The Challenges of Writing on a Deadline (47:00 – end)
Lisa Cornwell - (00:18)
So it says a lot when you’ve decided to delay a podcast with the greatest olympian of all-time, Micheal Phelps, but there is so much relevant and important information taking place today that we wanted to go ahead and get this one out there. Sally Jenkins… longtime journalist, columnist with The Washington Post. First of all, thanks for being with us. And I say that I say that we that we're delaying Michael Phelps because There's so much to get into with Michael and his mental health conversation. Obviously the book that Karen's helping him write, but you have, you've not only have recently released this book, the right call, which Karen has a copy of, but you may be the best follow on Twitter right now. I feel like I'm reading your columns in real time and anything that I don't know or I feel uneducated about, I'm like, what's Sally tweeting? Let me just go find out and then I'll plagiarize it. I'll use it. Now I do give you credit, but it really, it's great and I appreciate just the insight. I mean, you can tell, you do your homework, your research, you're incredibly smart, so I'm a little bit intimidated by that, so I'll just go with the flow. But all right, let's just start with this, Sally, your book, The Right Call. You've been very vocal about this live PGA tour. We're gonna call it a merger. Some people have a problem with that. We don't really know what it is right now mean, we don't know. We're still waiting to see. Was this the right call? Let's reference it to your book.
Sally Jenkins - (01:45)
No, it's a terrible call for several reasons. The rollout is awful. It's a communications debacle. It violates a lot of the stuff that's in the book is an attempt to connect the dots between good decision-making on the court or on the course, what comprises good decision-making under pressure, which is what we can really learn from great athletes and great coaches. That's their real value to the rest of us. Basically, if you start connecting the dots between what good decision-making chain of causality looks like, this violates pretty much every principle I studied and came across in reporting the right call. Secrecy, not a good policy for sound decision-making. Not consulting experts, not consulting your constituents, springing things on them with large blanks. People tend to fill in blanks with negatives. I mean, that's just a basic. dynamic in any sort of relationship, business or personal. So, I mean, there's about 10 basic business precepts that were violated with this live PGA tour secret deal, merger, sale, acquisition, whatever you wanna call it.
Karen Crouse - (03:01)
The Crazy thing… Pat Summit in your book has that great line about, you know, if you don't get feedback, people are going to process it negatively, they're going to fill in that silence with negative, a negative narrative. But I also you meant you talk in the book about there's a great section on failure being the teacher, the best teacher. When I read one line in particular about the intolerance of failure leads to hesitancy, that if you are not willing to process where you went wrong in your behavior, you're instead going to double down and just keep digging yourself a bigger hole. And when I read that line, it just reminded me of so many decisions made. by this tour over the years, not just this one, but there's really an arrogance or an inability to actually say the words, I could have been wrong there and to sort of take a step back and look at things with clear eyes and egos aside. I'm wondering if you see that too.
I do. There's a guy I quote in the book pretty liberally from named Paul Nutt, who's a management science professor who's really devoted his whole career to studying business failure. And by the way, 50% of all corporate decisions fail. That's one statistic that Nutt. I mean, you're not right all the time. You know, you just try to make solid judgments. And so he tries to identify the processes that lead to solid judgments. And also what matters more is not the initial decision necessarily, but having plan B, how you respond to the initial setback, how you process the decision in the first place so that you can manage the setback with your people. And one of the things he really studies is how a bad decision becomes a debacle, an absolute catastrophe and disaster. And one example he uses is the Bridgestone Firestone tire recall. Bridgestone obviously is a PGA Tour sponsor, which makes this example doubly interesting. I think anybody at Bridgestone would tell you that when they dug in and refused to admit that a certain tire was peeling off on the highway, on a popular SUV, when they dug in and said, oh, it's not a big deal, and they refused to do a recall because it was too expensive, and then they tried to sort of get cute with what was really happening in congressional hearings, it ended up costing billions of dollars, right? What could have been solved early in the process with a more simple, open exploratory discovery process and decision? became a real, really bad mistake that lasted a decade, had repercussions for years and years. I really feel like the PGA Tour is in that territory here. The lack of an open process will kill an organization. It really will for a number of reasons. It leads to cloudy, obscure results that are difficult to diagnose. There's so many questions here about this deal. There's such vagueness. People fill in that vagueness with a sense of duplicity. That's one of the things that's going on is nobody can trust the deal. Well, people aren't going to buy into a deal that they don't trust, or they're not going to buy into people that they don't trust. So right now, the PGA Tour membership's distrust of the three men who really did this deal without consulting them is pretty profound. Jay Monahan, Jimmy Dunn, and Ed Hurley, they have no currency with the PGA Tour membership right now. because of the secrecy. I mean, so those are the sorts of things that the book explores. And I just, I really feel like whatever the intention behind the deal, it's so violated some basic common sense, solid business precepts that you have to ask. Again, if they've botched the rollout this badly, if they've miscalculated the public response and the player response, their constituency response, their sponsor response, their... Media partner response this badly. What else in the deal is poor?
