Athlete of the Decade - Tiger Woods

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Runners-Up (1) Barry Bonds (2) Roger Federer (3) Peyton Manning (4) Lance Armstrong

The public, says this piece by a "senior writer" from SI, "will never look at Tiger Woods quite the same way," because he's lost his "image as a good guy."

Tiger Woods is no worse than the second greatest golfer who ever lived; his level of dominance makes him (in a close call over all of the runners-up, a good argument could be made for any of them) the Athlete of the Decade.  But apparently, that isn't enough accomplishment to maintain his image in the face of all that sex.

Unlike the chaste, one woman man who received SI's Sportsman of the Year Award just this week:

"It was that combination of on- and off-field achievement that helped make Jeter this year's Sportsman. Said Sports Illustrated Group Editor Terry McDonell, "Derek Jeter has always presented himself with class; he does numerous good works for the community with his Turn 2 Foundation, which is one of the most efficient, effective foundations of its kind; and he's extremely generous with not just his money but with his time, which in many cases is more valuable. He also had another signature year on the field."

Do a search for Derek Jeter's girlfriends.  It's no wonder the guy is a hundred fifty fielding runs below position for his career, dude's got better things to do with his hands. 

Other than Tiger's wife, it's unclear to me why a member of Sports Illustrated's "public" would view Tiger as no longer a "good guy" but Cap'n Jetes as "classy", but the things that bother others, I am aware, don't much concern me.   Tiger Woods's marriage doesn't belong to me.  The contours of his relationship with his wife are good gossipy entertainment; he gets sent through the same news cycle that spun Dave Letterman around earlier in the year, but the degree of their achievements dwarfs a momentary unflattering snapshot. 

I'm pretty confident in that.  Tiger has a lot of equity, and presumably, many more years on the stage; my assumption is that in most ways, this week becomes a footnote. 

Not for his wife.  But we aren't her. 

I've never cheated in a relationship, but, as Chris Rock said about ten years ago "men are only as faithful as their options."  And I don't have Tiger's options.  You give me all the money in the world and make me Athlete of the Decade, I'd hope I'd be able to keep my promises, but the experience of being Tiger Woods, of having that be your life in no way bears any resemblance to the experience of living my life; to say I wouldn't be frantically leaving voicemails to women from Tool Academy is entirely wishcasting. 

We used to understand this.   Men who have the ability to do so enjoy sex with multiple women.  If you don't know a married man who has had an affair you're being lied to.  I'm not saying it covers men in glory that we are this way, not saying it should be celebrated; I'm just saying it's so. 

One of my pet theories of longstanding is that Clinton was able to muster up so much visible anger in his finger pointing denial "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" because he was angry.  Not angry that he was being falsely accused - but angry because he was being accused at all.  My reading was that what he felt inside, what he could not say was "Wait...this is a thing?  This?  How many Presidents do you think didn't have sexual relations with some woman they weren't married to?  Not just US Presidents...Bank Presidents.  School Board Presidents.  Presidents of charitable organizations.  It ain't all - but it's more who do than don't."

I felt the same way about Barry Bonds, who grew up in clubhouses, who watched the legends of the 60s and 70s survive on all manner of amphetamine and pain killer and then joined the legends of the 80s, 90s, and this decade who added steroids to that diet.  "Of course I take drugs.  I've been taking drugs since junior high.  That's how this works.  You're children." 

If you're bothered that Tiger Woods didn't live up to a vow he made to a person who is not you, you know, okay, I guess.  But let's not pretend it makes him unique.  In fact, I think it more likely that, if people are bothered, it's by the common quality of it all.  It's not Tiger Woods and Marissa Miller; it's Tiger Woods and someone from the Rock of Love bus; it's Tiger Woods horny and stupid.  He's just like us.  He's Eldrick.

Because we don't want him to be just like us.  We loathe us.  He's one of the chosen people.  The rich, the famous, the people who matter to us.  Our royalty. Too good for our awful mortgages and crappy health care.  Too good for our stifling dead end corporate jobs, for our scary, alcoholic racist neighbors, too good to be just another one of the lies we're sold - God - Country - Tiger.  We know we're screwed.  Just marking time in our little, inconsequential lives, eating our ice cream and watching CSI, working 7 days a week with no possible hope of escaping the fate of dropping dead one day at our desk.  It's not that we live in a glass house and judge Tiger for his cheating in a way we never would - we hear that voicemail and read those texts and think of him bleeding, running away from his wife and think "shit - he ain't Tiger, he's me."

