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AMERICAN CENTURY CHAMPIONSHIP MEDIA CONFERENCE
May 28, 2009
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for joining. We are on with Charles who is playing in his 13th American Century Championship, and Charles is covering the NBA Eastern Conference finals for TNT. Hank Haney, the renowned swing Coach of Tiger Woods and Charles Barkley as chronicled in the acclaimed Golf Channel series, the Haney Project. Trent Dilfer, the Super Bowl XXXV Champion quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. Now retired to an NFL analyst role with ESPN. And Jon Miller, Executive Vice President of NBC Sports which owns and operates the event, now in its last Mark 20th year.
For the fourth year in a row, the Lance Armstrong Foundation is the official charity. This year the tournament will focus specifically on the Live Strong Global Cancer campaign. Trent Dilfer is the recipient this year of the John Brodie Award presented each year to an individual who has excelled in a chosen field and in the sport of golf.
Let me start with a question for Jon Miller. Jon, we're 20 years in, can you give us a quick reprise of how the event came about 20 years ago?
JON MILLER: Sure, in 1989 NBC made the decision to watch away from Major League Baseball. And Dick Ebersol was the new CEO of NBC Sports, and basically came and said we've got to find some programming to fill the void. So we looked at a lot of different things. Met with a man named Jim Corvallis who came up with this idea.
We put together the first Celebrity Golf Championship in Lake Tahoe in the summer of 1990 with 48 players and $400,000. 20 years later you can see where we are.
It's been a tremendous success. It continues to get bigger every year. We have a great field. We raise a tremendous amount in charity. We give a lot back to the local community. So it's something people circle on their calendar every year, so we're pretty happy with it.
Q. Can you just tick off some of the players, the newcomers and the big named guys and then we'll get to the Q & A?
JON MILLER: The biggest names we've got coming back are obviously Charles, Michael Jordan is back. Trent's back, Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, Jerry Rice, Dale Jarrett from NASCAR, and Mario Lemieux are back, along with Dan Marino, L.T., Jon Elway. Those are some of our regulars who are back.
Then we've got some tremendous newcomers this year we're excited to welcome. We have Alonzo Mourning, Matt Ryan and Matt Cassel and Matt Schwab. We have all three Matts, starting quarterbacks in the NFL.
Shane battier, Ozzie Smith, Jack Del Rio, Rodney Harrison, A.J. Hawk, so we've got a good group of newcomers coming as well.
Q. The Haney Project, obviously a very popular affair. And we're all talking about how we're looking forward to seeing you in action in Tahoe. How did that go for you?
CHARLES BARKLEY: It was one of the great experiences of my life to be honest with you guys. You know, you think about it, it's not -- a guy like me is not ever going to get a chance to work with a Coach of Hank's magnitude for an extended period of time. And I thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
It was a lot of work, I loved it. But the way I looked at it was, come on on on, for a regular hack like myself to spend time with Hank, that was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I loved it.
Q. What did Hank -- what did Tiger Woods tell you about Hank Haney?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, he told me that Hank wants to work. Hank, the thing that surprised me the most about the show was how much time I spent with Hank. When we were doing the show, it took about two days to do one episode.
When we were on the driving range from 9:00 o'clock in the morning, like 6:00 or 7:00, 8:00 at night. And Hank was with me the entire time. You would think like because when I first thought about it, I thought Hank's probably going to be there and going to go and do some other stuff.
But I can tell you, I think he spent 100% of the time with me when we were filming the show. And that surprised me to be honest with you.
Q. You're usually in the hunt for the American Century Championship, and you came close to winning the tournament in '05. I think you shot a 71 that year or 72 beating out Rick who got a 71. Michael Jordan once said that after he retired, he had a better chance of winning this championship. Now that you're retired, Trent, what will you be doing this year that will enhance your chances of winning?
TRENT DILFER: Well, I've given that a lot of thought. I watched John Elway retire from football, and take off, and Mario Lemieux, and Michael, and some others, Chris Chandler. What I recognized early on was we all put so much pressure on ourselves to perform at a high level now that we can make golf more of a priority. And it really has backfired for most guys. I think Chris is the only one that played that final day with them.
