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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Exilic Response (1)—Steve and Tiger

Click here for the introduction to Round and Square's series of posts on "Exilic Response."
[a] Better times  RF
So your boss fires you. You seethe and wonder how you will make him know how sorry he will be for doing so. You conjure up revenge fantasies, but there is one problem—he is "the player" and you are "the helper." It is not a simple matter of beating him at his own game.

This doesn't deter you. Revenge will be bliss...if we can ever figure out how to spell "caddy."

[b] Teed off  RF
Well, events this weekend in the golf world played out just about according to the "exilic response" script. Tiger Woods fired his caddy in early July (there is a small dispute as to "when"), and the caddy, Steve (Stevie) Williams was not the least bit happy about it. He said a few things in the press, but generally kept his irritation to himself throughout the month of July. The whole thing had not been helped by the fact that Williams was already carrying the (golf) bag of his fellow Australian (and excellent golfer) Adam Scott. Apparently that had led, in itself, to some of the tension between Woods and his caddy. Woods was injured and out of work; Williams asked Woods for permission to caddy for his competitor. 

It didn't go well—something along the lines of "sure, go ahead...and don't bother coming back."

A few weeks later, "man-to-man" as Woods tells it, Williams was fired.

Revenge is sweet. Not only did Woods perform this past weekend in so-so fashion, but Williams caddied for the winner. Yes, the winner of the whole tournament. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational is not a slouch tournament on the PGA tour, either. If the John Deere Classic is, perhaps, a "3" on a scale of one-to-ten (and the U.S. Open a "10"), this week's tournament was at least a "7" and probably an "8." Not bad. The fired employee helps the winner of the tournament and embarrasses his boss all of the way around the course (fans shouted encouragement for Williams and at least some taunts at Tiger).
[c] Rough  RF
Exilic response is funny, though. Williams couldn't quite leave well enough alone, and got himself into at least a little bit of trouble in the wake of the win's excitement. The best caddies are enormously useful, if you haven't thought about this before, and they do much more than carry the golf bag and clean dirt off clubs. They know the game, and the best of them can make a difference between, well, winning and losing. Williams is that kind of caddy. Even so, his new boss won the tournament, and Williams overshadowed him a good deal in his post-tournament remarks. 

And that is one of the many challenges of exilic response. We will be exploring its dimensions in the coming months, especially when some aspect of the phenomenon is in the news, as it is today. It is hard enough (by far) to gain revenge in the first place. Steve Williams was able to exact large chunks of revenge on his former boss (for example, his ten percent cut of the winning purse was, on its own, three times as much money as Tiger earned in the whole tournament...and that is before Tiger paid his own caddy.

There is more, though. There is always more with anger and pain and retribution. Not being able to leave it alone, or "crossing the line," is a lingering part of the strange set of patterns I call exilic response. Usually, angry people who want revenge don't get their wishes. That is the cruel reality of the situation. Most times, we lose and we "stay lost." This makes it harder when we actually smell the scent of revenge. All too often, when people do get their wishes, they overplay their hands in the very moment of success. It is open to debate whether or not Edmond Dantès did so in The Count of Monte Cristo (I think not). All over the sports world today, though, radio and television shows are debating whether Steve Williams "crossed the line" and embarrassed his new boss, even though no one is feeling very sorry these days for an old boss named Tiger.
[d] Exilic  RF
Think about it, and we'll pick up the "exilic" theme again in coming posts. You may or may not have considered this already, but Tiger himself is simmering with exilic resentment that he hopes to quench with "major" victories on the PGA tour. Exilic response is a multifaceted and crisscrossing series of emotions, you see, and it has very little to do with whether you or I or anyone else feels that a person is "deserving." As the introduction to this series showed (and as future posts will reiterate), it is a complex merging of social, psychological, and cultural matters...with a little bit of everything else thrown in for good measure.

Stay tuned for more exilic anger and resentment on the pages of Round and Square.

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