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April 11, 2006 | Read comments | Post a comment

The Wreckage of 'Spaz'

Tiger Woods told CBS on Sunday: "As good as I hit it, that's as bad as I putted and it's frustrating, because I felt so in control of my ball from tee to green, and once I got on the green I was a spaz."

San Diego crip Cyndi Jones heard him say it on live TV; she was watching. Lots of other folks heard it, too.

Then some odd stuff happened.

The Los Angeles Times simply changed Woods' quote -- changing "spaz" to "wreck." Or so reports the London daily The Telegraph.

The British press has been all over the story. The U. S. media seemingly simply helped Woods out of a potentially embarrassing situation. And everything in the U.S. has been . . . real quiet.

Across the pond, it's a big story: Woods in the dock over 'spaz' comment (Times Online, UK ) | Tiger under fire (Manchester Evening News, UK ) | Fury over Tiger 'spaz' jibe (The Sun, UK ) | (Scotsman, United Kingdom ) | RESULT! - WOODS GOOF A FINE MESS (Mirror.co.uk, UK ). And Down Under, we got Woods taken to task for 'spastic' comment (Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand ).

We wouldn't even have known that U.S. news media changed Tiger's words had it not been for a more vigilant -- or less pandering -- international press: US media cover up Tiger's Augusta gaffe (Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom ) | Say what? Media erase Tiger's gaffe (Sydney Morning Herald, Australia ) | Tiger the 'spaz': not for print (The Age, Australia ) .

Lewine Mair writes in the Telegraph: "America's leading newspapers yesterday helped Tiger Woods evade controversy by ignoring his use of the word 'spaz' to describe his poor putting in the final round of the Masters at Augusta. The LA Times changed the word to 'wreck' while the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe all expunged the word completely."


The howls came, not surprisingly, from our media-savvy crip counterparts. Leading the charge, ironically -- or perhaps fittingly -- was the nonprofit "charity" (the Brits' word) SCOPE, which in the past was named the Spastics Society -- a group somewhat akin to our United Cerebral Palsy group.

Ouch! has the story here . Yes, there should be controversy. Yes, Tiger should apologize . And he did: Woods says sorry for 'offensive' remark (Scotsman, United Kingdom ) | Woods apologises over remark (TVNZ, New Zealand ) | TIGER WOODS last night apologised for saying he putted like "a ... (Mirror.co.uk, UK ) | TIGER FOOD FOR THOUGHT (Mirror.co.uk, UK ) | Tiger: I'm so sorry (The Sun, UK ) | TIGER SORRY FOR 'SPAZ' COMMENT (Mirror.co.uk, UK ).

Over here in the U.S. it's as though none of it happened. Which, I suppose, is how the U. S. media wanted it.

The U.S. crip movement is not only last out of the gate again, it's not even at the gate, as far as I can tell.

Seems U.S. crips just don't care if folks use the word "spaz." (Or it's possible they don't know about it, given that the U.S. media were quick to cleanse Tiger's mouth for him.) The same dissonance occurred back in the fall with Colours' "Spazz" line of wheelchairs. It caused an uproar in Britain. Nary a peep here.

The single reference I could find to any of this in the U.S. media was a story this morning from the San Jose Mercury News with the coyly snippy headline Verbally challenged: WOODS' CHOICE OF WORDS UPSETS BRITISH : "Those blokes in London sure got their knickers in a twist off that cad Tiger," began Mercury News reporter John Ryan's story, going on to say only that "During his CBS interview Sunday at the Masters, Tiger Woods explained his downfall by saying, 'Once I got on the green, I was a spaz.' It went mostly without notice or comment stateside."

Well, yes.

The BBC disability website Ouch! would be right to wonder why U. S. crips seem to care so little about celebs using disability slurs.

Not a single U.S. crip group seems to have noticed anything, much less complained.

Bigoted? Not Woods!

I've made a which-is-worse? list, but I can't decide which one belongs in the No. 1 position:

  • Woods hadn't a clue he'd said anything wrong.
  • Nobody in the U.S. crip community said a word, or seemed to care.
  • The media changed a quote.

