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Tiger, LeBron prove their doubters wrong

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If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you … you’ll be a Man my son! – Rudyard Kipling, born Dec. 30, 1865

Doubt is dead at last.

Both Tiger and LeBron, linked by a birthday and the burden of sublime talent, own their games, Tiger as he once did, LeBron as we thought possible.

Both were born on Dec. 30, Tiger at 36 older by nine years. To reach Tiger’s level of achievement, LeBron needs perhaps four more titles. But for completeness of game, depth of dominance, physical presence and pure strength, LeBron with his playoff performance may at least have approached what Tiger did in winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by 15 shots in 2000.

In other words, it’s possible the game’s never been played better.

After an offseason of honest reflection, LeBron determined that he had been operating with hate in his heart and not very effectively. He resolved to play from joy, love and passion for the sport, a lot like Magic Johnson.

Tiger’s been less forthcoming about his emotional state. He’s said repeatedly that his slump was due to injuries, not any lingering effects from the scandal and the subsequent public deconstruction.  Unlike LeBron, Tiger never said that he looked in the mirror, displeased with what he saw.

After his Congressional victory, Tiger did look at the press and remind them that more than a few people thought he might never win again.  The chip on his shoulder felt sharp. 

“I was out to destroy the audience. I wanted to destroy ’em, just make the toughest dude in the crowd pat his foot.”  – Bo Diddley, born Dec. 30, 1928

Is Tiger playing with happiness or hatred in his heart? Who knows? What appears to give Tiger great joy is the pure strike of the golf ball and true command of his swing.  From there, wins follow.   

Tiger and LeBron have learned to live in a world that subjects them to almost daily referendum. They’re central pillars in a business model built on opinion and controversy, one that seeks to look into the future and know if Tiger will win another major or if LeBron was born with an incurable choke gene.

As the customer you’re entitled to log on and vote, to tell us what you think not just of LeBron and Tiger, but what you think of what the guy on the anchor desk thinks of LeBron and Tiger. Bose doesn’t make headphones capable of shutting out that noise.

If athletes are going to grow and change and learn, they must do so under severe scrutiny, often personal and demeaning.

It’s not to suggest they’re not without fault. If LeBron had a mulligan he no doubt would make a more low-key “decision,” though if championships are the measure of professional success it’s hard to argue with the Miami move. It’s just the execution that missed badly.

Tiger’s image may have taken a more damaging hit, his recklessness likely more costly on a personal level as well.

The worst of it over for both men, what’s clear is that their focus is exactly where it needs to be and where it will best serve them and all of us. It is on mastering their craft.

If you do a good job, the numbers say so. You don’t have to ask anyone or play politics.  You don’t have to wait for the reviews. Sandy Koufax, born Dec. 30, 1935

And so again we watch and ask, did he really just do that? We can ask that question of both Tiger and LeBron not after they’ve made a mind-boggling mistake, but a mind-boggling shot.

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors the same … you’ll be a Man my son!  – Rudyard Kipling, born Dec. 30, 1865