Lisa - (07:38)
When anything happens in men's professional golf, especially as it pertains to the PGA Tour, rarely does anything happen without Tiger Woods. We haven't heard from Tiger. Obviously there are some moves and discussions being made behind the scenes. Karen asked you this before we started. I'll ask you it now that we're here and recording this. What do you think's happening right now with Tiger and we haven't heard from him? right now because obviously Tiger is very calculated in speaking out on issues like this.
Sally - (08:10)
Yeah, there was a real sense all week during the open that people didn't want to get in the way of the US Open, that it was most important to let the tournament play out because the golf is ultimately the real asset. So I think that was probably a wise choice, as frustrating as it may have been to journalists. And I think Tiger Woods and I think his representatives are talking to sponsors, doing their homework, doing all the due diligence that the PGA Tour maybe did not do. that three honchos in a cigar bar in London perhaps did not do. I think they're taking the temperature of golf's partners, which is really important. I mean, what happens to all the sponsors, right? So we get this press release that says that the PGA Tours commercial rights and assets are going to be transferred into this new global for-profit blank box entity chaired by... You know, Yasser Al-Ramayan of the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, who's going to be the overlord of all of this. Well, if I'm if I'm a media partner, if I'm a sponsor, what happens to my contracts? I think general councils across the golf sponsorship landscape have been yanking their contracts and reading them closely with their CEOs saying, what does this mean? Some companies are fine. with a Saudi Arabian connection. Some companies have a little bit of a presence in Saudi Arabia, like Federal Express, for instance. Taking some Saudi money, nothing wrong with it. You can't name an American company these days that doesn't have some Saudi investment. It's a huge investment fund that needs a place to put its money. That's quite different from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia becoming the exclusive investor in Worldwide Golf and sitting on top of the entire global golf entity, right? Whole different ball game from just accept. Most American companies actually have limits for how much investment they'll accept from a sovereign government fund, right? Tom Watson released a really good letter this morning that asked that question. Most companies have a very wise policy about accepting huge investments from foreign governments. Does the PGA Tour have that policy? If not, why not? Should they? So these are the types of things that I think Tiger Woods and his representatives are exploring. These are the questions they're asking of sponsors and media partners. Knowing how Tiger Woods has behaved in the sport, about the sport all these years, I think he's thinking very carefully about what is the healthiest outcome for the game. No matter what you think of Tiger Woods in any other way, and I've been very hard on him over the years, You cannot question his commitment to the health of golf.
Karen - (11:01)
I agree. You have floated a really intriguing idea. It's come out that Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Ricky Fowler are exploring part ownership in Leeds United. And you've said, forget Leeds United. Why don't you combine with Rory and Tiger and maybe even Tom Watson given the sentiments he expressed in the open letter. Why don't you all combine to start or at least explore a breakaway tour? It's not unprecedented. Arnold and Jack did it in the 1960s when they broke away from the PGA of America.
Sally - (11:45)
Yeah, yeah. I mean, and by the way, I don't know that it has to be a breakaway tour. I suggested a breakaway tour that there's nothing to prevent the PGA Tour membership from standing up en masse and taking two steps to the right and leaving Jay Monahan and the PGA Tour Policy Board that did this deal without consulting anybody, holding nothing but a piece of paper. It may not take an entire breakaway. I think they could stand up en masse and simply demand the resignations of the current tour policy board and demand a fairer representation on the board of what is supposed to be their organization, what was their organization. So there's a couple of different ways to skin that cat, right? But the bottom line is that the players need to re-seize their own self-determination here. They never really had enough self-determination in the first place. Mickelson was right about that. He just did the wrong thing about it with the wrong people. This is a good opportunity for the PGA Tour to exercise its player leverage. They are the game. They are the assets. They don't have to cooperate with this if they don't want to. And unlike sports like say the NFL or the NBA with big player collectives or unions, they don't have to unionize and they don't have to wrangle 1500 members to be in agreement. It would only take six or eight top players. The three you just mentioned, Justin Thomas, Jordan Speed, Ricky Fowler, Tiger Woods, and Rory McIlroy, maybe five. Scotty Sheffler, six. Those six guys, if they say, hang on, we're not doing this, we're exploring other options, and before we do anything, we're reconfiguring this board, it would happen. The entire membership would follow them.
Karen - (13:47)
So to your point, you really saw the PGA Tours finest assets over the weekend. I mean, has anyone carried themselves better than Ricky Fowler? In defeat, he was the winner in my eyes, just how magnanimous he was with Wyndham and the perspective he was able to put the weekend in the immediate aftermath of that disappointment. Rory's graciousness. That's the PGA Tour's strength. And my question to you is, I don't get any sense that the players appreciate the leverage that they have. They don't seem to understand that they are the Tour and they have the ability to act in the way you're suggesting. Why do you think that is?
Sally - (14:40)
Well, first, I think that, again, you know, this came out of the blue, I mean, just a week ago. So I think they haven't fully grappled with it yet. And I do, as I say, I think there was a big reluctance to let it take over the US Open. They just wanted to play golf at the Open. I do think there was huge motivation by guys like Fowler and McElroy to show off what they think is really best about themselves and their tour. You know, Fowler. really went way out of his way to do long autograph sessions after his round. Um, there was a, there was an ethic on display there that I really liked and appreciated, and I hope other people did too, as you say. Um, I think the Travelers Week is going to be a very big week for player discussions. That's my understanding is that, um, now that they're out of the U S open, uh, they, um, again, they don't want to do anything to hurt sponsors and they don't want to do anything to hurt the game. But I do think discussions are really gonna pick up this week. I think there's gonna be, I think there's a player, there's a meeting in a couple weeks in Detroit is my understanding. You guys probably know about that as well. So, I mean, I think there's a reckoning coming and I think a lot of the agents probably spent the open week talking and making phone calls. And I think it's gonna take a few weeks to sort out, but, you know, like I say, There are so many questions here that have to be answered, and there are so many disclosures that need to be made. What was the tour's financial position that was so dire and why? My understanding is that these were 40 to 50 million dollar a year legal fees, wildly exaggerated. Like that's been floated. That's not the primary issue here. The primary issue is if the PGA tour was in... and more immediate financial distress? Why? Where's the mismanagement been and how do you cure that? If the tour is in need of a more broad sponsorship and deeper pocketed sponsorship, I mean, what are the candidates they've been considering? Who have they been going to other than the, you know, traditional years long sponsors? If they need new sponsorship, who have they made overtures to? And, you know, why hasn't I mean, this process, according to the PGA Tours' own people, was only about a seven-week process. That's insane for a deal this size. What is that?
Karen - (17:09)
Or with repercussions for decades to come. Exactly.
Sally - (17:15)
A final word about disclosures. It is not currently, it's unclear that the PGA Tour has to make any disclosures at all to players. One of the things they may have to demand is better disclosure, right? They get these annuals, I think they get an annual financial statement. Those things need to be really, really closely examined. And so do the PGA Tour's IRS 990 forms. by really good financial people. They need to go to their guys at Merrill Lynch. They need to go to their attorneys and their accountants and say, look at these, look at the disclosure we've gotten so far and tell us where you see something that's unsatisfactory, where you see questions that need better answers.
Lisa - (17:57)
All right, well, let's shift gears just a little bit to the book because there are so many great lessons as a long time. Obviously all of us are sports fans and to hear some of these stories, I think was incredible. I mean, Karen mentioned the Pat Summit quote. I was fortunate to play in a golf tournament with her and I worked in Knoxville. So really got to know her. I was with her during one of her championship runs and we lost an absolute legend when we lost Pat's Summit. So I appreciated everything that you put in there about her. I want to start though, Sally, I think the part that really I didn't realize that stumped me was the chest effect that you talk about. Not only did I not realize that you could burn 6,000 calories sitting down,I take that stress for that very reason. It seems a lot less strenuous on the body, but I love what you said in there in terms of the quote that you were talking about, the ability to resist impulsivity. And that's a great lesson. not just in sports, but in life in general. And when I think to the greats of all time, I mean, look, we're talking golf, so you can go to Tiger. It almost seems like for the greats, when you're in that pressure situation for the average person, everything speeds up. You're walking faster, you're breathing heavier, everything speeds up. For the greats, it's almost like they have this ability to slow everything down. I don't know if that's the case, it's just what it feels like because you think that they should be rushing. What's the biggest lesson that readers can take away from your analogy with chess in the book?
Sally - (19:31)
Yeah, I mean, I think that the thing that the rest of us can take from these people is that the ability to resist temptation, you're not born with it. I mean, I think there was probably a time in Michael Phelps's life when he ate the donut, you know. All these great athletes describe the sort of compounding interest effect in their training. Sound habits build kind of a hunger for even more sound habits, right? Laird Hamilton, the big wave surfer told me, you start to crave the things that are good for you instead of bad, right? And so what chess players demonstrate more than any other quasi athletes in the book is the ability to sit patiently and not follow your first impulse, to think through things, to resist. It's called delayed reward gratification is the sociological term for it, which is the, a lot of us see less of a reward the longer we have to wait for the donut, right? Like if you say, if you tell somebody, I'll give you a hundred dollars now or two hundred dollars if you can wait till the end of the month. A lot of us take the cash now, right? You want the ready cash. Athletes do the exact opposite and so do chess players. And they learn to resist immediate temptation and they learn to think about things like training or nutrition or eating in terms of not how I'm gonna feel when I do it, but how I'm gonna feel Afterwards, right you eat the doughnut you're filled with remorse and regret and you actually don't feel that great physically either because you have Like a sugar crash, right you don't eat the doughnut about 30 minutes later. You're feeling really good about everything You feel better physically you feel like a stronger person athletes tap into that And guys like Derek Jeter, it rolls and compounds for years. Guys like Michael Phelps, guys like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, that's what they really do great. They're not born with genius. They build incredibly strong habits. And we can take from that. I mean, there's all kinds of research that shows that people who learn to play chess with their lives. just have better results across the board. They make better decisions financially. They make better decisions professionally.
Karen - (21:55)
There were echoes of that when Rory said, I'm willing to endure a hundred Sundays of this for the chance to someday win my next major. That's exactly the, he's embodying what you're talking about with that statement.
Sally - (22:14)
Yeah, he really is. I mean, he's willing to, among other things, break his own heart, right, by so fully investing in this endeavor. A lot of us are, you know, a lot of us put on this facade of nonchalance, right? The less you show you care about something, the more you can say, well, it wasn't really that important to me in the first place. And so, you know, it's okay. Athletes don't do that. Athletes really push their chips into the center of the table. And it's the thing that I really admire and respect about them more than anything else. I mean, Michael Phelps just put himself on the line, right? I want to win eight gold medals. Marion Jones said to me, the great track star, Marion Jones said to me, look, you don't win six gold medals in an Olympics by saying you just want to win five, Athletes are very intentional. They state... what they're going after and they're willing to publicly fail in doing it. And the rest of us tend to hold back a little bit in our statements of our ambitions. And one of the things that athletes have taught me in the last 30 years, is how to work at something with an unembarrassed intensity.
Karen - (23:27)
I love that line in the book and I was going to pivot to that Sally because you mentioned it in the context of Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King. And I have found in my wanderings that really if you are a woman and approach your work with an unembarrassed intensity, that is very off putting to many people. I was wondering if you could speak to that because it's not just that they worked at their crafts with intensity, it was the unembarrassed part that really I wrote it down and underlined it. It meant so much to me.
Sally - (24:08)
Yeah, the unembarrassed part was really crucial. I mean, if you think about the fight for equal pay in women's sports, whether it was tennis with Billie Jean and then Chrissy and Martina, who actually advanced that ball more than Billie Jean, and Billie Jean herself would say that, you know, whether it was that, whether it was, you know, Pat Summitt's long, hard fight. I mean, when Pat Summitt started coaching basketball in the state of Tennessee, they did not let... girls play full court basketball in high school. You had to play half court basketball and Pat had to really work with the Tennessee State legislature to get full court basketball in the public schools of Tennessee. I mean, she said, look, I'm not gonna be able to coach a collegiate team to anything in a state if you don't let girls just play the game, you know, the way everyone else is playing it. So, I mean. Yeah, that, yes, there's been a lot of discomfort around it. And I think that the thing that's finally happened with, whether it's with women's World Cup soccer or Serena Williams, I mean, all the things that we see or Caitlin Clark or Angel Reese, all the things that we've seen in just the last year in sports to me are the flowering of that initial, commitment that we saw by my great heroes of the 1970s and 1980s and the people that I was lucky enough to cover early in my career, you know, the Chrissies and the Martinez and the Pat Summits. That's all they wanted. That's what they were really after. I've always said they were after something much, much bigger, much, much bigger than college scholarships or equal pay. They were after something really huge. And this was it.
Lisa - (25:58)
There's a topic that you touch on, and I've actually seen you tweet about it a lot, and I appreciate it because I think that as a former athlete and somebody who's married to a professional athlete, it always frustrates me when people use this term, God-given talent. You know, we've all been to practices, and I can tell you as a sports journalist, I always appreciate the practice more than I appreciate the event or the game, because that's when you get a true appreciation for the work and the dedication. that goes into, you tell a lot of great stories, but I wanna go back to the Tom Brady portion in terms of this God given talent. Cause we've all heard the Tom Brady story, right? We all know that he went low in the draft and all of these other stories, but you made a point and I'd never thought about it this way, that he really taught young kids or young athletes that you don't have to be the best to end up being great. And you think about what he went through and that's so true. I mean, it's almost like watching him and seeing his success has now given a 10 year old boy playing football who may not have very good footwork or a 17 year old female as a basketball player who may not have the best jump shot that hard work can get you to the top of the sport. I thought that it was an incredible point that you made, not only with him, but to keep pushing the story out there. Look, these are the hardest workers out there. They're not great just by chance. They're great because they bust their tails. They work every single day. They wake up and that's all that they think about. How important is it to keep spreading that message?
Sally - (27:34)
Well, I mean, I think it's everything for people, for parents, for young athletes, because I mean, we just get all the wrong messages, right? The talent is a really pernicious thread through elite level sports. I mean, there's a bunch of different stories in the book about this, but one of my favorites, my favorite stat every year at the Super Bowl is to go down the rosters and pick out how many undrafted free agents there are on the roster or how many guys. were once considered losers in their career in some way. And one of my favorite stats, speaking of Tom Brady, was his Super Bowl team with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a game day roster of 53 players. 27 members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl winning team were rated two stars or less by talent evaluators in high school. In high school, 27 members of that Super Bowl team were considered sub par. Right? Not real talented. So it's just such bull, the whole, the talent myth in sports. It's champions are made, not born. That's the first thing you learn if you really are investigating what you're watching on a championship field or golf course. And, you know, Tom Brady is one example of that. But, you know, people I think need to know that even a Peyton Manning, who was considered born with enormous gifts, because he was the son of Archie Manning, a Heisman Trophy winner. He was raised in a championship. Well, the Saints were terrible when he was raised, but at any rate, but he was raised in a very elite athletic atmosphere and he had a father who was undeniably gifted and Peyton was certainly born with some genetic gifts. But Peyton tells me the story and I use it in the book of his third year in the NFL. His record as a starter was 32 and 32. He was a 500 quarterback in terms of one loss record, and he had led the league in interceptions in I think, I wanna say two of his first three years. He was among the league leaders in interceptions all three of those years. Tony Dungy comes in with his great quarterbacks coach, Jim Caldwell, and they really help man and cure his interception habit with a lot of different. a lot of different methods, but my favorite story that Peyton tells is they looked at tape of all of his interceptions, right? Every single one of them. Not a fun exercise, but they did it. And then they looked at a tape, Peyton said it was more of a buried tape. And that was a tape of all the balls he threw that should have been intercepted, but weren't because he got a little lucky, right? So they looked at, you know, you may have lucked out on that one, but it was not a great decision, not a great throw. And they look for commonalities. And one of the things they saw was that he had kind of some bad habits with his feet. When a defensive lineman would dive at him, his feet would get uneven or jackhammery. And so they designed a drill where they started throwing heavy sandbags at his feet during practices to try to get his feet more settled under pressure. So, and by the, you know, after a couple of years with Dungey, they go to the Super Bowl and Manning becomes the Hall of Famer. cures his really bad interception habit. I don't think he ever throws more than 10 interceptions in a season again, after he starts that really detailed analysis of his weaknesses with Dungey and Caldwell. So that's an example. I mean, it's just not enough to be born with a fortunate gift. You really have to diagnose your unconscious incompetencies. And that's what great athletes do. They're constantly looking for slippage. for areas where they're less than fabulous, less than great.
Karen - (31:31)
I was heartened to know that even they sometimes need a reframing of perspective. One of my favorite anecdotes in your book is Tom Brady, when he's at Michigan, he goes into Greg Harden's office. And this is an intersection with Phelps, who later also worked with Greg Harden. And Tom is just beside himself. Like I only get to play in terrible situations when it's third and eight. I'm being set up for failure. That's what any reasonable person might think and Greg so beautifully turns the perspective on him and says That is the fantastic time to be in the game because if you can succeed on third and eight People are can are going to see that you can succeed anytime Just like that just switching the flip on how you perceive an event can mean everything And I think that's fabulous perspective for readers to take away.
Sally - (32:32)
Yeah, I mean, Greg Harden was also very critical to Michael Phelps. And if there's one person I would like to have talked to that I didn't, I didn't talk to Greg Harden for the book and I wish I had. I've heard marvelous things about him in a lot of ways. Guys like him are really crucial at reframing. There's another guy that's quoted in the book, Hap Davis, who is a Canadian swimming coach and he says, unprocessed failure. leads to loss of resilience. And part of what he's talking about is what Greg Hardin is talking to Tom Brady about, which is, you have to look at where you're, you can't improve anything without stressing it, right? And so people who want, like, I can't ever catch a break, or, you know, why is it, you know, I got a terrible lie, or, you know, boy, the wind really picked up there. I mean, if you hear someone bitching about the officiating or bitching about the conditions, you can know for sure they're gonna lose again next year, right? You hear it over and over and over again, and you just know those are not the people who are going to come back and win the Superbowl the next year. Whereas like a guy like Andy Reed, after he and the Kansas city chiefs lose the single most anguishing playoff game I ever covered to the new England Patriots and Tom Brady, when they get an interception from Tom Brady. and they have a lead and they intercept Tom Brady, game over. And a flag comes flying out and the interception is overturned because D. Ford of the Kansas City Chiefs lined up four inches off sides. What a terrible call. What a lousy break. Patriots get the ball back. Brady drives them down the field, forces overtime and beats the Chiefs. And Andy Reid after the game said, we all could have been four inches better. It was one of the most remarkable I ever heard in a post-game press conference, and it was so instructive. And of course, the Kansas City Chiefs come back the next year and they win the Super Bowl, right? And Patrick Mahomes gets his and becomes, you know, the inheritor really to Brady and the Patriots. And so that story really made a strong impression on me. I'll tell you one more story about this mindset and this framing that you're talking about, Karen, which really is... the entire ball game for all these people. Brian Dable, who's now the head coach of the New York Giants, when he was with the Buffalo Bills, a couple years ago at the started training camp, he had, at their opening team meeting, he had everybody stand up in the entire room. And he said, every coach who's ever been fired, sit down. The entire coaching staff sits down. And he says, every player who's ever been cut or traded, sit down. Two thirds of the room sits down. Every player who wasn't drafted out of college sit down. Now everyone is seated except one guy, Josh Allen, the quarterback. And Dayball says, Josh, how many scholarship offers did you have coming out of high school? And Josh Allen says, none. And he says, sit down. His point was championship organizations are made up of people who have failed and who have suffered real setbacks. and their resilience is what matters.
Lisa - (35:58)
There are so many great stories like that, Sally, and we can talk to you all day. I'll finish with this one question that I'll let Karen lead us off here or finish things up. But I'm curious, and obviously Karen did a great job of wearing her LPGA hoodie today. Good job. We've got to support the ladies. You've been doing this for a long time. You mentioned Billie Jean, you mentioned Martina, Chris Everett. You know, we could talk a lot about what tennis has done, right, in women's sports. I would say that I'm throwing you a curve ball. I don't think that this is a curve ball for you. So in honor of Karen's sweatshirt, what would be the right call for the LPGA tour? We obviously see this exponential growth for the PGA tour. What would be the right call for the LPGA tour to try to do what women's tennis did so many years ago?
Sally - (36:45)
Yeah, I mean, LPGA has always been a conundrum to me. I mean, I'm probably not the right person to ask because I've always found their lack of cooperation with the press to be an issue. I mean, Annika Sorenstam was harder to get than Mick Jagger. I never understood that. I like her very much, and I thought she was marvelous at Colonial. I thought that was a real high point. for the tour. There's just some things not reaching people. And again, I don't know if that's player-based or sponsor-based. It's a hard question, because obviously you'd like to see them flourish. And I just don't, I don't know why they're not breaking through with the public as much as they could. Michelle Wee, I thought was great for the game. I mean, she had... crossover appeal. You have to have that crossover appeal, right? I mean, women's tennis got really lucky with Chris Everett. She was a cultural phenomenon as well as a great athlete. And I think that Billie Jean would tell this story. Early on, a lot of the players, there was some jealousy from the other players about Chrissy was getting so much attention and she was winning and all this stuff. And she was America's sweetheart and all of that stuff. And Billie Jean apparently convened a little private meeting. and said, listen, you guys need to knock it off. She's gonna make all of us more successful and richer. And you have to understand that she's gonna float the entire game to a higher level in the public eye. And so, I mean, the bottom line is that any sport, any individual sport is personality driven and charisma driven, right? Men's tennis has been tremendously lucky with Federer and Nadal in the same generation. You know, and then you see, you know, but there were periods before those guys where the game was maybe a little flatter, right? So, I mean, it's a hard question because the LPGA needs a great star, right? That's one thing they need. They need a great, great star, and they need to recognize the great star when it comes along, and they need to market that star. Chrissy and Martina spent a lot of time building the sport and accepting their responsibilities off the court as well as on. Chris Everett served as president of the WTA for nine years. She was elected president four times by her peers. She worked tirelessly. She did many, many appearances that she did not want to do. She and Martina would make their schedules together and say, in order to please sponsors and to make sure that sponsors were getting what they needed, right? That's the sort of thing that built women's tennis. And I don't know that I've ever seen that on the LPGA to be frank. The kind of devoted effort by the superstars of the game to invest personally in appearances, to pass the torch to other players and teach other players their responsibilities to do this sort of thing. That's my best answer.
Lisa - (39:55)
I think it's a good one. I think you're exactly, I think you're right on point. I mean, it is an entertainment business. It is. And we all appreciate talent, but you have to have both like a Chris Everett. I do think that the LPGA missed an opportunity with Lexi when she was at the height of her game. I think that she could have been the player that they really put their efforts in into marketing. And I do think that it caused a little friction within the tour and honestly with Lexi's family too. I do, I think that was a huge missed opportunity. And obviously if Lexi could have gone on to continue to have that success, not that she still can't, I still think that talent is there. But I do think you're right on point with it.
Sally - (40:37)
I mean, I would get a hold of the younger players right now, you know, and explain this to them and try to invest some responsibility in them to grow the game financially. I mean, the great thing about the LPGA is it has a very ardent fan base, right? I mean, there's people who really, really love women's golf. I mean, I have friends who travel to the Solheim Cup, right, who make it an annual. I mean... It has a devoted, it can develop a devoted following. It already has, to a certain extent, a devoted following. But if you're talking about enlarging the game and uplifting the game, it's gonna take some stars who recognize their role in doing that.
Karen - (41:20)
I said this before, it's also going to take the best men recognizing and helping promote the women. In that way, tennis really lucked out in having its majors, the men and the women playing together so that people who gather, reporters who gathered to cover the men were subjected, if you will, to these women's matches and were like, hey, that Chris Everett is pretty good looking. Next thing you know, they're huge fans of women's tennis. I mentioned this before, I'm gonna keep harking on it. You have PGA Tour players who after Rose Zhang won her maiden start said, Oh, I never turn on the LPGA, but Rose Zhang gave me a reason to. If the best men in the game aren't interested in women's golf, what is that saying about the product to everybody else? when Nellie Korda plays in that family event in Florida and Jordan Spieth, very well intentioned, said, my goodness, Nellie, you have the best swing. I wish I had your swing. And Nellie very beautifully put him in his place by saying, well, you know, you should watch women's golf because there are lots of beautiful swings. I'm just one of dozens out there. It's just this like institutionalized I don't know what it is, institutionalized sexism? I don't wanna say it's that, it's just a patronizing that really need, I think if the men and women were playing more events together, and it's been done quite successfully in Australia, and now in Europe, there are the random events, this could really propel both the men's and the women's games to higher levels.
Sally - (43:14)
You know, I'm going to make a crazy suggestion, but I think that the whole pink golf thing has hurt the LPGA. Right? Like, I mean, it was pretty electrifying when Annika played colonial, right? I mean, I was there for that. And there's something, I mean, there's something in the battle of the sexist thing that is, that is, you hate that this is true, but, until a woman's sport has gained a certain currency, I think you're right. with the top men in the game, it's a tough uphill slug. Women's tennis did it, but you're right. They had the advantage of being at the Grand Slams. And I think a really critical moment is the 1981 final between Everett and Navratilova, which was sandwiched between two men's matches. They used to make the women play their final between, the US Open sandwiched them between the men's semifinals. So Everett and Navratilova had to wait like five hours to get on court while Lindell and Pat Cash, played a five set epic that went seven, six, seven, six in the last two sets. And they finally get out there and they play a match for the ages that happened to command a huge audience, right? And their tennis compared so favorably to the Lendl-Cash match that had come right before them. Everybody, I mean, you can hear Pat Summerlin and Traybert on the telecast going, my goodness, this is great tennis. Like they're surprised, right? So, I mean, yeah, something like that helps, right? It certainly does. I mean, Larry Brown used to say about Pat Summitt, she coaches basketball, she doesn't coach women's basketball. I mean, one crazy idea I would try, I would move the tees back. I mean, women can play, I mean, this, guys have the idea, like, that they're playing from the white tees and that a women's pro golfer is playing from the red. I freaking hate red tees, okay? I don't play from them, right? And maybe it's because I have two brothers and when I play golf with them and my dad, they'd all go racing past the red tee in their carts, right? So like you had the tee off and the white tees are not at all. Ha ha ha. But I mean, with the men's golf audience, there's this whole white tees, gold tees, blue tees, like they're all color coded, right? The color coding is horrible for women's golf, right?
