The GSB (Mock) Interview: Tiger Woods, on His Comeback, Kids and Climate Change

Google “Tiger Woods” and “2019 Masters” and you will get millions of links to stories about his jaw dropping, dramatic, instant classic win at Augusta National on Sunday.

Google “Tiger Woods” and “climate change” and you get…nothing meaningful.

So even more remarkable than Woods’ winning his first major championship in 11 years and first Green Jacket since 2005 — at age 43, with a back repaired surgically four times no less — is that he agreed to talk with GreenSportsBlog!

Who knew he cared about the environment and climate change? The fact he’s a golfing buddy of President Trump makes that even harder to fathom. 

OK, OK…

We didn’t really talk to Tiger — his people said he was busy at the driving range getting ready for the next major, the PGA Championship at Long Island’s Bethpage Black next month.

So we’re doing the next best thing: Imagining a conversation with Woods in which he expresses concern about climate change, bubbling up from his kids Sam(antha) and Charlie.

Here then is our GSB (Mock) Interview with Tiger Woods, 2019 Masters Champion.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Tiger Woods, thank you for taking a few minutes to talk to GreenSportsBlog. And let me be the 27,340,945th person to congratulate you on your win at Augusta on Sunday. To borrow from the great CBS Sports announcer Verne Lundquist, never in my LIFE did I think I’d see you wearing a fifth Green Jacket.

Tiger Woods: Thank you, Lew. For much of the last few years, I never thought I’d be wearing a new Green Jacket. I was just concerned about being able to put my old Green Jackets, or any jacket for that matter, on by myself, without pain. I wanted to be able to walk pain free. I knew that if I could get healthy, if I could feel comfortable out on the golf course, well let’s just say I did not doubt I could win a major championship in that case. So I’m blessed that my doctors, surgeons and physios all did their jobs so well so I could do my thing. It is amazing.

 

Tiger Woods Patrick Reed

Tiger Woods dons the Green Jacket for winning his fifth Masters on Sunday. Patrick Reed, the 2018 Masters champion, placed it on his back (Photo credit: Mike Slocum/Associated Press)

 

GSB: Amazing is right. Also amazing is that you’re talking to us — I’ve never heard you speak about the environment or climate change. So where is this coming from?

Tiger: You’re right. I’ve not been interested in or paid much attention to climate change at all. I’m not a politics guy nor am I a scientist…

GSB: Most people engaged on climate are neither, just for the record. It’s not a prerequisite.

Tiger: It just wasn’t my thing. I know it’s real…

GSB: …Unlike your golfing pal who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania.

Tiger: …I’m not going there. I know it’s real and serious but the honest truth is, I just don’t think much about it. Or, I should say, I didn’t think much about it.

GSB: What changed?

Tiger: Two words: Sam and Charlie.

GSB: Your kids…

Tiger: Sam is 11. About two, three years ago, she started asking me things like “Why do you drive such a big gas guzzler?” and “Why don’t you get a Tesla?” My first thought? “Buick Enclave sponsors me, that’s why!” It’s a great car. I also drive a Porsche Carrera GT for fun.

But Sam got me thinking about it, and it just became obvious that burning less fossil fuels is a good thing. So I started to ask my Buick guys questions; they tell me the next generation Enclave, which should be coming to market in the next four-to-five years, will have a plug-in hybrid or even be 100 percent electric.

 

Tiger Woods family

An ecstatic Tiger Woods immediately after winning the 2019 Masters on Sunday. Son Charlie (left) and daughter Sam (2nd from right), who have been instrumental in their dad’s newfound interest in climate change, flanked Tiger, along with his mom Kultida (r) and girlfriend Erica Herman (Photo credit: CBS Sports)

 

GSB: I don’t know if Sam told you this — but according the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC, basically the best climate scientists in the world, humanity has 12-15 years to significantly decarbonize if we are to avoid the most calamitous effects of climate change. So isn’t continuing to drive a fossil fuel Enclave that gets 18 miles per gallon in the city, 26 on the highway, reckless?

