It's about our moment, not Tiger's
Sports fans don’t care about Tiger Woods. Not really. We don’t particularly care about any athlete. What we care about is an athlete's ability to impact history, ours and sports’.
That’s why there is over-the-top emotion directed toward any athlete who flirts with rewriting history. Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds come to mind easily. Personally, I hated Michael Jordan throughout his playing career because I sensed early on he would be a threat to my belief that Magic Johnson was the greatest basketball player of all time.
Tiger Woods was/is supposed to surpass Jack Nicklaus as the world’s greatest golfer. Many of us, particularly those of us who ignored golf before Tiger, want to witness that bit of history. On the other side, there are the longtime golf fans — and a few bigots — who want to see golf’s history preserved.
That’s it. That explains our three-year breath-holding about whether Woods will recover from his Thanksgiving-bimbo nightmare. We’re not rooting for or against Tiger Woods. We’re rooting for history to be made or preserved.
It’s not about Tiger. It’s about us.
Tiger Woods is denying us our unforgettable sports moment. Or he’s preserving someone else’s.
This week, I was irate when I learned the USGA had grouped Tiger, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson for the first two days of the US Open at Olympic. Based on his superb play at The Memorial two weeks ago, it appears Tiger has a decent shot this weekend at capturing his 15th major championship.
Why would the USGA intentionally create a three-golfer circus that I don’t believe Tiger, Lefty or Bubba will survive? The three most popular American golfers in the same group. Why not make Kim, Kourtney and Khloe their caddies, pass out condoms, set the whole thing to music and let John Daly direct?
Yes, I realize the US Open forbids cell phones and there won’t be incessant camera-clicking distractions. But it’s still going to be an absolute zoo. Denied the ability to snap Facebook mobile uploads, the three competing fan bases will look for other ways to make themselves part of history.
Maybe Mickelson will thrive in this environment. He loves the crowd. He embraces a spectacle. Being in the same group with Tiger inspires Phil. I envision Bubba melting with an opening-round 80, and I see Tiger tossing clubs and cursing out at least one member of the gallery every third hole.
My fear is I’m going to be denied another step toward history, Tiger’s date with 19 major championships.
As a fan, I want to witness that. As a journalist, I want to chronicle it.
Tiger Woods is unimportant. Remember years ago when we mistakenly thought he was going to revolutionize golf and make the game more accessible to minorities? That didn’t happen. Remember when Earl Woods had us believing Tiger would be a transformative global figure the equal to Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and Ronald McDonald? Tiger came up a little short.
All we have left is the hope that he can win five more major championships so we can claim we witnessed the greatest golfer of all time. That’s probably all we probably ever really wanted. We want Tiger to legitimize our memories of him and the Tiger memorabilia we’ve collected.
Four years ago, after Tiger won the US Open on one leg at Torrey Pines, Tiger surpassing Jack felt inevitable. But history, good or bad, isn’t supposed to be inevitable. It’s supposed to be unpredictable. As Americans, we believe in our ability to control and/or redirect our destiny.
Tiger foolishly redirected his. And we’re pissed about it. Same way we’re upset that LeBron James changed his. Nike sold us the narratives that Tiger would catch Jack and LeBron would catch Michael, and we bought the narratives, whipped out our cameras and prepared to record the memories.
This is a much better story. Seriously. I’m not defending Tiger’s bimbo addiction or LeBron’s decision. I just appreciate the authenticity of their journeys. They’re flawed like us. They’re selfish like us.
They’re not chasing titles for the enjoyment of their fans. And we’re not rooting for their success or failure out of loyalty to them or Jack and Michael. We’re all in it for ourselves. Good luck.