NBC SPORTSCASTER JIMMY ROBERTS has written his first book, BREAKING THE SLUMP: How Great Players Survive Their Darkest Moments in Golf − and What You Can Learn from Them.
Except for Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan, Jimmy interviewed everyone on his wish list, and the Table of Contents reads like a Who’s Who of golf, past and present. He even interviewed two presidents for the book.
With NBC since 2000, Jimmy is an award-winning sportscaster who has covered a variety of sports for three networks, including the Olympic Games and, of course, golf. He has the enviable and sometimes unenviable job of interviewing players as they come off the golf course.
He recently answered my questions in an e-mail exchange.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: How did this book come about?
JIMMY ROBERTS: This book came about because my own golf game was miserable, and I had the realization that there are two types of golfers in the world: those who’ve had a slump and those who are going to have a slump. And if that was the case, why not go seek advice from the most successful people, not only in the game, but in other walks of life who love the game?
ARMCHAIR GOLF: How did you choose the players?
JIMMY ROBERTS: I made a wish list, and there were only two people I couldn’t get: Tiger and Michael Jordan. Asked both. Tiger − actually his representative − said no, because he has a deal in place with another publisher. Jordan said yes, but we seemed to have trouble making it work in terms of the time commitment that was necessary and the potential schedule.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: Why do you think these great players were so forthcoming about such a difficult subject?
JIMMY ROBERTS: I think it was somewhat therapeutic. Also, each interview took at least an hour, so the subjects likely had a sense that they weren’t going to be in and out. They settled in and had a chance to think about the topic. I think it also wasn’t such a familiar and well tread topic to them. I’m not sure they had any pat answers. I’d like to think the answers were also the product of a good discussion, which always seems to yield the most worthy content.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: What was it like playing golf with Greg Norman?
JIMMY ROBERTS: Intimidating. But once we got to playing, I settled down. He couldn’t have been any nicer or less judgmental. No matter how badly I felt I was playing though, I took comfort in knowing that he’d seen swings a lot worse than mine in the many pro-ams in which he’s played. It helped that I’ve known Greg for a long time.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: As a golfer, what was your biggest takeaway from talking to the greats about slumps?
JIMMY ROBERTS: If I had to pick one, it would be something Arnold Palmer told me: Slow down. What in life wouldn’t we do better if we just did it a little bit more deliberately? Leave it to Maltbie though to put that in plain English: “Your backswing’s just foreplay,” he told me. “Nobody ever hit the ball with their backswing. SLOW DOWN!”
ARMCHAIR GOLF: When you’re doing on-course interviews, what does “a good day at the office” look like? How about a “tough day”?
JIMMY ROBERTS: A good day at the office is talking to a thoughtful player after an eventful day. Maybe a Briny Baird or a Paul Goydos. A tough day is talking to someone who hasn’t played well. I don’t enjoy rehashing someone else’s misery. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s a story.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: You’ve known Johnny Miller both as a player and broadcast colleague. He can be a bit of a lightning rod. What might people not “get” about Johnny?
JIMMY ROBERTS: That he’s one of the most caring, thoughtful and sensitive people you’ll ever meet. Example from the book: Johnny had a rough time as a player in the late 70’s. He was an inch from quitting competitive golf when he realized that would be a horrible example to set for his kids, or as he put it: “If I quit, I’d basically be saying to them: ‘If you encounter adversity, the way to handle it is to quit.’ Bad lesson.”
ARMCHAIR GOLF: What’s the current state of your golf game? Where and how often do you play?
JIMMY ROBERTS: The current state of my golf game is basically non existent. I have some back problems and I’m headed for surgery, so I haven’t played since the fall. Hopefully, if things go okay, I’ll be back playing at my home club (Westchester Country Club, in Harrison, NY) by mid summer.
−The Armchair Golfer