I’m a casual golf fan and I cheer for Tiger Woods.
I don’t condone cheating on significant others. I don’t condone lying. I don’t condone bumping uglies in a Perkins’ parking lot. I am, however, a proponent of Tiger Woods winning tournaments and majors.
Prior to his Thanksgiving day fiasco, liking Tiger and cheering for him was no big deal. The world was seemingly in love with him. He was the planet’s most bankable star and one of the most dominant athletes (in his sport) of all time. Then a car crash and a golf club to the window came and everything came crashing down. Tiger became a villain. The media, whom Tiger always kept at an arm’s length throughout his career, lambasted him with glee. Pretty soon, his career had been buried by writers and fans alike.
Despite all this turmoil, I still quietly rooted Tiger on. When he missed cuts, I cursed in my head. When he looked poised to compete, I kept frequent tabs on him, whether it be surreptitiously checking my phone or scanning AM stations to hear a radio broadcast. People have questioned why I still stick by Tiger. It’s tough to describe why but I do know a big part of it has to do with greatness.
As a sports’ fan, I enjoy seeing greatness. I love seeing legendary performance and record shattering feats. I think most people are wired like that. We watch the mundane for the chance to view history. When Tiger burst onto the scene, he represented lightning in a bottle, except this lightning struck over and over and over again. Youngest to win a Masters, biggest margin of victory in all majors, on and on and on the records went. The more he played, the more history I was able to witness.
That, I suppose, was the original motivation in cheering for him. Yes, I was, in effect, a front runner, but I had only a marginal interest in golf prior to that. I was vaguely aware of David Duval and Davis Love III. I knew Payne Stewart, mostly for the goofy garb, but I wasn’t a fan of golf, really, at all. I never watched any tournaments; I simply absorbed facts as I pored over the Sports’ page. In the pre-Internet days, the coverage of my favorite sports was finite. If I wanted to continue reading about sports, I’d have to settle on things like golf.
It was passive fanhood at its finest, and one of the few times where I followed a sport (however distantly) and had zero rooting interest. Tiger changed that. Tiger was a reason to pay closer attention. He was somebody to root for. There are no home team’s in golf, so there really was no reason not to root for Tiger. He was and is supremely dedicated to his craft. He had a singular focus on winning which reminded me strongly of Michael Jordan. He was a minority, a mixed race minority at that, breaking into a primarily white man’s game. Despite all that, he still portrayed a sense of joy and limitless possibility on the course. It’s unreasonable to question why, at that time, so many jumped on his bandwagon from the get go.
Even though Tiger is a bit older and some of that youthful exuberance and innocence is gone. He still, on the course, represents many of the same qualities as when he first made his initial splash on the tour. There’s still a singular focus on catching Jack. There’s still the limitless possibilities each and every time he swings a club. There are still moments of sheer and utter magic.
I can appreciate the fact that some people want Tiger to fail. Morally, he is not a good man. No one knows if he’s truly learned from his marital mistakes or not, but, for me, that misses the point. Tiger the person was never that interesting to me. Tiger the golfer, well, that’s a different story. That sort of dichotomy is really quite familiar in the sports world. Michael Jordan has a psychotic thirst to win and be the best. He was a gambler and a philanderer, but on the court, there’s never been anyone like him. Pele is a conceded, self promoting, angry man in retirement, but a wizard on the pitch. Frank Thomas was prickly with the media and management, but a legend on the field. Lance Armstrong, by many accounts, is an asshole, but no one’s ridden a bike quite like him.
Supporting someone on the court, field, etc, doesn’t mean you buy into their ideals off of it. It simply means, you want that individual to succeed at their job. If the individual turns out to be a saint, like Derrick Rose, all the better, but it’s not a requisite, nor does it say anything about my character. I’ll be cheering for Tiger Woods this weekend at the US Open. It doesn’t mean I’m the type that wants to sleep with porn stars, it just means I want to see history. I want to see one more big Tiger fist pump, is that really so terrible?