Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Members of the media frequently insert foot in mouth. Just ask Kelly Tilghman, Rob Parker or Chris Broussard.
It's a tricky job, being a sports critic. You make your bones putting athletes under the microscope, but you yourself are a focus of the same glare. The public will fry a media member for making a mistake, just as they will an athlete.
Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee was recently reminded of that fact when he gave Tiger Woods an "F" as a season-ending grade in a column he wrote for Sports Illustrated's Golf.com.
Woods won five times on the PGA Tour in 2013, reclaimed the No. 1 world ranking, secured the Vardon Trophy and was named Player of the Year by his peers, but Chamblee gave him a failing mark for being "a little cavalier with the rules." He likened Woods' four rules incidents in 2013 to the time he cheated on a math test in the fourth grade. And the backlash ensued.
Woods called the situation "very disappointing" and implied the Golf Channel should take action against its employee, while his agent, Mark Steinberg, discussed legal implications and tagged Chamblee's column as "one of the most deplorable articles I have ever seen."
Rory McIlroy weighed in as well, reportedly saying, "People wouldn't know who Brandel Chamblee was if it wasn't for Tiger Woods, so I am completely against what he said and I think he should be dealt with in the right way."
And it wasn't just the athletes who took issue with the article. The general public sentiment appears to be that Chamblee crossed the line of fair criticism.
Chamblee has since been in damage-control mode, first taking to Twitter to apologize to Woods, then appearing on the Golf Channel to further recant his position. "Cheating involves intent," he said. "There's no way that I could know with 100 percent certainty what Tiger's intent was in any of those situations. That was my mistake." He also revealed that he will no longer be contributing to Golf Magazine, and will instead be writing exclusively for GolfChannel.com and NBCSports.com.
All this over a golf column?
Was Chamblee's article cheap-shot sensationalism? Yes. Was it sanctimonious? Sort of. Was it deserving of such overwhelming backlash: discussions of legal action, employer discipline, and a job change by Chamblee himself? No.
In his Golf Channel interview, Chamblee revealed that a discussion with his son prompted his Twitter apology: "He said, 'Dad, if you'd been more diplomatic in what you wrote, perhaps people would be talking more about the issue than your assessment.'"
The fact is, though, Chamblee isn't paid to be diplomatic. He's a commentator in the Skip Bayless vein. The public sometimes piles on today's media for being largely opinion-driven, generally devoid of in-depth, journalistic reporting. This is fair in some cases, but not in Chamblee's. He's a media personality, not a journalist. He's paid to be opinionated and polarizing.
The article in question reflects that - it's snark. In it, Chamblee says he hates Vijay Singh, gives Jason Dufner extra points for grabbing his wife's backside on camera, uses the pun Holey Foley and, in the end, gives himself an "F" for going 3-for-5 in the majors he predicted (including an LPGA major). The grade he gives Woods is, of course, ridiculous, but no more ridiculous than the article itself. If you take it too seriously, you're missing the point.
Like athletes, media members are public figures. They are subject to the same type of scrutiny as the individuals they cover. The self-aware ones attempt to respect that complicated relationship: to opine without taking cheap shots or making it personal. But sensationalism sells. And while his column may have deserved a failing grade, Chamblee was within his right to cash in.