Monday, April 4, 2016

Down in Flames

Preface: I learned to play golf at the age of 12.  I loved the game for many, many years before giving it up entirely 45 years later.  There are many reasons I gave up the game I at one time played 365 days a year.  What you are about to read is most definitely one of them.

It’s no secret I haven’t had the slightest interest in professional sports in over 20 years.  I watched the Super Bowl this year only so I could say I watched every one of the first 50.  Since I doubt I’ll be around for Super Bowl C (100, for all of you non-Romans), Super Bowl L (sorry—50) will in all probability be the last one I watch.    The only remaining interest I had in professional sports was golf and that was for two reasons: (1) professional golfers were paid for their performance, unlike the players in the NFL, NBA and MLB who are given contracts with stipulated salaries (then tend to get greedy and want more when they’re having a good year) and (2) I played a little golf myself and understood just how difficult it is to play the game well.     

During Tiger Woods’ prime I’ll admit to being one of his biggest fans.  Maybe even the biggest.   I have always enjoyed watching history being made and there was a time I had no doubt Tiger would surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of winning 18 major golf tournaments in his career.  I honestly thought 25 majors and 125 other championships were within his grasp. 

Tiger’s 2008 U.S. Open victory over Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines in San Diego was one for the ages.  Playing on a bad knee (he would have surgery following his win that would keep him out of action for the remainder of the year), this—Tiger’s 14th major championship--was so dramatic…so scintillating that an entire book was written about it.  Tiger Woods was on top of the world; everything he touched was turning to gold.  The man literally could do no wrong.  

That is, until November of 2009 when everything changed in the time it takes for a car to slam into a fire hydrant.  There was the infamous Tiger Woods sex scandal…then his nasty divorce…finally the inevitable fall from grace.  Everyone’s read or at least heard about them so there’s no need to repeat any of it here.  Everyone has their own opinion of one of the greatest mysteries in sports: What happened to Tiger Woods?  Tiger’s ego became larger than his overpowering golf game.  Tiger had an addiction to sex.  Tiger no longer had a desire to play golf.  Tiger needed something else to occupy his time.  All of them may have a little bit of truth to them.

But ultimately what it all boils down to is this: The man simply stepped on his d*ck.  The man seemingly could do nothing right.  I was no longer a fan.  Never will be again, for that matter.     

In 2013 Woods somehow climbed back to being the #1 player in the world, although he failed to win a 15th major.  Nike ran an ad featuring Tiger with the catchphrase ‘winning takes care of everything’ during the year, proving the two of them—Nike and Tiger Woods—complemented one another perfectly: Neither one of them had any shame.         

Tiger was no longer the man who won majors.  He was now the man who dropped more F-bombs on Sunday afternoon on national television than Tony Montana in Scarface.  Tiger was no longer the man who could will a golf ball to do whatever he wanted it to do.  He was now the man who had the balls to believe he could live the fictionalized life of a sailor by having a girl in every port.  Tiger was no longer going to ‘do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity,’ as his father Earl had predicted many years ago.  The truth is Tiger did more than any man in history to change the public’s perception of professional golf…in a rather harmful and damaging way, that is to say.  

Some might even go so far as to call him a disgrace.

I remember watching a professional golf tournament during Tiger’s prime.  I believe it was at Pebble Beach. He was paired with Jack Nicklaus, the man whose record of major championships he was chasing.  If memory serves it was during a tournament Tiger would ultimately win.  I couldn’t help but think it was the official passing of the torch.   Jack Nicklaus, the current legend passing it to his successor, Tiger Woods.

If Jack had known Tiger was going to take the torch and light his ass on fire he may have held onto it a little while longer and waited for someone more deserving to come along. 

Fans everywhere wonder if Tiger will ever win another major.  For me personally I don’t give a damn, but if I had to venture a guess I’d say no. 

As I already said, some might call Tiger Woods a disgrace.

Count me as one of them.    

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