Tiger: Oh I get it. Sam lets me know every time we get in the car to go to her soccer games. So we made a deal — I’m going to trade in the Porsche Carrera next year for a Porsche Taycan EV. That will be the car we drive most of the time. And, when I go to tournaments, I’m going to make sure that my team and I get driven in EVs or hybrids when EVs are not available.

 

Porsche Taycan

The 2020 Porsche Taycan EV (Photo credit: Porsche)

 

GSB: That’s a great start! Does Charlie get on you too?

Tiger: No doubt about it. Sometimes they double team me, especially after Sam and Charlie, who’s 10, saw Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Sequel,” in school last year.

GSB: Did it scare them?

Tiger: Yeah, but it also made them angry. They bugged me to see the original, “An Inconvenient Truth.”. I was like, “don’t you want to see the latest ‘Star Wars’ movie, or the highlights of my 1997 Masters win?” You may find it hard to believe from the cute Charlie you saw Sunday on TV but he is one stubborn kid. So it was “An Inconvenient Truth” or bust. So we saw it. I was blown away. Then I saw the sequel. Then I saw “Chasing Ice” and that was more than enough.

GSB: Good going, Charlie! Then what happened?

Tiger: To be honest, not much. I mean our green movie triple feature was last spring and since then, I’ve been working 24-7 getting my back right, getting my game right. Contended at the Open Championship, gave it a good run at the PGA, finally won the Tour Championship. We’ll forget the Ryder Cup disaster, thank you very much. And then it was getting ready for 2019. But there has been some time here and there for them to sell me and they did. Charlie suggested we get solar panels on our house.

GSB: At 9,700 square feet, that’s a lot of house!

Tiger: We use a lot of energy, they let me know about it all the time. We’re looking at the solar options.

GSB: That would be great. Even if you go solar, you’ll still be using a ton of energy generated from fossil fuels to power that house. Would you consider offsetting your energy use — from your home, cars, boats, air travel — by investing in renewable energy projects, energy efficiency and more? It’s easy to find reputable outfits to help you do this.

 

Tiger Woods House

Tiger Woods’ home and golf course backyard in Jupiter Island, Florida (Photo credit: ThoughtCo)

 

Tiger: I never thought about it but I’ll have my people look into it.

GSB: It’s fairly simple. Are there any other guys on the tour who talk climate change and the environment?

Tiger: Michael Campbell from New Zealand, the 2005 US Open winner, comes to mind. He’s been injured a lot lately too, missed the last couple of years. Trying to come back on tour this year. He started an environmental charity back in New Zealand if memory serves.

GSB: Yes! His organization is called Project Litefoot — it helps local sports clubs save money by reducing their carbon footprint. You could do something like that with the Tiger Woods Foundation! Think of the impact!

 

Campbell Project Litefoot

Michael Campbell, 2005 US Open champion, leads Project Litefoot in New Zealand (Photo credit: Project Litefoot)

 

Tiger: We’re already doing it. Two of our current Earl Woods Scholars — named after my dad — and a number of our graduates dating back 2011 are or were environmental science majors.

GSB: I’d say that’s a start but think of the impact if you’d create a Tiger Woods-branded climate change platform for students through the foundation. That would be breakthrough. I know, I know you have to talk to your people. Let us talk to them.

Tiger: You’re just like Sam and Charlie!

GSB: Thanks for the compliment, Tiger. Seriously, we need to think of climate change in terms of a World War II-level crisis. It’ll take a Herculean public mobilization to get us off of our carbon addiction and you could be one of that effort’s biggest, most important voices. Iconic, really. Doing something bigger than yourself. For your kids.

Tiger: I get it but I still have my back to manage, major championships to try to win.

GSB: I get that, Tiger. I am just going to ask you two things: Number one, when you get solar on your roof, tell that story to the press.

Tiger: I could do that — if we get solar.

