Thursday, December 03, 2009

Tiger Rex

Two things about me: I love team sports, and I really don't like "dominating" players.

One of the things I love about sports is the drama. The underdog who comes back, the team that puts in that Herculean effort in the bottom of the 9th or in the fourth quarter, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. I don't watch a game or a match because I know the outcome, or can predict it. It's one of the reasons I have trouble watching a recorded game after the fact - once I know the outcome, the fun is done. Part of the drama is often generated because it's a team effort; it's difficult for one player to truly dominate a baseball game, for example. Yes, you could argue that Rivera dominates when he comes into a game in the 9th to close out a victory. But the other members of the team had to get through eight innings to allow him to take the ball. Think of Harvey Haddix, who pitched 12 no-hit innings but was ultimately let down because his team couldn't score any runs.

I also like my favorite athletes to be human. I must admit, there's part of me that likes to see them fail. When a golfer hits a drive onto an adjacent fairway, I love it. Maybe because it makes me feel like I'm not that bad of a golfer - but it also allows me to "relate" to them on some level. I found little enjoyment in watching Borg or Lendl dissect an opponent; I much preferred watching Connors or McEnroe struggle and triumph. I'd rather watch Larry Bird with a bad back struggling to participate, than watch Michael Jordan kick another team's butt for four quarters.

So it's probably not a surprise that I have never been a Tiger Woods fan. To me, he's just one small step away from being a robot. When he's on the course, the outcome feels inevitable. You know he'll dominate on Friday and Saturday, making the Sunday final round a reason for an afternoon nap. Some of this may come from frustration. I've followed the PGA Tour for years - mainly because I'm a fan of Brad Faxon. Brad's from my hometown in Rhode Island, a great putter and an even greater guy. Every week, he was out on the course, often in recent years struggling with injury and struggling to make cuts. Yet the cameras rarely focused on him because of the klieg lights focused on Tiger. I have a lot of irritation with those who only watch a tournament when Tiger's in it, who only go out and walk the course at a tournament to follow Tiger. There is some fantastic golf being played away from him on every hole.

Which brings me to Tiger's "fall of grace." I've followed this story pretty closely - but not with malice or glee. It was refreshing to me to see a human side of Tiger Woods. Stripped of his PR team, his inner cadre of protectors, he suddenly looked quite vulnerable. The world suddenly had a glimpse beneath the cybornetic skin, beyond the carefully cultivated image. I'm not judging him. There's none of us who could stand up to such media scrutiny. But I'm also not sorry to see him taken down a notch or two.

The Greeks called it "hubris," and made an industry out of the tragic fall of heroes. Now it seems, TMZ has taken the place of Sophocles. The outcome, however, is the same.



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