From a year ago — comments on the Masters (perhaps equally applicable today)

The sports world is abuzz because Tiger Woods appears ready to contend in this year’s Masters Tournament. Woods electrified the sports world for decades after winning his first Masters in 2001. Woods’s Masters win mattered not just because of his greatness and promise as a player, but because of his race. For a person of color to win at Augusta was a victory of historic proportions. For his victory to be celebrated by so many who had excluded men who looked like Woods for so long seemed to mark a passage of sorts. At Augusta, somehow, golf escaped its segregated past — with Tiger Woods as the new symbol of the suddenly inclusive game.

Two years ago, Woods was again in the newspapers for reasons that transcended golf. Over the course of a few weeks, his personal life fell apart in plain view as a consequence of serial infidelity of the most sensational sort — porn stars, waitresses, and text messages. It was all so tawdry, it became tedious.

But then, as he returned to competition, it appeared that he had lost his game. Until the Bay Hill tournament a couple of weeks ago, Tiger Woods had not won a PGA Tour event since the night his then wife chased him with a golf club. And he has lost in decidedly unsportsmanlike fashion. He has thrown clubs, whined, appeared frustrated, and hit golf shots amateurs would be embarrassed about. I confess to having enjoyed his struggle and feeling that he somehow deserved it. Watching him win a couple of Sundays ago, I felt disappointed. I had hoped that he would fail.

I feel that not because my own life has been above reproach. Who other than Mitt Romney can claim that? Tiger’s arrogance combines with the lack of joy he shows for the game to make him a completely unlikeable presence. I find I am troubled by entitlement. Enormously successful people, like Romney or Woods, get there in part by skill and in part by good fortune. When they acknowledge and seem to appreciate their good fortune, they can inspire. When they turn petulant, they cannot. If Woods wins this weekend, I will be disappointed. There is no grace in his return to form. Instead, he is without contrition and without appreciation for the gift of another chance.

So this weekend, I am going to root for a young man from Northern Ireland — Rory McIlroy. McIlroy hits the ball a mile and smiles whenever he does. If he were to win this weekend, he might remind us all of the fun and luck that are at the center of the game. Sometimes the ball rolls in the hole; sometimes it finds the water. Like the opportunity to play the game itself, winning is good fortune, plain and simple.

About Josh Davis

Josh is an employment lawyer, law teacher, blogger and radio commentator.
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2 Responses to From a year ago — comments on the Masters (perhaps equally applicable today)

  1. Steve says:

    Jealous much? It’s amazing how people say that individuals deserve a second chance especially if they like that person or are a “fan”. I’m sure that you have been less critical of Bill Clinton or Ted Kennedy over the years than you are of Tiger. You are a hyprocite who only has enough sack to take on the easy target. I’m not a Tiger fan but I am sick and tired of folks like you who ignore or gloss over the failings of their political and social heroes that disgrace not only themselves buy our country as a whole.

    • Josh Davis says:

      Thanks for the comment — I’ve watched golf forever and think that Tiger’s return to Number 1 in the World is as remarkable as any achievement I can think of in the game. At the same time, he has refused to moderate his on-course manner or show any kind of appreciation for those who offered him support through the challenges he made for himself. I did not (and do not) hold back in my disdain for President Clinton’s personal conduct while in office (the death of Monica Lewinsky’s lawyer yesterday was a sad reminder of an awful chapter) nor did I (or do I) condone the indiscretions (and worse) that marred Ted Kennedy’s career. At the same time, I have deep respect for the work both men did and the causes that they supported.

      Great people (and great athletes) make personal decisions with which I disagree. Those decisions do not mean that we should not appreciate their good works (or Tiger’s good golf). It just adds complexity to the portrait. And, for me, on a Sunday afternoon watching the Masters, I’d rather skip the complexity and root for a seemingly good guy who clearly loves to play the game.

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