Here’s our first article from our newest contributing writer, Michael Pakkala. Micahel is an English/History major at Michigan State University. Be sure to follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelPakkala
As the Open Championship commenced yesterday, the whispers of Tiger Woods chasing his 15th championship emerged. The sporting world is eager to see if this is finally the major where Tiger gets his (golf) mojo back. More importantly, the way people have discussed Tiger has changed. Leading up to the tournament, he was talked about in a positive, golf-only light, something that hasn’t been done in literally years. It’s an interesting shift in dialogue about Woods that seemed almost out of place. But for Tiger Woods, golf hasn’t been the main topic of conversation the past two years.
Ever since that “devastating November” when his world came crashing down and his life changed forever, we didn’t talk about Tiger the same way. From then on, 90% of the time when an article about Tiger was written, towards the end of the article, it would mention that Tiger went through a extramarital affair, and hasn’t been the same on the golf course since. But what do his actions off the course have to do with his actions on the course? It’s almost as if people seem to think that his infidelities had anything to do with his abilities as a golfer. Sure, his mind has been in other places, and his laser focus has waned because of the scandal, but what does that have to do with his pure golfing abilities? The man took a year off from professional golf so he could deal with his personal issues. When he returned, he had to redevelop his game. End of story.
Anyone who has played golf knows that the first couple rounds you play after an extended absence from the game are dedicated to reviving your swing. (In my case, reviving what little game I have and trying to get comfortable again.) So when people yet again bring up his personal issues, it makes me wonder: Are we giving Tiger excuses to fail? He hadn’t played golf in a year, so why are his personal issues continuously brought into the analysis of why he isn’t performing up to par? Save LeBron James, no other athlete has had so much pressure been put on to keep playing at an extraordinary level year in and year out for so long, all while dealing with personal scrutiny. Simply put, he hadn’t played in a year and within that year he probably didn’t focus to much on his golf career. Let’s make the conversation about the problems with his game, and not his personal life. It’s going to take a hard fought battle to get back to being the best in the world. He has to play at the highest level round to round to win tournaments.
From his first tournament back in April 2010 to his first win since his return in December of 2011, he dealt with a multitude of normal problems that every golfer, including Tiger himself, have dealt with in their careers. He changed his swing again (which can just go along with trying to get his swing back), changed his caddies, and had an injury plagued year in 2011. All these things happened in only year and a half and the only thing that was referred to over and over was his infidelity issues off the course. Of course, he also dealt with problems that only Tiger Woods could have: his ex-caddy started a war of words with him through the media (ESPN turned into TMZ for that one), had he had that awful apology ad that Nike made him do (featuring his dead father no less).
If we could peer into the personal lives of all the athlete’s we love, we could find hundreds if not thousands of replica Tiger stories. That’s what makes Tiger’s case so confusing. Why is it so wrong and deplorable what Tiger did when hundreds if not thousands of other athletes did the same thing? Brett Favre texting other women, Wilt Chamberlain sleeping with thousands of women over years and years, Tony Parker cheating on Eva Longoria—athlete infidelity is nothing new. Yet Tiger Woods is the first to have his sporting career turned upside down because of it.
But Tiger is different than Wilt, Favre or Parker. Wilt hung his
dick hat on his sex life. Favre was a drug addict in the late 90s. Parker’s French. Until November 2011, Tiger was the perfect sports superstar. He was legendary on the course and he was legendary off the course. The perfect athlete and role model. He was the reason people of my generation even watched golf, and to see him fall in that manner that hard really hurt us, so he was held especially accountable. Personally, while I don’t condone his actions, I didn’t see how it was really the public’s business to meddle into his personal life. Yes, he’s a superstar athlete that millions look up to, but does that mean that he is completely responsible for his imperfections? Human’s make mistakes, and he made quite a few. The athlete without any weaknesses had finally shown a weakness and in the worse possible way. It wasn’t his game slowly deteriorating after years and years of abuse. He chose to leave due to his poor management of his personal life. That’s what hurt us. Now we’re ready to forgive him for is transgressions.
Sports is the greatest reality TV show on television. But with actual reality television, we love to talk about its characters outside of the show itself. We discuss and recap what happens on Keeping Up With The Kardashians, but the peripheral events outside of the show are what’s discussed even more. That’s why KimYe is a thing, and why Ray J reminding us of how Kim got famous in the first place matters. ESPN doesn’t just cover the games anymore—they cover the people playing those games. Everything outside of the game itself is now news. Human interest stories surrounding sports are getting more headlines than the actual sport. Anytime an athlete has a chance to be turned into a celebrity worthy enough of the gossip columns, it’s pounced on. We pounced on Tiger.
Returning to the course, in all honesty, I’m unsure how anyone can say that he’s not back on top. He’s won three of his last seven events. Has anyone else matched those numbers in that time? No. Maybe that’s just our expectation of Tiger from the years and years of extraordinary numbers and wins. If Tiger isn’t dominating every category, then there’s something wrong. Things are also changing on the media front for Tiger. People are remembering why they loved the guy in the first place. Gene Wojciechowski is writing good pieces about the guy again. So all must be well. Fresh off a swing change and a year off, he’s finally playing the way “our” Tiger should. Going into the second round on Friday, Tiger is at 3 under par and 3 behind the leader. Right where he should be. He’s reminding us why we loved him so much before November 2010. I don’t care what you say, in some way or another you want Tiger to win. We want him to surpass the Golden Bear and take the All-Time majors lead because he deserves it. He’s been the overall best in the world since 1997 and since I was 9 years old. Hell, ESPN still has “Tiger Tracker” on their website, even through the scandal. So you can’t tell me that the world doesn’t still love Tiger. They just hated to see him fall.
Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelPakkala