While covering the first round of the Players Championship Thursday at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fl., CBS Sports golf columnist Steve Elling made a really ugly crack about an overweight fan in the Tiger Woods gallery:
A distinctly rotund, lava-lunged woman was following the former world No. 1 all day, and was making no secret of her level of adoration for the 36-year-old. Make no mistake, the players in Tiger's threesome were tracking the hilarity, too, as Woods had to repeatedly fight a smirk. ...
To put it politely, the woman looked like 300 pounds of cottage cheese stuffed into a 200-pound sack.
Elling liked mocking this woman's size so much that he devoted the lead and conclusion of his commentary to her, calling the fan and the challenge faced by Woods both "large and unavoidable." He also posted seven insulting comments about her on Twitter:
1: "Cabrera's WD announcement was 2nd-biggest laugh of day. First was every time the 300-pound female fan tracking Tiger today opened her yap."
2: "@HolterMedia Rinaldi was flustered probably because he was terrified that she might fall over and crush him."
3: "The 300-pound woman kept calling Tiger 'baby doll' and Mahan and Fowler nearly had aneurisms trying to keep from laughing."
4: "I misspelled aneurysm. Probably cause a vessel burst in my head when 300-pound woman bent over and her unmentionables nearly toppled out."
5: "After that 74 today, Tiger should be happy to have any fans out there cheering for him. This woman should have counted as two."
6: "I stand corrected. Shotlink had the woman at 400 pounds. Ha ha."
7: "@sallbee87 Yeah, he was responding to my question about the corpulent woman who was following him and calling him 'Baby doll.'"
I've attended the Player's Championship several times in recent years, and the expectations of fan behavior are really high. There are dozens of volunteers on the course asking for you to be quiet and stay still while players make shots, and cell phones were not allowed at all on the grounds until this year. Most fans are extremely polite, even around the island green at 17 where you can lounge around the hole all day long drinking beer -- and hundreds do exactly that.
Elling wrote a commentary in 2010 about how golf "has forever been a spectator sport where decorum rules, sportsmanship reigns and nary is heard a discouraging word."
A pity that sense of decorum isn't shared by Elling.
After publishing this post Friday afternoon, I heard from Peggy Howell, the PR director of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, a group that fights weight discrimination. She called Elling's comments "immature" and said in an email, "I find it really interesting that this man is so full of fat hatred and bias that he can't focus on doing his job. Was he there to report on the fans or on the tournament? So now there's a size limit for attending sporting events?"
She added, "The fact that this woman was able to follow the tournament the entire day says quite a lot for her fitness level, doesn't it? Guess it's not true that all fat people are lazy slobs who do nothing but sit on our couches eating junk food all day!"
Howell's point about following a golfer's gallery is a good one. I've done that at TPC Sawgrass and you have to walk and climb hills all day long to keep up in the Florida heat. It's much easier to park your butt somewhere and let the golfers come to you.
Elling hasn't retreated from his comments on Twitter, but the "300 pounds of cottage cheese" insult disappeared from his column this morning.
Ironically, he's on Twitter today criticizing gender discrimination at the Masters.