Apparently Tim Clark is the LeBron James of the PGA Tour. Not in terms of talent but decorum, or lack thereof, from May 30-31 weekend.
The common denominator is that James, the NBA superstar, and Clark, the PGA Tour nonwinner, failed to win sporting events that weekend and refused to attend organized news conferences afterward. James’ Cleveland Cavaliers lost Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Orlando Magic, and Clark lost a playoff at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
Though neither is a capital crime, the behavior raised an eyebrow and painted a picture of two protagonists losing without grace and dignity. The sporting public, which in effect pays salaries, was a loser. So were young athletes who need role models to teach them how to win with humility and lose with class.
NBA commissioner David Stern said he was not pleased that James failed to meet the league’s media guidelines and didn’t shake hands with Orlando players. Before Stern talked with James, an NBA spokesman said James would not be fined. Stern, however, came to his senses five days after the incident and fined the face of the league $25,000. The penalty followed precedent, for other players and teams had been fined for similar failures.
Clark did a brief interview after losing on the second extra hole (No. 17) but declined attending the formal news conference in the Colonial media center. He did, however, pull $545,600 out of Fort Worth, the local media, fans and sponsors looking for his take on the dramatic finish be damned.
The PGA Tour would not comment on whether Clark’s actions were a fineable offense because the image-conscious Tour doesn’t comment on fines. What is certain is that Clark breached the Tour’s new mantra of being more friendly to the media, fans and sponsors.
So much for the Tour’s alleged charm offensive of 2009.
Commissioner Tim Finchem has sprained a whole rib cage in asking players to cater to those groups during this down economy. But his message is merely lip service without penalty, particularly without publicized penalty. If Clark gets away with it, so will the next guy who skips town with a half-million.
All of this wouldn’t be a problem if the Tour issued mandatory fines to top-3 finishers who don’t go to the interview room or, much tougher, withheld pay until obligations to the public are met.