In four decades covering sports, I’ve never seen anyone like Tiger Woods. Trends and phee-noms come and go. All eventually are swallowed by the enormity of the sports they represent. No one is bigger than the game. Except Tiger.
He has been my tell-my-grandchildren guy. Years from now, when I feel like boring little people, I will tell them I was at the Masters in ’95 and walked nine holes in absolute serenity with Earl and Tida, as they watched their son the US Amateur champ play a practice round. I was there two years later, when he won the Masters by 18 strokes and launched an era of fascination and adulation we’d never seen before.
I was at Pebble in 2000 when he won the US Open and at St. Andrews later the same summer, when he won the British. I’ve covered 19 US Opens and 23 Masters, and I’d bet I’ve spent half that time following Tiger. Miles and miles of walking, in the pursuit of sports history. Outside of Michael Jordan, no single athlete has ever lived up to the hype the way Woods did. And occasionally still does.
There’s a two-part documentary on him that’s airing now on HBO Max. It aspires to explain Tiger as completely as the ESPN 10-parter explained Michael. It doesn’t quite reach that lofty bar, if only because Woods didn’t take part in the production.
But man, it’s fascinating.
Strip away everything about Tiger – the fame, the money, the off-course drama, the singular career – and what’s left is the father-son dynamic familiar to anyone who’s ever been one or both. Which is to say every male who has ever lived.
Earl Woods was never shy about guaranteeing his son’s future greatness. That virtuosity would extend beyond mere golf. Tiger’s talents would change the world. No one could live up to that sort of grandiose huckstering, and Tiger did not.
Did he change the world? Maybe a little. For a short time. The face of golf looks no different than it did 25 years ago. It’s a lot greener, sure. Tiger made a lot of (white) people a lot of money. The game did surge in popularity, but that has leveled off. His excellence transcended his sport. But that’s about it. Golf is today what golf was 25 years ago, and has been forever.
The larger, existential question: If you are a father with a child like Tiger, do you raise him the way Earl did? Earl took helicopter parenting to an extreme and the question always has been, did he do it for Tiger, or for Earl?
He was right about his son’s talent. As a parent, do you owe it to your child to mine that talent for all its worth? I think of Olympians, and the childhoods they lead in search of excellence. And their parents, enabling the dream, sometimes at the expense of reasonable life.
Earl drove Tiger. Tiger achieved Earl’s dreams, at least on the golf course. Was it worth it?
For several years, Tiger’s life was a mess. Earl taught him how to navigate a golf course. No one could teach him how to navigate being Tiger. To me, the most amazing and laudable part of Tiger’s story has been these last few chapters. His greatest achievement was not in winning his first Masters at age 21. It was in winning his last one, two years ago, at age 43. That one demanded the sort of personal growth that can’t be found on a practice range at sunset.
Through it all, Tiger Woods seems to have found some peace and contentment. By all accounts, he’s a good dad. He has shown a capacity for grasping life’s finer moments, which very often do not occur at work. Even at Tiger’s work.
The cool thing about Jack Nicklaus was, he never lost himself in the hype. While he was winning tournaments, he was also flying home in between rounds, to catch his kids games. The Eternal Jack was always a man in full. In recent years, it seems as if Tiger now is, too.
Anyway, ckout the HBO doc. It’s fascinating on any number of levels.
Now, then. . .
SHOULD THE REDS TAKE A FLYER ON Corey Kluber? He’s throwing for scouts today. ESPN.com:
One executive, whose team won't be in Florida to watch Kluber, calls him the classic "buy-low" candidate.
"He might be a middle of the rotation guy to start the season, but you're getting a two-time Cy Young winner," the executive said. "By the end of the year, he could be leading your staff."
The 25- to 30-pitch tryout in front of scouts from about two thirds of MLB teams is necessary for Kluber after three separate injuries sidelined him over the past two years. He fractured his right arm after getting hit by a line drive in a game early in 2019, then was shut down during his rehab due to an abdominal injury. The latest ailment may have been the most frustrating, as Kluber missed all but one inning for the Texas Rangers in 2020 after experiencing a muscle issue in the back of his throwing shoulder. His season ended just as baseball was returning.
The Reds have the Kyle Boddy/Derek Johnson advantage. They have a good enough staff, there wouldn’t be much weight on Kluber to be a star. After Gray, Castillo and Mahle, would a decent Kluber be as good as Lorenzen or Tejay Antone?
The Reds did OK with the Matt Harvey experiment in ’18. Harvey gave them 24 starts and seven wins. They did better than that with Dan Straily, whom they turned into Luis Castillo.
With the locks back on their pockets, the Reds need to get creative.
UC IS BLEEDING FOOTBALL ASSISTANTS, and that’s a good thing. Marcus Freeman to Notre Dame, to coordinate that defense, associate head coach and RBs coach Dan Enos to Maryland, to coordinate that offense. Now O-coordinator Mike Denbrock is interviewing for the same job at Vanderbilt.
UC will never be a destination job for any young, talented and hungry coach. The more assistants graduate to bigger (not necessarily better) gigs, the easier it will be to find their talented replacements. You want that ambition in your program, even as it inevitably leads to churn.
That said, is the Vandy job that much better for Denbrock than the gig he has now?
Maryland for Enos?
UC’S TIME COULD BE COMING. From Yahoo!:
The life cycles of realignment have long been attached to the impending expiration of television contracts. As conferences approach new deals, history has shown that adding universities translates to additional inventory and dollars. Will that still be the case in an age where media is increasingly more fragmented?
The Big Ten’s TV deal is set to expire after the 2022-23 season, the Pac-12’s after the 2023-24 season and the Big 12’s after the 2024-25 season. That means that the Big Ten begins dabbling in the television market as soon as this calendar year. If any of those leagues had interest in expanding, the exploration would have either already begun or will start soon.
If the Bearcats don’t land a seat at the big table in this next wave of TV musical chairs, they’re waiting another decade at least for their next chance. Dunno if they can hold on that long financially.
STICK TO SPORTS. . . I’d love to see a census taken of the rioters who stormed the capitol last week. Income, education, political affiliations etc. The knee-jerk reaction upon looking at the multitudes of insurrectionists defiling the people’s house was to see low education, poor job prospects, feeling disenfranchised etc.
That’s probably wrong, or at least incomplete.
Basically, I’d like to ask them: Why?
What is it you hate about our country so much that you were eager to destroy its government?
Normally, when people protest, they have a reason. You might not agree with BLM protestors, but you can’t argue they didn’t have a point. What’s the point here?
I didn’t see any signs demanding better jobs or health care. Nobody was coming after their guns. Nobody was violating their civil rights. So… what?
I guess they were mad about the election results. They still believe the big lies. But without facts and data, when I look at those people, I see fear and loathing. Fear over the changing demographics of America, and how they think the future doesn’t account for them. Loathing at that prospect, and loathing for anyone who represents it. Trump harnessed that fear and loathing five years ago, and still commands it.
Watching what happened last week – and almost certainly will happen again between now and a week from today – I didn’t see concerned citizens seeking change and a voice. I saw weekend warriors throwing a tantrum and breaking stuff.
TUNE O’ THE DAY. . . A lovely effort from Brian Wilson, who has always been capable of lovely.