Jordan Spieth rewrote the book on sportsmanship, sports PR
PGA Tour member, Jordan Spieth is a professional golfer, not a sports publicist, he could have a second career as the latter.
Roll out the cliches when you consider Spieth after a devastating Masters Tournament finish. Grace under pressure. Sportswriter’s dream. It could have gone badly, but Spieth didn’t let it.
Consider the circumstances. In what looked early like the makings of a Spieth-to-Self green jacket ceremony when the 2015 Masters winner birdied holes 6, 7, 8 and 9, took an ugly turn, literally, when the 22-year-old golfer bogeyed the 10th, 11th and carded a quadruple-bogey 7 on the 12th hole. He went from a one-shot lead to looking up from three down.
After he finished his round tied for second and left the course to sign his scorecard, he was caught on camera asking the camera operator not to focus on his face. Cue the social media police! Posts compared him to Carolina Panthers’ quarterback, Cam Newton, who infamously showed little interest in his Super Bowl 50 postgame presser.
I gave Newton a mulligan at the time and still say that his future conduct will determine how I feel about his ability to publicly lose as gracefully as he wins.
Spieth doesn’t get that break. He doesn’t need it. Moments after he signed his scorecard, he headed to Butler Cabin, then back to the golf course where he took part in traditions that required him to present the new Masters winner, Danny Willett, with the coveted green jacket. Yes, Spieth had to stand in front of cameras and drape the green jacket over someone else after losing a commanding lead in one of the biggest tournaments of the year. TWICE. As if the quadruple wasn’t bad enough.
But it was what Spieth did afterward for which I give him big PR props.
“Under the circumstances he handled himself quite well,” said ESPN golf reporter, Bob Harig, who was among the media that gathered to get the runner-up’s post-tournament reaction. “He was honest and didn’t make excuses. He explained the key moments.
“You can’t ask for much more.”
Kirk Bohls of the Austin American Statesman agreed.
“I thought Spieth handled it (press) with class and grace and his usual refreshing candor,” Bohls said. “I know he took a PR class at Texas but he could teach one as well. Most all I talked to, agreed with me.”
Unless PR classes have gotten A LOT better since I took them, Spieth learned how to conduct himself with aplomb from other sources, as well.
It’s not unusual for athletes that care about their brands to get publicity coaching, but sometimes it’s intertwined with what someone learned and practiced through each level of sport. The result in this case is that Spieth could teach smart and effective sports PR by example. There are dozens of athletes in all sports that could learn from him.
How did Spieth in his ultra competitive mindset, pull it together so quickly? He likely did as I would have suggested: walked off the course, took a few deep breaths and headed to his green jacket obligations. There he likely took many more deep breaths before speaking at length.
Someone who’s seen the top of the mountain is not expected to act jovially after a competitive face-plant. He, however, took the moments between walks to get it together before he answered reporters’ questions with thought and detail. As Harig said, you can’t ask for better.
To the PGA Tour: the way I see it, you’re lucky to have a guy like Jordan Spieth for his talents on and off the course. To the sports community: watch this guy. He can teach you something.
©Gail Sideman; PUBLISIDE 2016