Think about that last one for a minute.

As we leave this topic, try to picture the furor that we'd be reading about in the U.S. had the media expunged the "N" word from a bigot's mouth. Give it some thought. Then add a comment here, would ya?

Posted by mjohnson on April 11, 2006 06:22 PM


I didn't know a thing about it - so how am I to complain. I wonder if this is some ways a good thing though. Is this evidence that the media is finally getting what is offensive? Should they have changed a quote - no, but should they have changed the word and placed it outside the quote - perhaps.

Posted by: Susan Fitzmaurice on April 12, 2006 10:29 AM

"Spaz" doesn't hit me as a slur, so yes I am behind the times...

What worries me is the question that has ramifications inside our community and outside too...

Why was it ok for them to change that word? About *any* story, not just ours.

Posted by: imfunnytoo on April 12, 2006 08:34 PM

Ahh,whats in a word? 'Spaz',now there's a word the crip community can get it's bite into.

I'm a 50 years old gimp,disabled,handiabled,cripple,crip,
handicap,etc. The word,ain't the issue.
It's the context that matters. Does "spaz"
have a negative defination with the world tody?

Let's not be overly sensitive about a word.
Let us consider the words "gay","tard" "pwned"

Each of these have negative views.
What if Tiger Woods said: I played as a gay tard
and got pwned?

Posted by: Harry on April 12, 2006 10:43 PM

From this side of the pond (GB) the US media look like they have undertaken an Orwellian level of news management.

The story was passed off over here that in the US the term "Spaz" is not seen as offensive. Really?! I think we are all having the wool pulled over our eyes. Hard to tell the Wood from the trees on this one though.

On a related point many of us in GB look to the US as the leading light on disabilty equality. Maybe we have to revise our opinions now.

Posted by: David S on April 13, 2006 07:50 AM

Davis S. says,

many of us in GB look to the US as the leading light on disabilty equality. Maybe we have to revise our opinions now.

Maybe a decade ago the U.S. was the leading light -- I think you guys have pulled ahead, though. Certainly better on speaking out on public issues!

Posted by: Mary Johnson on April 13, 2006 10:42 AM

Everyday people use words casually whcih may offfend someone.
Let's quit being hyper sensitized to every passing comment.
Imagine what your world would be like if everyword you said was
scrutinized by a global press confference?

Besides, Tiger has devoted more hard money to people with
disabilities than most pro sport figurres.

Posted by: Ed G on April 13, 2006 06:00 PM

I'm from the UK and have cerebral palsy. My take on it? First, I'm amazed how quickly the US media covered up for him! I;m not hypersensitive - but yup, I take it as an insult. I don't care that Mr Woods donates 'hard money' to disabled charities -just because he forks over wads of cash, it doesn't give him the right to use the 's' word! Or to be arrogant. Just because he's a sportsman and a public figure, doesn't mean he should not have respect, which he clearly does not. And the US press should be ashamed of itself...

Posted by: jayne turner on April 17, 2006 12:00 PM

Huh. This is honestly the first I've heard of this (which makes sense if the media has been caught altering the quote). I must say, though, that the word "spaz" has been used where I live (the American midwest) for many years to mean a klutz or something similar. So the remark that many people in the US don't see it to be offensive seems like a pretty accurate one from my point of view. I have no trouble seeing where Tiger Woods might use that word casually and have no idea that it would offend others - it certainly wouldn't have occurred to me, and I am generally quite careful about that sort of thing.

NOW, the word "crip" on the other hand, which is used several times in this artcle, would cause a LOT of bad feeling around here for two different reasons - one, from disabled folks and two, from city folks who associate that word with a notorious gang. Whatever newspaper in the US changed the quote should indeed be ashamed - in the meantime, people here should not assume that Mr. Woods is being insensitive and arrogent by using a word that may or may not be offensive where he is from. Especially if the article that does the chiding is using an equally offensive word in response.

Posted by: Artchick on April 24, 2006 05:58 PM

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