And being us ain't worth being for a man with as many options as Tiger Woods has. 

Me, I don't care about any of that.  Tiger's the Athlete of the Decade.  Not a single text message he could ever send that would change that.  He can run through the entire VH-1 stable of reality shows; he can bang Antonio Sabato's ex-wife and Lorenzo Lamas's daughter and the Kardaashian sister they keep doped up on thorazine and locked in the basement.  Wouldn't change the way I thought about him at all.  Tiger's not my husband or my babysitter.  He's the Athlete of the Decade.  That's plenty. 


Blog said...

Well, this post is not a surprise, as you can still refer to Chris Benoit as "arguably the finest professional wrestler who ever lived." and have this Borg-like (Star Trek, not Bjorn) ability to separate achievements from emotion. I'm not sure that you'll come out and name Benoit your wrestler of the decade, but that wouldn't surprise me either.

For me, the marital infidelity itself is kind of humorous. Kobe Bryant had infidelity and rape allegations, and Magic Johnson had infidelity and HIV infection, yet both eventually found favor once again. Boris Becker made a little girl with another woman in a broom closet, and he's a commentator during Wimbledon for the BBC. So getting caught with the hanky panky in and of itself will not cause Tiger much long term distress.

What I dislike is the cowardly manner in which he has handled this. From the botched cover up, to the lying, to skipping his own charity tournament, to the apology-that-really-wasn't-an-apology that was dragged out of his lawyers only after the evidence against him became overwhelming, he is a showing a personality that is a full 180 degree turn from the fierce, never-say-die Tiger that we see on the golf course. That Tiger Woods isn't perfect is a surprise only to this guy, but the revelation that he is really such a painfully immature guy will be his defining characteristic for many years to come.

It will be interesting to see if he can contend for next decade's award.

Kirk said...

Golfers are athletes? Does that mean dudes who play darts and paper football are athletes, too? Bowlers? Miniature golfers? Those people who eat a lot of hot dogs?

I've got no interest in Tiger Woods or his phone messages, I just didn't know we were referring to golfers at athletes.

Jim said...

Kenta's the wrestler of the decade (and Kobashi's the best wrestler who ever lived, despite the ability to make the Benoit argument)and if tomorrow he killed a couple of people, he'd still be wrestler of the decade. The LA Times has a USC blog I read; a couple weeks ago there was a "who is the best USC running back ever" poll - I picked OJ, and the difficulty was qualitative, considering Marcus Allen's senior season, not character related.

Golfers are athletes.

Blog said...

My Athlete of the Decade is Brett Favre. In arguably the most physically and mentally demanding position in all of professional sports, he has not only been a premier star throughout the entire decade, never missing a single start along the way, but actually continued improving into his 40's, all without a single proven steroid (or fertility drug) violation. Not to mention possessing self promotion skills that even Hulk Hogan would envy, brother.

Brett Favre is Da Man!

Mark said...

Woods gets my vote, too. What he does when he's not on a golf course is irrelevant to any kind of sports analysis. Over the last ten years, he's been better at his sport than anyone else. That's the only argument that holds any water for me on this one.

What's especially meaningful is that Woods won majors in 2000 and was still winning them in mid-2008. He was dominant all the way through the decade. I might have chosen Federer if he had won a major before 2003. Because while Woods is undoubtedly in the top 2 all-time performers in his sport, Federer is undoubtedly in the top 1 of his.

Jim said...

Rod Laver?

I don't know the answer; my sense is that the smart tennis plurality says Federer, but I don't know if it's a majority, and I really don't know if it's Jordan-like virtual unanimity.

Any of them is warranted; no one dominated for his stretch like Bonds; Federer established at least as good a case as anyone for best ever in his sport; Armstrong did what Armstrong did; and Peyton Manning's one SB win away from probably being viewed as the best QB who ever lived.

I go Woods, but I don't hate any of the other choices.

Blog said...

The AP agrees with Jividen. One of the early signs of the apocalypse? Did the Mayans have it right after all?

Blogger Template created by Just Blog It