GSB: When

Tiger: OK, when. Here’s what I will do: Next time an interview gets to the subject of Sam and Charlie, I’ll talk about how climate change is important to them and that it’s rubbing off on their old man.

GSB: That would be FANTASTIC! Now, here’s #2: Become an advocate for carbon pricing, specifically a carbon fee and dividend approach.

Tiger: What is that?

GSB: The gist: We need a price on carbon to accelerate the deployment of renewables, scalable energy efficiency technologies, energy storage and the like — to make all these technologies more competitive vs. fossil fuels and fossil fuel-based products.

The idea of the dividend is crucial. Instead of the revenue raised from the carbon fee going to the federal treasury, it would be distributed to all American households in the form of a monthly dividend. The same amount to every household. So low carbon users — about the lowest two thirds of all American households on the income scale — would make more in dividends than what they would pay in the form of higher prices due to the fee.

Tiger: OK, OK. This is interesting, could make a difference on emissions. But it sounds like I’m going to pay a lot more.

GSB: You will pay more but the more you decarbonize, the less you’ll pay.

Tiger: It also sounds political. I need to talk to my people on this.

GSB: Remember, in this case, your people are Sam and Charlie.

Tiger: Touché, Lew, touché.

 

 


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International Ski Federation President Denies Climate Change; Protect Our Winters Urges Him to Resign

Gian Franco-Kasper, the President of the International Ski Federation (FIS¹), showed himself in an interview last week to be a virulent denier of climate change. His comments were made at the beginning of the 2019 FIS Alpine World Championships in Åre, Sweden. Ironically, the organizers had recently earned ISO 20121 certification as a sustainable event.

Almost immediately after the Franco-Kasper story broke, Protect Our Winters (POW) launched a campaign that is pushing for his resignation.

 

The skiing story of the week was the bronze medal earned by Lindsey Vonn of the U.S. in the final race of her storied career, the downhill at the 2019 FIS Alpine World Championships in Åre, Sweden.

Unfortunately, Vonn’s farewell had to share the stage with the news that the President of FIS¹, the governing body of international skiing, has views on climate change that mirror those of noted denier-skeptic, President Donald Trump.

Gian Franco-Kasper’s climate change-denier bona fides came to light in an interview with René Hauri in the February 4th issue of the German language, Zurich-based newspaper, Tages Anzeiger. The next day, Dvora Meyers posted a column in Deadspin that, along with her biting analysis, translated the 75 year-old FIS leader’s comments into English.

 

Gian Franco-Kasper

Gian Franco-Kasper, President of FIS (Photo credit: Mark Runnacles, Getty Images)

 

Here, from Meyers’ piece, is Franco-Kasper expressing climate change denial, using the old it’s-cold-out-somewhere-so-climate-change-can’t-be-happening” trope:

“There is no proof for it. We have snow, in part even a lot of it. I was in Pyeongchang for the Olympiad. We had minus 35 degrees C. Everybody who came to me shivering I welcomed with: welcome to global warming.”

And here he links his disdain for environmentalists to a fondness for dictators:

“It’s just the way that it is easier for us in dictatorships. From a business view I say: I just want to go to dictatorships, I don’t want to fight with environmentalists anymore.”

And then, for good measure, Franco-Kasper added this note on immigrants to Europe:

“The second generation of immigrants has nothing to do with skiing. There are no ski camps anymore.”

All of these quotes could easily have come from the current occupant of the Oval Office. Yet, even Trump hasn’t made the climate denial-dictator connection, at least as far as I’m aware. Per a CNN report, Franco-Kasper tried to walk back the Love-A-Dictator comment — I’ll leave it to the reader to judge his sincerity — but not his climate change denial nor the immigrant-bashing.

