* We don’t.
Well, most of the people I caddyshack with don’t. Granted, my knowledge of golf is cursory at best. But ESPN seems to have hitched its boat to this Titanic voyage into the cold deep abyss of fat pars, sand wedges and club tossing.
I was sitting in a bar watching ESPN highlights recently. There were approximately five hundred and fifty different golfing names residing closer to victory in this particular tournament and yet Tiger owned his own board.It went something like . . .
(Fill in the blank) leads the tournament by seven strokes, he’s setting a new course record at the moment. But let’s talk about Tiger Woods, who has absolutely no chance in hell of winning at this point . . .
On the face of it, devoting an hour’s worth of coverage to a guy who had about as much chance of winning the weekend as I did seemed a questionable strategy. Sort of like bypassing the Philadelphia Phillies run to the pennant in favor of wall to wall coverage on the cellar dwelling Houston Astros.
But then again, big business is married to Tiger Woods. Forever. Without the half billion dollar payoff Elin Nordegren was able to split town with. Big business sports- from ESPN to Nike to every last tentacle of take- is saying prayers to a God they never believed in that Tiger has another run in him. To win more majors and to challenge Jack Nicklaus for best golfer ever status. At least in numbers.
Because numbers make the executives do happy dances. And let’s face it, (Fill in the blank) is what golf used to be until Tiger made the scene.
Never mind that he’s lousy with most every other detail of life outside of the eighteen hole sanctuary he used to dominate. He IS Tiger Woods, and he WAS packaged as Jackie Robinson when he ran away with his first Masters title. He was presented as a Ruthian contrast to the mostly all white country club he had crashed. It was hoped he would be possess a transcendent reach, like Ali once had.
As it turns out, the only reach Tiger is utilizing is the one which delivers a drunken collection of dead Presidents to a stripper’s party thong.
He doesn’t belong in the same conversation with Jackie Robinson- a principled man whose fight went way beyond the diamond. And Tiger isn’t Ali- an athlete whose career changed the way the modern era of sport was talked about forever.
Ali did have many incarnations in his boxing life, but none of those lives entitled him to behave like a privileged jerk the way Woods often has. Ali became a fixture of American culture by earning his way in. Tiger was certainly making his own case before that little black book of a smartphone exploded in his face.
Maybe he catches that lightning strike and ends up penning a Roy Hobbs finish to his flagging career on the links. But, unless or until, pretend to care.