What I realized is your expectations change. When you're a professional athlete and you're playing golf as a hobby even though it's competitive, you're competitive. You're always sharp competitively because you need to be for your sport.
But when you become a golfer, all of a sudden you lose a little bit of that competitive edge and put too high of expectations on yourself. So what I've done this off-season is invested a lot of time into my golf game practicing. I don't want to make that mistake.
I don't want to go there thinking this is my first round of football. I've had more time to practice and play, I should play well. Instead you I want to sharpen my competitive skills. So when I get there, my number one goal for this tournament is for 54 holes. To think my way around the golf course and not make any mental errors. If I can do that, I have the game that can hold up, and I'll have a chance on the back nine come Sunday.
Q. Charles, when you were playing basketball, and you went into an enemy arena with 20,000 people hoping you would fail. From what I've read on the project, everywhere you go, no matter if those people were your fans or basketball player or not, people just want you to succeed on on the golf course. What does that tell you about you, about golf, about the nature of people and sports fans?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, number one, that's a great question. What I've always said, 90% of the fans are great. And 10% are jack asses. But 90% of the fans are fantastic.
I've got to admit, I've been really shocked traveling around the country that people really want to see me do better.
The number one comment I got was I can't believe somebody of your magnitude would put himself on the line like that. That was really the nicest compliment. People were surprised that somebody at my level of success that's in my life would basically put himself in that situation where you can be humiliated on on a weekly basis.
And everybody was really, really wishing me luck. You know, the thing that's funny though, I've got to tell you one thing that's funny. I get more golf tips than any person in the world. I mean, when I go to the dry cleaner, the guys are trying to help me. When I'm walking through the super market, they wish me luck. Everybody wants me to try. I kind of giggle about it every single time under my breath.
But it is amazing. Little old ladies walking the street want to give me advice, and it makes me laugh. Everybody gives me golf advice. It's hilarious.
Q. What was your read on on Charles and his ability to improve and perform in Lake Tahoe?
HANK HANEY: Wow, it was a big hill to climb. There's no doubt about it. Charles game was in a bad way. But I never had anybody work as hard as Charles did. The one that worked so hard was Tiger. He's improved a lot. He has to take it to the course still. That's an issue.
I think there was a misconception maybe before that he hit it just great on the range. But I mean, he hits it really good on the range now a lot of times. He has flashes of brilliance on the course, which tells me I know it's in there, I know he can do it. It's just hard.
The game is not easy to change. But you know, my expectation was to try to get Charles to play and enjoy the game. He loves to play, he loves to golf, and golf loves him. You see all the people that watch him play. They wish him luck. I mean, who else has had 4 million people go on You Tube and look at their golf swing?
They all want him to do good. And it's pretty neat to see. I know that he's going to do better, but hopefully I can get him tuned up. So when he goes up there to Tahoe he might surprise a few people.
Q. Just curious how far you came along. I mean, when you started this out, you probably had an expectation level once it was over. And I'm wondering if you reached that?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, I didn't reach my expectations. But I tell you what, I've got a greater appreciation for pro golfers.
You think about it, we hit a minimum of 1,000 golf balls a day. I don't think there's any other sport where you can do something that much and not get better quicker. If you understand what I said.
Now I think if you went out and shot 1,000 jump shots a day, you'd see more of an improvement at a quicker pace. I watch a lot of golf, read a lot about golf. And you see guys that are actually on tour who -- you see Adam Scott who missed like five cuts in a row. You're like Adam Scott missed five cuts in a row? And you stop to think man, this is a really hard game.
I think we get spoiled with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, number one, I have to admit, I rally want to give my best to Phil Mickelson. When I played I became good friends with Phil because Amy was a dancer at the time. And I really just want to give my blessings and let them know they've got my thoughts and prayers first and foremost.
But, man, it's just a hard game. You look at everything Sergio Garcia's going through right now. So my appreciation for golfers and what they go through, I really appreciate them even more now. I always have. I appreciate them even more now.