Two days after the Deadspin story broke, Protect Our Winters, the nonprofit made up of elite winter sports athletes who advocate on behalf of systemic political solutions to climate change, issued this call for Franco-Kasper’s resignation:

“The snowsports community should be demanding climate action, and not tolerate those who dismiss science to remain in positions of leadership. That’s why are asking the newly formed Outdoor Business Climate Partnership² and the outdoor and snowsports community at large, all of whom rely on a stable climate to power our $887 billion industry, to join us in calling for Mr. Franco-Kasper’s resignation.” 

According to POW, the Franco-Kasper interview brought out into the open what had been whispered about in ski industry circles for years: That FIS leadership is still unwilling to acknowledge — let alone act upon — the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the reality of human-caused climate change that threatens the entire snowsports industry.

Franco-Kasper’s climate change denial stands in stark contrast to the strong sustainability leadership displayed by the organizers of the 2019 FIS Alpine World Championships in Åre, Sweden, taking place now through the 19th. It recently earned certification as being compliant with the ISO 20121 standard for sustainable events.

 

Are 2019

Riikka Rakic (r) sustainability manager for Åre 2019, helped lead the effort that resulted in the championships earning ISO 20121 certification as a sustainable event (Photo credit: Iana Peck, Åre 2019)

 

GSB’s Take: This one is easy. Franco-Kasper’s climate denial, along with his preference for dealing with dictators rather than democracies, make him 1) scarily Trump-like, and 2) clearly unfit to be the leader of the governing body of a sport that is suffering consequences of climate change in the here and now. 

What is not easy to comprehend is how this man, whose views on these issues apparently have been well-known inside international skiing circles, has been able to remain in office since 1998.

POW has started a letter-writing campaign to FIS, urging Franco-Kasper to resign. If you agree he should go and would like to participate, click here.

If the letter-writing effort proves successful and the Franco-Kasper Era (Error?) finally ends, here, in no particular order, is an admittedly U.S.-centric list of three potential successors FIS should consider:

  • POW’s Executive Director and avid snowboarder Mario Molina, 
  • Longtime skier John Kerry, who, as Secretary of State under President Obama, was a driving force behind the ultimate adoption of the landmark 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
  • Val Ackerman, first commissioner of the WNBA and currently commissioner of the Big East Conference. She would bring trail blazing executive experience, has a global perspective³, and, based on a brief conversation I had with her in 2018, gets it on climate change.

 

¹ FIS =The French version, Federation International de Ski
² The Outdoor Business Climate Partnership is comprised of the National Ski Areas Association, Outdoor Industry Association and Snowsports Industry America
³ Ackerman, during her days at the WNBA in the late 90s, worked closely with then-NBA commissioner David Stern, arguably the person most responsible for the explosion in the global popularity of the league.

 


 

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The GSB (Mock) Interview: Drew Brees; Standing Tall on Climate Change

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees broke Peyton Manning’s record for the most career passing yards in NFL history at a raucous Mercedes-Benz Superdome a week ago Monday. The next day, about 300 miles to the east of the Crescent City, Hurricane Michael plowed into Panama City, Florida. 

Brees, who played a crucial role as a high profile ambassador supporting the recovery of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit, had to be affected by the devastation wrought by this latest mega-storm. With that in mind, GreenSportsBlog spoke with Brees to see if he has made the connection between the Katrinas and Michaels — as well as the Harveys, Irmas and Marias of the world and climate change.

OK, we didn’t really talk to Brees — he was too busy preparing for Sunday’s game with the Baltimore Ravens.

So we’re doing the next best thing: Imagining a conversation with Brees about Katrina, Michael and climate change.

To be clear, Brees has not spoken out about climate change, at least as far as I can tell. I have no idea what he thinks on the issue. 

And even though he publicly stated that NFL players should stand for the national anthem, thus aligning himself with President Trump, a climate change denier/skeptic, that does not mean Brees is a denier/skeptic. In fact, he seems to be a thoughtful fellow, one who relies heavily on data to do his job. So, this faux interview posits that he would follow the scientific data on climate change.

This is our second imagined conversation about climate change with a mega sports star. LeBron James was the first back in 2013.

