Yesterday Tiger Woods demonstrated, in yet another way, that he is in fact both human and fallible.Â Through another short prepared statement, released via his web site, Tiger has announced that he is taking an indefinite leave from the game of golf in order to focus his energy on his family, specifically, being a better father and husband.
First of all, let me say this… kudos, Tiger, for taking the right action in walking away from the game.Â In a week where you have swung and missed repeatedly, this time, you got it right.Â If I were in Tigers shoes, I would have taken it a step further and announced my retirement (more on that soon); however Iâ€™m not Tiger, and the beauty of being human is that each of us gets to make our own choices and do whatever we think is best for us.
Professional Golf is a game that has always been a bit paradoxical (if not oxymoronic) to me.Â Constantly holding itself to self-proclaimed higher standards (some of which I love, for example, if you donâ€™t produce, you donâ€™t get paid, and if you donâ€™t produce all year… you are off the tour and have to earn you way back); and yet still holding as a cornerstone of its season a private, exclusive golf club like Augusta wrought with bigotry and intolerance
In 2003 (and 2004) Augusta provided a microcosm of golfs enigmatic existence.Â Faced with a show of force when their sponsors threatened to pull their endorsements because of the clubs refusal to accept women members the club simply said… â€œcool, weâ€™ll just pay for the ad spots ourselves… on with our sexist showâ€ (that is more a paraphrase than a quote, of course).Â In a sport that self espouses gentlemanly conduct, chivalry was nowhere to be found.
But I digress, this is about Tiger, and his decision to take a mid-prime-of-his-career sabbatical.
One of the great things about Tiger (the image, not necessarily the man) was that be broke down barriers.Â He was seen by many to be bringing humanity, civility, and a sense of equality to a sport that was widely acknowledged to be a couple decades behind the curve.
He was a good guy.Â Successful and upstanding, he was a real role model for anyone to emulate. Remember those â€œI am Tiger Woodsâ€ ads?Â They never made â€œI am Michael Jordanâ€ ads… â€œbe like Mikeâ€ was as close as we got… and thats just not the same.Â It was okay to be â€œlike Mike,â€ but Tiger was the guy it was okay to actually be, regardless of your cultural, ethnic or even gender background.
When Barry Bonds was a young player for the Pittsburgh Pirates (yep he had a life before the Giants) I was actually a big fan of his.Â Then his mouth, the cream, the clear, BALCO et. al.Â ruined his mystique and gradually eroded away my respect for him.
I remember rooting against him when he was chasing Hank Aarons career home run record.Â I didnâ€™t want baseballs most hallowed record to be in the hands of someone with such a sordid past.Â I remember thinking how much I wanted him to just stop. For the sake of the game, for the sake of kids growing up reading about the legends of the game and seeking role models… and for my own peace of mind.Â At the same time, I knew he wouldnâ€™t, no on in his position would.
I remember looking at Tiger Woods and thinking that he was â€œbetter than me.â€Â And I liked that, I liked the idea of a hero that was capable of doing things beyond what the average Joe would do.Â In the last few weeks, of course, I have lost that impression.Â Tiger is one of us, he is human, he is fallible.
However, with Tiger, unlike Barry, I still have a little hope.Â If Tiger were to willingly give up his quest to surpass Jack Nicolasâ€™s career record of 18 major tournament victories for the purposes he outlined in his statement (becoming a better husband and father) AND for the purpose of leaving golfs most hallowed record in more capable and deserving hands; well, that would be something beyond what the average (and lets be honest, even the above average) Joe would do.
My respect for Tiger would skyrocket.Â Not because I approve of what he has done (and let there be no confusion, I do not) but because he would have handled his humanity and fallibility in a way that truly exemplified greatness.
Most people, at the end of the day, are selfish.Â Most people, given a chance to cement a legacy for themselves (i.e. the greatest golfer – or home run hitter – in history), regardless of what that might mean for themselves, their family, or the sport, will take it.Â In fact, Iâ€™m not sure I know of a single person who has ever passed up such an opportunity.
Golf is a game that extols the virtues of the players on the course.Â Repeatedly I have read and heard about how it is the only sport where the players actually enforce rules and penalties upon themselves.Â I believe that it is time for Tiger Woods to embrace that tradition; cite his own infraction and assess the appropriate penalty.
If he did, and if I were a big enough man to honestly admit it, I probably would have to say that, in this particular area – one that if far more important than his skill with a putter or a driver, Tiger Woods is â€œbetter than meâ€ … and I wouldnâ€™t mind that at all…