Q. I'm wondering if you went out on a regular golf course now -- I caddied for you once down in Lake Tahoe?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Yeah, yeah, I appreciate that, too.
Q. It was a lot of fun. But are you capable of going out right now and shooting in the 80s or 90s on a golf course?
CHARLES BARKLEY: No, no. But I tell you what, I am really looking forward to the American Century. I think I'm going to play better, to be honest with you. I do. I think that the one thing that Hank has done is I actually have an idea of what I'm trying to do.
Can I do it? No. But at least I have an idea of what I'm trying to do.
I think that most people think you just take the club back and hit the ball. But, you know, there are certain things you're trying to do from there is a certain position the club has to be in to make good shots. So I'm looking forward to Lake Tahoe. I think I'm going to play -- I think I'm going to play better than I have in the last few years. How about that?
Q. Being that the game is mental and you've been talking about that. Those of you coming from other sports and now moving into golf, I noticed that Charles trash talking is a little bit of something you enjoy. Is there any advantage that you guys have in that that golf doesn't normally have trash talking? And is there a favorite phrase that you guys like to utilize?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, clearly you've never played golf with Tiger Woods if you don't think trash talking is out there. Let me tell you something, you can ask Trent. The only reason -- the best part of sports, number one is winning. The second best part is trash talking with your teammates. But they're trash talking in every single sport.
Let me tell you something, I played golf with Phil Mickelson, Tom Lehman, Billy Mayfair, Dudley Hart. I've played with a lot of pros. And if you don't think there is some trash talking going on out there, you're crazy.
Clearly, when you're in a tournament there is no trash talking. But you see when they talk about the practice rounds every week leading up to a tournament. If you don't think there is money changing hands and there is some trash talking and bragging rights, then that's one of the best things about sports is the trash talking.
TRENT DILFER: I would totally agree with that. Talking trash to your teammates is the second best thing. I've played golf with PGA guys and I've played with a ton of tour players. What I've learned is the guys that can really play, the guys you'll see on the PGA TOUR are the guys that do trash talk.
Guys that have great swings and can role roll the ball smooth but don't have that in them, very few can make it. The thing is on the golf course they can capture momentum and bottle it up a little bit. It's showing a little arrogance. Showing that you believe in yourself.
And there's a lot of days that you don't have your A-game in this sport, but you can talk yourself into getting into the hole. I agree with Charles. The guys I've played with, and the fierce competitors on the golf course are the ones that will look at you and say, hey, watch me roll this 6-iron on the back left pin. They pull it off and flick the club at you just to let you know they can execute it.
CHARLES BARKLEY: I'm going to pay you back a little bit. I think the guys who can play, who trash talk, I think the only thing that separates, first of all, in professional sports everybody's a good player. But the thing that makes great players superstars is their supreme confidence and their belief in themselves and the trash talking.
Q. As you prepare for Tahoe again, whenever you're up there playing even if you're not playing well, you seem to have a good time. You're with everybody and joking. Is that just a facade inside or are you about to lose it sometimes up on there?
CHARLES BARKLEY: No, I'm never about to lose it. I've got a good life. If the only thing I've got going bad in my life is about golf. I tell people -- man, I've got one of the greatest lives a person could possibly ever have. It's not a facade.
I mean, think about it. I'm playing golf with Trent Dilfer, Emmitt Smith. Walking 18 holes in Lake Tahoe on a beautiful golf course on a beautiful sunny day. I mean, the next day I'm playing with Mario Lemieux and Michael Jordan. I mean, that don't suck now. That doesn't suck.
I mean, I'm very realistic. Man, I've got a great, great life. Do I suck at golf? Yeah. But like the other 99.9% of my life is pretty damn good.
JON MILLER: There's never been a player who we've had in the 20-year history of the event who has given as much back as Charles has both to the community and to the event. Whether it's donating money when the fire went through there a couple he years ago, or taking time out to work with kids who are there and the volunteers. I mean, I think that the other players can really look at Charles as an example of the kind of guy that we want to have out there.
So that's one of the reasons why the event has been so successful and why the community embraces it so much. We're not as big as we are without Charles.
