John Feinstein's July 18 op-ed column rightly praised Jack Nicklaus as a sportsman and all-time golfing great, but in the process it offered an unwarranted slap at Tiger Woods. Yes, Woods's mask of affability occasionally slips. But Feinstein may not be quite old enough to recall that Nicklaus wasn't always universally loved. The young Nicklaus frequently was arrogant and abrasive. I vividly recall the 1967 U.S. Open at Baltusrol in New Jersey. As a fully credentialed, 23-year-old sportswriter for a daily newspaper, I asked Nicklaus a pretty good question in the press tent. The 27-year-old sneeringly replied, "What high school paper do you write for?" Arnie Palmer never did that, and even the famously touchy Ben Hogan gave me a long and cordial interview. Nicklaus won that Open, but it was not an altogether popular victory.
Nicklaus outgrew the churlishness and has earned his accolades. Woods is 29; he'll grow up.
-- Ed Vilade
I hope that Tiger Woods reads John Feinstein's column. Feinstein has distilled the essence of Woods's public personality: a thousand-watt smile in commercials and photos but thin-skinned when things don't go his way. The cursing and slashing of the golf course after a wayward shot are behaviors that I never saw from the likes of Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus or Phil Mickelson. Indeed, there are only a handful of current players who occasionally behave like Woods, and they are almost all at the journeyman level struggling to keep their tour cards, not near-billionaire superstars.
-- John Fieser
I share the outrage of Michael Wilbon [Sports, July 19] at the treatment of Tiger Woods. Black athletes can never be good enough for some writers, who seek to define them by their flaws.
The criticism of Woods is similar to that of Rasheed Wallace and the Williams sisters. Maria Sharapova has won one major title (Wimbledon 2004) but she is among the highest-paid athletes because of corporate endorsements. Venus and Serena Williams have won many more majors but are still better known for their faults than for their endorsements.
Thank you, Michael Wilbon, for outing the issue of racism in American sports.
-- Chandra Hardy
Regarding Michael Wilbon's column: Does anyone who expresses a less-than-glowing opinion about an individual of color have to be racist?
Racism will end when we are able to comment, express and freely exchange views on the basis of merit, without having to worry about the race police bringing up trumped-up charges simply because someone's skin is a different color. I believe that Tiger Woods has earned the right to stand on his own merits, to be accountable for his own actions and to be his own brilliant champion without Wilbon throwing the offensive N-word in our face one more time.
Woods is an unbelievably great golfer. Jack Nicklaus is still the greatest, at least for a few more years. Woods may surpass Nicklaus by some margin, and we all have at least 10 years to watch and debate and enjoy. Isn't that enough?
-- Tim Layton