Monday, April 11, 2005

Burning bright

The Tiger is back.

High time, too. It's been getting tiresome listening to people asking, "So does Tiger stink now, or what?"

(I'm always the person who gets asked that question, because when you want the latest skinny about Tiger Woods, you turn immediately to the nearest biracial person for the 411. Because clearly, I know everything there is to know about Tiger Woods, inasmuch as all us mixed-race folk are likethis. In fact, I was chatting Tiger up just last month at the annual League of Biracial Gentlemen convention, gleaning some tips on my short game.)

Of course, it's not like Tiger ever went away...just his driving accuracy in major tournaments over the past three years. He had caddy problems, and coach problems, and club problems, and paternal health problems, and Elin Nordgren wedding planning problems (which, if you have to have problems, aren't bad problems to have). But with a miracle chip on the 16th hole at Augusta, and a nail-biting playoff against a determined Chris DiMarco, Tiger has his ninth major title and his fourth hideous green jacket to collect lint in his closet.

It's a good thing. Tiger is good for golf. Not just because he's a person of color (as opposed, I guess, to a person of transparency) who expands interest in golf beyond its traditionally narrow country-club limits, but because he's a huge personality, and huge personalities are essential to the success of any sport. Great players who aren't interesting don't sell tickets. Great players whose larger-than-life personas people find compelling, either for positive reasons (see Jordan, Michael) or negative (see Bonds, Barry), put fannies in the seats, jerseys on backs, and fans' hard-earned money in the pockets of sponsors. Tiger is that kind of player, in a game that suffers from personality deficit disorder. (Seriously — who cares if Phil Mickelson or Retief Goosen wins the Masters? If either of those guys were standing next to you right now, would you think he was your insurance agent?) I mean, Tiger gets me to pay attention to golf, and the only golf I've played in the last fifteen years involved windmills and volcanoes.

So you go, Mr. Woods. Glad to have you back on top. Green may even be your color.

Especially when it's on the faces of Hootie Johnson and the rest of his old white boys' club every time you win.

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