Golfer Rocco Mediate, a normal-seeming, likable, straight-shooting average guy, received a strange brand of media mistreatment this past weekend at the U.S. Open in San Diego. Mediate, a 23-year vet of the pro tour, pushed the great Tiger Woods into an 18-hole playoff and then, when that didn't decide things, into sudden death, eventually losing the final hole. Mediate hadn’t won a golf tourney in six years and he’s never won a major, but he battled Woods tooth and nail through 90 holes in a wonderful display of steady, consistent, if unspectacular golf—the kind of golf that supposed superstars like Phil Mickelson or Vijay Singh could’ve learned something from. They talk about Tiger’s mental toughness; from where I sat, he’s got nothing on Rocco, whose lack of a long game betrayed him in the end but who squeezed every ounce of competitiveness out of his 45-year-old body.
Mediate conducted himself with humility, humor and sincerity through the five grueling days, but for some reason the NBC announcers, in particular Johnny Miller, treated him as if he were the simpleminded Italian tailor who lives down the street. In fact, Mediate is the Italian son of a barber, from a Pennsylvania town south of Pittsburgh. Yet he’s also earned $14 million in his pro career. Miller’s constant references to Rocco’s sweating, the expressions on his face (half-grimaces, smiles, forebearance, whatever), and his unlikely presence as a contender for the Open crown—these were the musings of a "stupid old white guy,” which is what Miller is. Announcing sidekick Dan Hicks assumed the same stance, implying endlessly that Mediate’s success could only be a fluke, how he’d be the oldest guy to ever win the Open, etc., etc.
I think Tiger’s great, y’all, but Mediate’s success—and near victory—was a time for celebration. By the time we reached the final regulation round on Sunday, the fatheads in the booth should have established nothing else about Mediate except that he was a pro golfer playing a marvelous tourney. But Miller refused to lay off, treating Mediate like a sideshow freak. Meanwhile, Hicks kept defaulting to spurious and/or fanciful Father’s Day references and tributes that obviously came out of the PGA public relations handbook. (But raise your hand if, after viewing that one spot, you in fact think that Earl Woods was kind of a dick in the way he inculcated “mental toughness” in his son by making noises and dropping his golf bag while Tiger the youngster and budding golf great teed off. Shades of Jimmy Piersall.)
Then we were treated to Jimmy Roberts’ pre-final round, pro forma “Tiger suck-up piece.” Like we needed another one of those. No, what we needed, and never got, what a bio piece about Mediate, which would have been tons more interesting, given the comparatively hard road the guy has traveled to stay afloat in the pro game. Roberts later teamed with Bob Costas in a queer few moments of “privileged network commentator mental masturbation,” in which they reminded us of the recent passings of Tim Russert, Charlie Jones and Jim McKay, a sequence climaxed by Costas’ wannabe Howard Cosell imitation. Pretty lame crap.
Other signs of media tastelessness the past few days, and possible proof that the end is near:
From there it was on to C-SPAN, where more signs of cultural and also governmental decay lay in wait:
Not that it matters much. Tastelessness, stupidity, greed, self-absorption, egotism and political correctness run rampant on our airwaves. There is no regard for truth or decency. We're all doomed. You heard it here first.