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October 22, 2008

Tiger and Barack

by S.I. Kropotkin

DURING THE LATE WINTER, as the primary and golfing seasons got underway, I was in a place with a TV (not home), and thus a witness to some astounding things.


The astounding play and mind of Tiger Woods these past nine years have something to do with the astounding fact that the United States seem on the verge of electing a black man to the presidency.


Tiger quietly thinks his way around a golf course with a ferocious discipline that has crippled, emotionally, an entire generation of competitors. No one plays anywhere near his level, or brings home anything like his bacon.


In a game without teams, where the camera sees every tick and twitch, for nine years he's personified Excellence -- while performing in arenas at the heart of white male American society.


Early on this year he put on a putting exhibition at the annual Match Play, destroying in the process players (JB Holmes and Aaron Baddeley) who themselves were playing at career-high pitch ... It was cruel. Forty and 50 and 70 foot puts ... One almost had to look away.


And then in June. He played the four rounds of the US Open grimacing with a bad knee that got worse each day. The world had been told it was a bit of torn cartilege.


After the tournament the world was told it was a torn ligament. !?! And he won. On painkillers. Often fouling off tee shots as the knee gave way -- only to bash his way back out of the bush for par, over and over ...


He's had so many amazing performances. But these two take the cake. And come after a few years of troubled, distracted play, following his father's death, his marriage, the arrival of a child ...


SO THEN: It seems to me that Tiger's intelligence and grace under pressure, his peerless ability to win, and his modest, articulate, charming manner, on spectacular display across nine years, have helped white America progress, along lines first laid down by Jackie Robinson and Mohammed Ali, to the point where the rather parallel qualities of Barack Obama, on display now across 20 rough months, are clearly perceived and well received.


It's a shame, of course -- shameful -- that it takes paragons (Robinson, Ali, Woods) to break barriers and make way for progress. To arrive at, merely, a level playing field. But that's the society we've been dealt.

And at the moment (nearly eight years long) we're short of things to be proud of.


The End

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