Q. You've always been one of the fan favorites not only because you're generous with your time, but you always seem to be out there just having a good time. I'm wondering with your new swing, do you feel any pressure to do well? Not necessarily to compete, but to do well for all your fans that want you to do well. If so, are you going to go to bed early instead of hanging out and holding court at the parties afterwards? And if I could follow up with also, in there with the trash talking, who do you think you're actually going to beat this year?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, you know, one of my goals is to win the Black Masters one year. That's my only goal. You know, he we call Lake Tahoe the Black Masters. Because we have our own tournament. You got to be a quarterback or hockey player, so the black guys we joke around we call it the Black Masters.
You know, one of these days I'd like to win the Black Masters. That's my lifetime goal as far as golf goes.
Now I'm never going to change the sport. Man, Lake Tahoe is a beautiful place. The people are fantastic. We sing karaoke every night. You ask Jon Miller. If you can see Tony Romo -- Marcus Allen is the karaoke king, just for the record. We've got Jerry Rice, and all those guys up there singing karaoke. It is crazy every night. Guys are singing karaoke.
We sing karaoke for three or four hours. And I know the casino has like 3,000 people in the bar watching us do karaoke. And I think they get pissed because people aren't gambling, but it is so cool. You've got Roethlisberger up there singing. But it's just a wonderful time.
I mean, think about it, it ain't like going to bed at 10:00 o'clock. Ain't like I'm going to lose the tournament because I didn't get a good night's sleep.
Now I will admit this. Hypothetically in the next few years if I'm leading the Black Masters one night, you can be damn sure I'm going to go to bed and try to get the major.
Q. Without Cheech Marin and Chris Webb, who do you think you're going to beat besides maybe Kevin kneel an?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, you know what, I talk Alonzo Mourning into doing this thing. I'm trying to talk Dwyane Wade into doing it. Dwyane just started taking lessons. I was talking to him and saying man, you should come to Lake Tahoe.
I had talked to Alonzo Mourning earlier in the year about coming, and he decided to come. I said you've got to understand something. The people up there are so fantastic, it ain't about winning a tournament.
I mean, Trent got a turn, Billy Joe Toliver. It's about realistically. Let's be realistic. Probably five to ten guys who have a legitimate shot at winning this thing. Everybody else is there to have a good time and socialize. Going out on the boat.
You know, Jim and them took me out on on the boat the last couple of years. I had a blast. But let's be realistic. There are only about ten guys who can probably win this thing.
Q. Well, as far as trash talking goes, are we going to get a name of somebody that you're calling out that's below you on the leaderboard?
CHARLES BARKLEY: I've got to see the swings first. I can't wait to see Alonzo Mourning up there. You know, Chris Webber, he actually worried about his golf. I'm like, Chris, you go to Tahoe to have fun. It ain't going to change your life if you come in and you're battling me on the golf course. Just come up there and have fun.
That's what I'm trying to talk to Dwyane Wade about. Nobody cares how you play golf. Get over yourself. Come up there. It will be great for the fans. It will be great for TV. We raise a ton of money for charity. We raise a ton of money for charity.
JON MILLER: We're grateful you come.
CHARLES BARKLEY: Yeah, it's cool, you know. The last couple of years I did the $200,000 for the fire victims up there. That to me is worth the trip. Because until I went I didn't think it was appropriate a few years ago, two years ago to come up there and lollygag around and walk around on the golf course and have fun in the casino at night when those people's houses had just burned down.
When Jon Miller and the guys gave me the camera to go up there and visit all the fire victims. I tell you what, it was one of the most devastating things in my life. I had never seen that type of devastation that when you see somebody's house burn down. These houses were flatter than pancakes. You know, sometimes you see floods and things like that, there are certain things you can salvage in a house. Even with a tornado or a hurricane.
But when we walked around and those houses were as flat as pancakes. Those people were so upset. I wanted to donate $100,000 to them. And I donated another $100,000 to them because those people are fantastic. I wanted to do something nice and significant for them.
Q. I remember how grateful everyone was. Thank you.
CHARLES BARKLEY: Thank you very much. I'll see you in a month.
