Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Tiger Woods: A Retrospective

Posted on March 03, 2021 by Susan Melony

A few days ago, those who turned on ESPN watched as it became the all-Tiger-Woods network. The channel temporarily shelved shows like Around the Horn. In their place were images of a rental vehicle flipped over on its back and shattered glass strewn across a wooded clearing.

Tiger Woods was in that rented vehicle, driving down a California road, when he lost control and flew into the trees. It was a single-car accident. Early reports indicated that he would live, though reporters spoke in hushed tones about his suspected broken legs.

Many thought about the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash from last year, which claimed not only Bryant’s life but also that of his teenage daughter, Gianna. As it became clear that Woods would live, you could almost hear the sports world take a unified sigh of relief.   

As Woods recovers, now is as good of a time as any to think about what he means to golf and the sports world as a whole.

What Sports Mean

Getting away from Woods for a moment, we should go over what sports mean within our society. Think of this statistic: about 21.5 million children between age 6 and 17 years old play team sports.

Golf is not a team sport, but you get the idea. Sports are a widespread pastime, and with good reason. Kids that play them often do better in school, and they get fresh air and exercise. They are less likely to have obesity issues.

It’s not surprising at all, then, when kids idolize sports stars. They see individuals doing the same thing that they do, but at a higher level. They see adults playing a game and making millions of dollars.

Go into many homes, and you’ll see posters depicting basketball and football players on the walls. You’ll also see adults watching TV and praising sports stars as fervently as their kids do. It is a learned behavior for children, and they become sports fans not just through playing but through watching these real-life superheroes on TV.

Tiger Woods, the Man

Since kids, and adults, for that matter, regard players with such reverence, it makes sense that society should scrutinize what they do in their personal lives. When LeBron James speaks about social justice issues, people listen, just as they do when Kyrie Irving says the world is flat.

Tiger Woods was the ultimate success story, up until about ten years ago. At that point, several women came forward, alleging that he had affairs with them. Eventually, Woods and his wife divorced.

Some in the media excoriated him, while others defended him. It was much the same as with Kobe Bryant, who had a much-publicized rape allegation about that time.

These incidents make our sports stars human for us. They reveal that they make mistakes and have urges that many people view as inappropriate.

Some people love stories of sports stars doing things they shouldn’t because they can’t get enough of the salacious details. These incidents become tabloid fodder, and Woods found his name dragged through the mud.

The Comeback

Years later, Woods struggled to regain his former glory. It was not because of the highly-publicized divorce but because of many lagging injuries. In 2019, he won The Masters, one of the year’s biggest tournaments. He had last won it fourteen years before that.

Most people forgave him for his misadventures because society loves a comeback story. Also, while he was unfaithful to his wife, no one ever accused him of rape, as was the case with Kobe Bryant.

Now, in just a few months, Kobe is gone, while Woods has suffered devastating injuries. It’s far from certain whether he will ever play golf again. It’s highly likely that his career is over.

In the next PGA Tour event, the overwhelming majority of golfers wore Tiger’s signature red shirt and black pants. The eventual tournament winner, Collin Morikawa, thanked Woods and talked about how deeply he appreciated his contributions to the sport.

Many seem eager to whitewash Kobe Bryant’s history now that he is gone. As for Woods, he appears to have survived his brush with death, and the golf world, at least, wants to make clear how much it loves him.

Woods was almost another tragic story, and most people seem thankful that the accident spared him. Like Bryant, he is not without his detractors, but if the golfers wearing his colors are any indication, it’s at least clear what his peers think about him.

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