Posted by: Dave | March 29, 2010

Our Tiger is a Pig


 

     The Tiger has fallen. The greatest athlete of our generation has now lost hundreds of millions of dollars, ruined his marriage, and destroyed his reputation before millions of previously admiring fans all over the world. I was one of those fans. I was one of the legions of adult males who rarely watched golf on television, but since the advent of The Tiger, would find myself riveted to the screen watching his victories pile up in amazing fashion.

     I love sports, while simultaneously nurturing a disdain for most athletes. I never was one, and couldn’t have been one despite my wildest fantasies to the contrary. I am jealous. So I watch the super-human endeavors of these gifted and driven individuals, while sometimes despising them for their talents and the subsequent fame and success. And when they fall, usually due to some thoughtless act or character flaw, I am embarrassed to admit, I sometimes derive a perverse pleasure in their demise. I smile as I watch them lose their money and fame as they do the perp walk of disgrace into oblivion.

But Tiger was different. Here was an athlete who I could applaud not only for his abilities but also for who he is. Tiger had it all: the son of an Army officer, mixed race, overcoming racism to beat rich white kids at their own game. And Tiger didn’t have the baggage that is so frequently associated with many successful black athletes – the bling, or the thuggery, for instance, of the likes of Iverson and Vick.

     This is an unusual occurrence. My greatest athletic heroes are generally those who perform above their abilities and make it where “making it” is the definition of success – Rudy, for instance. But usually the Rudies of the world disappear into the fabric of our daily lives after their one shot at greatness, because, well, they just didn’t have the talent.

     Creating a Tiger, or any elite athlete for that matter, demands a singleness of purpose that the rest of us can hardly imagine. From the earliest opportunity, the hours of practicing, physical conditioning, and sacrifice require the entire family to forsake what the rest of us would call the normal existence of work, school, church and play. “Play” supplants all other pursuits. Private coaching, sports psychologists and professional trainers are usually required at an early age. No sacrifice is too great when creating a star. But in many cases that singleness of purpose results in the omission of life’s more important lessons. Enter The Tiger.

     Earl Woods said that he wasn’t trying to raise a golfer, but a man, when he was raising Tiger. Really? Tiger had a golf coach when he was four. Not fourteen, but four. Mr. Woods, did he ever have a Sunday School teacher?

     What Earl Woods produced is a golfer, not a man. He cared nothing for his marriage or his children as he prowled around like a frat boy aided by willing accomplices who helped him procure his conquests and then hide them from his wife, sponsors and legions of fans. Even his mother was shocked to learn the truth of her son’s behavior. This was no “transgression,” but a life style. Tiger had no shame. The man who couldn’t be bothered with second tier golf tournaments didn’t mind trolling for booty at the pancake house or cocktail bar; no silicone-enhanced trophy was too low class for his attention. Of course, there was too much at stake to deny him his needs. Too many people were making money on the Tiger machine.

   His gorgeous wife wasn’t beautiful enough, but there was just something about that pancake house waitress he couldn’t resist. I think I am going to puke.

     So now Tiger’s story will be shared with the likes of Bill Clinton. Not an asterisk or footnote on his record, but a paint splotch so huge and obscene that it will overshadow his other accomplishments, much like Bill Clinton’s cigar.
    
But we should have known this outcome was predictable. You’re too important to let church get in the way when you’re one shot down on Sunday morning, whether you are eight or eighteen. And apparently there was no time for Earl to tell young Tiger that there’s this thing called marriage and once you say “I do” it means you don’t with the rest of the female population. Too much had to be worked out on the putting green to share those father-son tidbits.

     So now we see the collapse, once again, of a great athlete. I have a feeling that for the first time in his life Tiger no longer cares about the applause, the wins and the money, and he would trade it all to have his honor back. I imagine that today, Tiger might rather be, well – me: unknown to the world, fighting my battles in anonymity, and able to keep my failings between me, my God and my family.

     Tiger will find it hard to sit across the conference table from sponsors that have staked their entire advertising budget on his skills and reputation, only to have a mildly interesting conversation about waitresses and porn stars. But one day he will have a more difficult task. He is going to have to look his children in the eyes and attempt to explain to them why their mother just wasn’t good enough. Not once, but fourteen times.

Tiger let me down too, but I am way below his radar screen for those he should care about. I believe in forgiveness and I hope that he can turn his life around, but I am not required to cheer for him, and I won’t. I’ll find someone I can respect to root for, but they probably won’t make the cut on Friday.

     I’m finished with Tiger and, for that matter, golf. I never liked watching it anyway except when Tiger was playing, unless I wanted to take a nap.

Tiger has come from behind so many times. He knows how to play golf, but does he know anything about life? And will any of us care? I’ll take my place in the gallery of those who don’t.

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