Q. If a guy goes up there in the summer and he's not drinking and he's not gambling, what do you do in Tahoe?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, you play golf. You know, I like to drink. I have a fine time drinking. I haven't missed the gambling, to be honest with you. I needed to take a break from gambling because I was losing, you know.
Nobody ever complains about gambling when you're winning. I've never heard a guy say, hey, I'm winning too much money I'm going to quit gambling. But my gambling had gotten to be a problem. I said I was going to take some time off. I haven't missed it at all.
Actually, the only time I miss it is during football season not calling my bookie every Saturday and Sunday. That's the only time I ever miss it.
But as far as the casino goes, I haven't missed it. And I'm going to start gambling again whenever I get ready, to be honest with you. You know, I just I just need to take a break, catch your breath. You know, I was losing too much money. Not that I was broke or anything, but, you know, I was just losing. I was just like sometimes you have to just step back and take a break.
But that's my opinion. That ain't got nothing to do with anybody else. That's just my thing. I was gambling too much, losing too much money. But like I said, I'm going to take a break from gambling. I like to gamble. When I'm ready to go back to gambling, I will.
Q. Most of the questions have been asked of you. How is Neil Hartman's game, really? And what do you think the Sixers are going to do or should do in this job search of theirs?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, when I'm watching golf they always talk about tempo. Neil Hartman has no clue what tempo is. He's just swinging as hard as he possibly can every single time. He kills that tempo theory.
I mean, when you play golf with Neil, he almost grunts he's swinging so hard.
Q. He does, you're right?
CHARLES BARKLEY: He grunts he's swinging at it so hard.
Q. He's a good guy to have in your scramble though?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Oh, he's great in a scramble. He's great on a scramble. You know, the Sixers I thought they should have -- I think Eddie Jordan would be a fine choice. I think they're going to have a good, solid team.
They're pretty much stuck with the team they've got for the next few years because they're paying guys so much money. But I think Eddie Jordan would be a good coach. He did a good job with the Washington team. They probably overachieved. Him getting to the playoffs every year.
People think you deserve to go to the playoffs, but that's not true. But I think Eddie would be a good Coach for the Sixers. And tell Leo he did a good job this year. I've got to give him credit. But I hope they hire Eddie Jordan.
Q. My question is what was the most unusual thing Hank made you do during the filming of the show. And is he going to accompany you to Lake Tahoe for the tournament?
CHARLES BARKLEY: No, Hank will probably be busy. I think it's always like the week of the British Open on. You know, I don't think anything is really unusual, to be honest with you.
I think people have no idea how hard hitting 1,000 golf balls a day is. Like I said, we hit a minimum of 1,000 golf balls a day. It was physically -- it was physically demanding, but mentally demanding because Hank was talking to on me the entire time so my brain was pretty much fried by the end of the day. You're trying so hard to concentrate on on different things. One time he tells you to do something. The next time he tells you to do something.
But I really got an appreciation for these guys. I knew about Tiger's ethic. I heard about Vijay Singh's, and it was like these guys do this every day? And the way we did the show, we got together every couple weeks and did a few shows together. So I hit over 1,000 balls for a couple of days.
My admiration for Tiger and Vijay Singh, they do that every day. So to do that every day, that's really impressive.
Q. Hank, on Charles swing, he said during the course of the show that the hitch of his swing was not mental it was a physical problem and could be corrected that way. I was wondering if having gone through the show if you still feel that way? And also, Charles, your opinion on that?
HANK HANEY: Well, every mistake is physical and mental to a certain degree. You're telling yourself what you're trying to do, you have to think about what you're doing. I really don't like to think that when people say, oh, this guy's got a mental problem.
I mean, Charles is one of the greatest athletes of all time obviously, in his sport. You just can't tell me that someone that is that great mentally at one sport can't translate it to another sport.
So I'm not -- I'm not a huge believer in the mental part, but obviously it does play a role. But it's just steps, you know. Everybody's looking at Charles game they're looking for a light switch you turn. It's just not realistic. That's not life. I mean, nothing happens like that. When you look at his expectations. I think Charles said it best, he's going to play better than he's played in years past. And I'm 100% confident in that.
