It’s a quintessentially modern American story. The story of Tiger Woods is one that touches on war, race, fame, scandal, and perhaps, redemption.
It begins in Vietnam; Tiger actually named for the man who’d stood by his father Earl in the trenches.
When Tiger turned professional, he teamed with an edgy sponsor to remind America that there were clubs he couldn’t play because of the color of his skin.
Then at the 1997 Masters, race at first glorified, then sullied his finest moment when Fuzzy’s attempt at humor fell flat.
Greatness from there, the game played as never before. Ernie Els once described the shadow cast by Woods as so big that it could only be matched by Ali or Pele in their day.
You swore he wouldn’t be swallowed by fame, not Tiger. He appeared too locked in on his goals, on being the best to ever play. Turns out he was nearly as good at playing a different kind of game.
Of course, his wasn’t a crime, and if every philanderer were rooted out of their respective Halls of Fame, every sport might be on the sparse side.
But his fall did land him in the athlete hall of shame in this ‘gotcha’ era of tainted sports idols.
As a prurient society, we gobbled up the sordid details. Tiger’s public humiliation was no doubt Schadenfreude for some.
It set off the predictable media maelstrom – another spike on an already chaotic national EKG. What’s next? Who can be trusted? If not Tiger, who?
It had been a rough stretch for America. Its best athlete was broken, like so much in the country, but not irreparable. Perhaps Tiger will fight back.
Whatever happens, Tiger’s now more than one of the greatest golfers ever; he’s also a symbol of the excess of the times, when baseball players and banks and real estate among other American institutions were garishly inflated.
The harsh lessons learned, a nation thirsts for a more modest manner; and, like the athlete, still needing to take care of its business, to thrive, to compete. Differently, that’s all.
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