Lisa - (45:38)
I just think that the red needs to go because it's associated with And you're right, it drives me crazy. So obviously I'm not a Brandel Chamblee fan for a variety of reasons, but he actually proposed shortening the courses. And nothing irritates me more. Well, first of all, you don't know the women's game if you do, if you say that these women are so accurate. First, they're playing courses that are incredibly long. They're playing Baltasaral this week. I'm sure that it's 67, 6800 yards and it will bring out the best. These women can handle long courses because they're so accurate. Their accuracy numbers in comparison to the men are off the charts. They also don't swing 100% every time. You know, it's a very controlled game, but they're so accurate and they're so dialed in. They don't need big MOI drivers because they hit the center of the face every single time. I could do a whole podcast on this. It drives me crazy. I 100% agree with you. The average golf fan, they don't realize the length that the women are already playing and what they could handle even more. I think that I agree and you market that. You say, look, this is how good they are and how you don't realize how talented they are. They can play long golf courses and still score.
Sally - (46:51)
Yeah, I mean, I think you have to start on everybody's country club course or public course and just get rid of the whole pink and red thing in women's golf. I think that's what we do.
Karen - (47:02)
In closing, Sally, I want to ask you about your own resilience, because in the acknowledgments, you mentioned that you had a few missed deadlines. And at one point, you walked away from this project. So what lessons from the copy did you have to draw on to get this book out into the world?
Sally - (47:22)
You know, it was a difficult book for a lot of reasons. You know, when I first took on the project, my dad was still alive. My partner got lung cancer. I mean, there was just a lot of life stuff that happened. And I just I didn't feel I was doing a good job on the book for a lot of reasons. I was overwhelmed by responsibilities and. Covid, I mean, you know, I literally like after right after I signed the book contract, like Covid came along, so it was just harder to. there were no sports events to go. I had thought I was gonna report the book by going to lots of events and talking to people. And it turned out you had to call them all on the telephone. I was lucky that Steve Kerr and Peyton Manning were available and talked. That was a good start. But at any rate, yeah, it was very difficult. And at one point I thought it was hopeless. And I tried to give the money back and say, I just can't, I'm doing a bad job. I wanted to give the money back because I thought the book was no good. and I was embarrassed to turn in something that I thought was not worth what the publisher had initially assigned and paid me for. And so I called my agent and said, I'm afraid I may have to give the money back. And I had a really great editor who, the leadership lesson in this book is that really great leaders, and I had a great one in my editor, Karen Marcus, Really great leaders put tools in your hands. I never saw Pat Summitt criticize a player or go over a loss, a bad loss in a ball game, without showing film and explaining to her team what the fix was, how to make it better. And that is what distinguishes people who think they're leading or think they want to lead and real leaders. Real leaders put tools in the hands of their people. And that's what the people at Gallery Books did with me. They sat and worked on the manuscript with me and said, this is where you're going right and this is where it could use work and this is where you're going wrong. Because when you're in the middle of a high pressure project, you cannot see yourself for who you really are behaving. Like I couldn't see my own writing. You get lost, you know this, Karen. You don't know if it's good or bad. You're just trying to get finished and you just, you can't. you're tone deaf to yourself and your own work, and you need an outside evaluative eye. We all do. We cannot see our own performances truly. And so I was lucky. I had good editors who were encouraging and yet also gave me sound advice mechanically about what I was doing. If you don't have that, you're lost. And that's what people really need to look for in a leader or a boss or a coach. or anybody. It's what you want for your kid in little league baseball. Do you have just some ranting lunatics and you need to get tougher? You need to play better? Or do you have someone who can really teach and put a, put a bat or a ball in a kid's hand with a sense of proper mechanics? I mean, it's that simple.
Karen - (50:30)
I think you should write an afterward for the paperback edition and explain how you benefited from all of these lessons you're passing on to the readers for getting this book published.
Sally - (50:43)
it's, you know, I've had, like you, I've had, you guys, you know this, it's an invaluable gift to be around these people. And like I say at the outset of the, of the book, I mean, I wasn't stupid enough to waste that I've taken notes. They have, you know, they have been tremendously, it's a love letter to athletes and coaches really. I mean, these people have been tremendously influential on me personally. And that's what I wanted to get across in the book. They have made me the writer I am. That's the fact.
Lisa - (51:11)
Well, you got so much of that across. There is no doubt about it. And I'm very glad you didn't give the money back because I would have been robbed. I would have been robbed of the read and it was incredible. And on all these stories that I thought that I knew and it's just the education, it furthered it. So there… Karen has the book. Sally Jenkins, it was an absolute pleasure to have you on.
Sally - (51:33)
I love being here… you too. It's mutual.
Karen - (51:35)
Sally - (51:36)
Thanks you guys.