GreenSportsBlog believes that finding über athletes who are willing to engage with their fans on climate change is absolutely crucial to scaling the impact of the Green-Sports movement. That’s why we’re kinda-sorta talking to Brees, a beloved figure in Louisiana and throughout the football world.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Drew, congratulations on breaking the NFL career passing yards record held by a great son of New Orleans, Peyton Manning. In fact, Peyton sent this short congratulatory video to you.

 

 

Drew Brees: Uh, thanks, Peyton…I guess. And thank you, Lew. This is truly a team honor. Or teams. Going back to the 2006 group, my first year with the Saints, when the squad came back to New Orleans after being nomads in 2005, post-Hurricane Katrina…

 

Drew Brees

Drew Brees talks to Lisa Salters of ESPN after breaking the NFL’s career passing yards record (Photo credit: ESPN)

 

GSB: …That’s right, Katrina hit New Orleans in August, 2005, two weeks before the start of the season. So the Saints played their home games in places like Baton Rouge and San Antonio.

Drew: That’s right. The city was severely damaged — on its knees, really — and, coming in as a free agent, I was seen as damaged goods because the then-San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers released me and my surgically repaired right shoulder…

GSB: …And you were seen as too short at 6′ 0″ coming out of Purdue.

Drew: But I got very lucky — the Saints and coach Sean Payton took a chance on me and in 2006, just as the team was ready to return to a rebuilt Superdome. It’s been magical since our first game back in New Orleans, on that Monday night vs. the Atlanta Falcons.

 

 

GSB: You ain’t kidding. The 2005 Saints were 3-13 and there were rumors that the team was going to permanently leave a Katrina-battered New Orleans for San Antonio or elsewhere. But with you at the helm, and kind of taking the team and New Orleans on your back, the Saints had the most successful season in its 40 year existence, going 10-6 and reaching the NFC Championship Game.

Drew: It was incredible, so, when you think of it, the career passing yards record is really born of the spirit of New Orleans post-Katrina. And you’re kind to say I carried the city and the team. It was as much the other way around — the city lifted me. The 2006 team lifted me — guys like Reggie Bush, Marques Colston, the late, great Will Smith, and Steve Gleason, my buddy who blocked that punt vs. the Falcons in our first game back to the Dome and now courageously battling ALS.

GSB: Gleason is indeed a profile in courage. And then, in February 2010 in Super Bowl XLIV, you led the Saints to their first — and to date, only — championship, defeating the aforementioned Peyton Manning and his Indianapolis Colts.

Drew: I know I use this word a lot but it was INCREDIBLE!

GSB: As a Jets fan I hope I get one taste of “incredible” one of these years. But I digress. Let’s talk about Katrina. You arrived in New Orleans a year after the storm and almost immediately got involved in rebuilding efforts.

Drew: My wife Brittany and I chose to come here in large part because we thought we could do something special here. When we arrived in the spring of 2006, it was like a ghost town. There still were boats in the middle of roads, and cars still upside down in people’s living rooms. What was amazing was that we leaned on each other. People were trying to rebuild their homes, rebuild their lives, yet they were still coming to the Dome to cheer on the Saints because it gave them so much energy and enthusiasm…just this feeling that we’re all in this together.

GSB: Well, you put your money where your mouth is. In 2007, your Brees Dream Foundation entered into a partnership with Operation Kids to rebuild city schools, parks, playgrounds, and athletic centers. It also funded after school and mentoring programs.

Drew: It was the least I could do.

 

Drew Brees Siding

Drew Brees installs a piece of siding at a home under construction at the Habitat for Humanity Musicians Village in the 9th Ward in May, 2007, 21 months after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

 

GSB: Thankfully, from a New Orleans perspective, there hasn’t been another Katrina. But these once in a hundred year hurricanes are happening with much more frequency than that. Just last year, in a very short period of time, Harvey hit the Houston area, Irma blasted South Florida and Maria obliterated the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. And of course last month, Florence devastated the Carolinas and, the day after you broke the record, Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle as a Category IV storm.

