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The true professional gives a humble interview

Going Long with Geisler

By Andrew Geisler
On April 14, 2014

A humble athlete interview is like an on-message politician. Both are widely panned by a media who wish their lives could get more interesting, however, both are actually doing something admirable: they're acting like professionals. Keeping a post-game or match or tournament interview humble, thanking those who got you there more than loving yourself, are the marks of true professionalism.

Pride does come before the fall. And though the media would love for humble post-game interviews that thank God, family, teammates and coaches to go away because it makes their lives seem formulaic, those who see great success in athletics are often the ones who understand how central these outside forces of support are to their successes.

Jack Nicklaus, the greatest golfer of all time, is widely seen by golf writers as the best interview in the history of the game. In his book "Jenkins at the Majors," the legendary Dan Jenkins puts it best, "Jack Nicklaus remains the most interesting, cooperative and informative athlete I've ever interviewed in any sport, ever."

The latest conventional wisdom piece of analysis on why Jack will probably always sit ahead of Tiger on the all-time majors list focuses in on the time Jack spent with his family after tournaments, and the basic humanity he holds onto. Nicklaus, by the most important metric of golf success, major championship wins, is the greatest to ever stroll the fairways. He did it by focusing on what he could control, not by making his life more difficult with self-loving quotes.

This brings us to the case of 23-year old PGA pro Patrick Reed. Reed won a tough tournament at Doral against the strongest field of the season to that point. Afterward he basked in the glory of the magnitude of his accomplishments with a cringe-inducing interview featuring this self-worshipping quote:

"I've worked so hard. I've won a lot in my junior career. I did great in my amateur career. I went 6-0 in match play in NCAAs. We won NCAAs two years in a row (at Augusta State). I got third individually one year at NCAAs. Now, I have three wins on the PGA Tour. I just don't see a lot of guys who've done that, besides Tiger and the other legends of the game. I believe in myself. I feel like I'm one of the top five players in the world. I feel like I've proven myself."

Afterward, Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel wrote in reaction to Reed's self love: "I love that the kid's got brass ones bigger than The Donald's oversized cufflinks. I love that he isn't afraid to wear a red shirt and black pants with Woods playing in front of him on a Sunday afternoon. I love that when asked about his chances at next month's Masters, the first major he'll ever play, he said, 'I know that any event I tee it up at, I have a chance to win.'"

Sobel also took to Twitter right after the interview writing "Hmm. Fans complain pro golfers give boring, cookie-cutter responses from pro golfers. Patrick Reed speaks his mind and fans still complain." Sobel should love the swagger. He covers a sport full of rich guys playing the ultimate country club sport, which probably gets boring at times. That doesn't mean being obnoxious should be welcomed.

Oh and Reed proved himself this week at Augusta, the place where real champions have always performed, by firing a one-over-par 73 Thursday, followed by a seven-over-par 79 Friday. Good enough for a 72nd place finish and a plane ticket back home Friday night.

Maybe this is just a blip in the arc of a long successful career. But until Reed realizes he owes his young success to forces outside of his own hard work, something every professional does, he'll likely falter on the biggest stages in golf.

The culture, through a complicit media, may be trying hard to teach young athletes that self-promotion and a single-minded focus on how great you are because of all you've done yourself is the key to success. However, those with a healthy sense of perspective are the pros among the crowd of wannabes in pro sports, especially in golf, where they're often the ones slipping on a green jacket at the end of the second weekend in April.

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