Now is that what he would hope for or what I would hope for? Maybe not, but it is progress. And progress, you know, I'm just a believer that if you just make enough steps in the positive direction, you can cover a lot of ground over a period of time. You know, some of it is physical, some of it is mental.
But the first thing is I rally feel like when he makes obviously a better swing -- that ball doesn't know what you're thinking. The ball just does what the club does to it. If you make a decent swing, you're going to hit a decent shot.
CHARLES BARKLEY: And I really, and I've said this perfectly it's really cool working with Hank for the fact of how much time and effort he put into me. Because when we first started doing the show we were on the range from 9:00 o'clock in the morning to 7:00 or 8:00 at night. And he spent the entire time there with me.
And I felt bad, to be honest with you, because I didn't improve more for him because I was surprised how much time we spent together. I really was. It was fun. I got a lot of help from guys down at his place in Dallas, I mean for his teeing up balls and things like that. And they actually worked with me on every single swing. He was there the whole time. I really appreciate him doing that. I really do.
Like I say, a regular person like me is never going to get that type of hand's on instruction, to be honest with you. I don't think -- you know, you talk about David Leadbetter, Butch Harmon, Hank Haney, I don't think a regular person is going to get a great instructor to spend 12 hours a day with them working on their swing and talking about golf.
For Hank to take the time to do that, it was really cool for me. And I thank him again.
Q. Trent, congrats on getting the Brodie Award this year. How did you feel when they told you you were this year's recipient? And do you think this might be the year that J.B. gets the senior's nod for the Hall of Fame?
TRENT DILFER: Well, first of all, I was really humbled for a lot of reasons. Mainly because I've admired John for so long. J.B. took me under his wings probably my second or third year in Tampa. We were playing in a golf tournament in the off-season in Florida. He didn't like my progression as a quarterback, and really invested some time into me.
As a football player, a golfer, a man, I tell the story of playing the tournament for black diamond. And we just got done playing a round of golf. We go to the putting green and everybody else goes up to the lounge to have drinks and hor d'oeuvres. And J.B. has me with my golf spikes taking drops and throwing the football because he wants to fix something in my football game.
He's just invested so much into me personally over the years. When I signed with 49ers I asked if I could take his number out of retirement to wear it in his honor, and they allowed me to do that. That was two of the greatest years. Every time I put that jersey on and thought about J.B., it was really special to me. It was special to the family as well.
So to win an award that's named after him, it's really -- I know there's Super Bowls and Pro Bowls and all these other accolades in the sport. But this is at the top of the list for me. Just so humbled by it.
Then you look at who the other recipients are. Mario Lemieux, John Elway, Rick Rhoden, three Giants in their sports. Three awesome human beings. To be on that list, I'm just very fired up. I always go to the American Century Championship. And with a special feeling this year more so than ever.
I live part-time up there. And it's the greatest week of the calendar year in my opinion. I just to add this to the week is incredibly flattered by it.
And yes, I've been fighting for him for the last five years to get into the Hall of Fame. I think it's absolutely ridiculous that he's not in there. I've tried to fight that battle for so many times, but for some reason people just don't listen.
Q. I wanted to ask you after the New Year's eve incident that you had if you've made some lifestyle I changes since then?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Not at all, man. I like to drink, I've just got to be really careful when it comes to drinking and driving. You know, it was a good thing.
It was a great thing for me because, you know, you think about I've been in the NBA since 1984. So we're talking 25 years. So let's just say going out to dinner or going out with your friends probably 100 times, 200 times a year I've had something to drink and driven. So to never hurt myself or anybody and never get a D.U.I. I was very lucky and fortunate.
This thing just called me, you know what, that's stupid of you to on drink and drive. And you can't do that again, that's unacceptable.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
Q. Last year Charles, Harrah's had you listed at 500-1. This year they have you listed at 4 '99-1.
CHARLES BARKLEY: Hey, you know what, I'm going down. Hey, listen, I told you, my goal is I just got to get my game to peak at the right time.
End of FastScripts