Drew: I know. I raffled off one of the game balls from the record-setter with all of the proceeds going to Michael relief. J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans of course did incredible work in that area post-Harvey last year. You still feel kind of helpless, because there’s really nothing you can do to stop it.

 

JJ Watt Houston Business

J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans (c) with a $5,000,000 check from his Foundation, raised by donations from thousands of fans post 2017’s Hurricane Harvey. The funds went to Harvey-related relief efforts (Photo credit: Houston Business Journal)

 

GSB: Is that really true? In the short term, governments can build stronger levees, create manmade barrier islands to keep some storm water out of cities, make sure that future urban development takes the environment into account, and more.

Drew: I guess. But those things cost a lot of money.

GSB: Yes, but these storms are costing billions, and that’s not including the human costs. There is a strong case to be made that the investments in levees and the like make financial sense in light of the costs. Just ask the folks in the Netherlands, where those types of investments were made decades ago, and they have largely been successful.

Drew: If what you say is backed up by real data and the benefits of those types investments outweigh the costs then we are foolish not to investigate and make them.

GSB: The data is there in terms of investments to help areas adapt to a changing environment. But these are band-aids, really. The bigger problem is the increased frequency of severe hurricanes. Do you think human-caused climate change is having an impact?

Drew: Well, I’m going to start by saying I’m not a scientist BUT don’t worry, Lew, I’m not going to use that as a dodge.

GSB: Thank YOU!!

Drew: No problem. Because even though I am a man of deep faith I also am a man who appreciates science and data — the two can definitely co-exist in my mind. So when I read that 97 percent of climate scientists say climate change is real and human caused, that gets my attention. If our analytics department told me that the Baltimore Ravens defense, our opponent this Sunday, is going to blitz 97 percent of the time when we lined up a certain way, you bet we will call a play to counteract that blitz. Or if 97 percent of doctors studying the brains of deceased NFL players say that brain trauma from football caused the players to suffer from CTE

GSB: …Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma…

Drew …I would believe that there’s a strong link between football and CTE. That’s why, while I love football and think it’s the greatest game in the world, I think kids should not play tackle football until they’re of high school age so their brains and bodies are more developed. Play flag football until then. But I digress. The data and the science are clear: Climate change is real and it’s human caused and it’s having a disastrous effect now on my city and on coastal cities all over the United States and elsewhere.

GSB: So what should we do about it?

Drew: Great question. I have to admit I need to study the potential remedies. I’m a small government conservative kind of guy but, as with the idea of building levees, if public investment can yield a positive return on climate, I’d be open to it.

GSB: How about a market-based, revenue neutral price on carbon that is being advocated by a group called the Climate Leadership Council (CLC), led by Republican elder statesmen like James Baker and George Shultz? Or a similar plan as proposed by Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a group with which I volunteer. The gist of both is that a fee would be placed on carbon-based fuels (coal, natural gas, oil) at the mine, well, or border. The money raised from that fee would be returned to U.S. households in the form of a monthly dividend rather than going to the Treasury. Higher prices on gas and other products due to the fee would encourage citizens to find and demand lower carbon options and accelerate the growth of the clean economy.

Drew: Now that’s a playbook I’d like to dive into. After the season, of course.

GSB: I’ll be happy to send you some info. I’ll wait until after February 3, the date of Super Bowl LIII at the LEED Platinum Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. One more question: Do you guys ever talk about climate change in the locker room? Say after Harvey or Maria hit?

Drew: Maybe a couple of guys mention it here or there but it really didn’t bubble up after those storms. We of course talk about the national anthem — I believe that everyone should stand despite the fact that I also believe that African Americans are often unfairly treated by police — and we talk about healthcare, both for NFL players and everyone else, and other issues. But climate change? Not that much.

GSB: What do you think would change that?

Drew: Truth is, I don’t have a real answer. I hate to say it but it may take a few more Katrinas.

 


 

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