to see Tiger fail and disappear… everyone except the PGA and most of the players, even if they won’t admit it. Rory McIlroy is a great player and I get that he’s the “next great thing” for golf… there’s always going to be one. But he’s told the media so many times how much he respects Tiger and I can only imagine how much he wants Tiger around now that he’s the number one golfer in the world. It just may be because of Phil Knight and those magical “purses”.
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Nike has always been a good company but Michael Jordan helped make it great. The PGA Tour has always been good but Tiger helped make it phenomenal. People were shocked when sponsors dropped Tiger left and right a few years back and Nike stuck with him. How soon they forget that it was early Nike money that helped the PGA Tour to start offering bigger purses and drawing sponsors with bigger wallets to their events. Whether people want to believe it or not, if Tiger leaves the tour a lot of those purses go with him. You’d like to think that it’s not all about money, but it is. Otherwise, what are they playing for? Phil Knight has managed to sign the two most marketable players in the game and it’s safe to say that even when Tiger goes to the Senior Tour, he’ll never be “far from number one”… even if he’s not number one. The marketability will always remain.
Watching this ad, I can tell that Tiger and Rory aren’t fake with each other and seem to enjoy being around each other. Tiger doesn’t have a thing left to prove to anyone, Rory does. But, he seems smart enough to know that he needs Tiger in some way… whether to secure those big purses or to teach him how to deal with us, the critics. And, Tiger needs him just as much and Phil Knight knows this… and so does his accountant.
Update – A day after I wrote this, ESPN thought it newsworthy and necessary to post a front page article explaining to us that Tiger and Rory shot the video at separate times (Click here to lose 5 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back). ESPN is quickly losing whatever credibility it had in the sports world. It’s no surprise that seasoned journalists are leaving and going to other networks where they can concentrate on covering real sports news. Proving that they aren’t interested in being a part of the sports version of TMZ.