My Sportsman: Tiger Woods
You almost have to wonder if this was the only challenge left. If one afternoon,
The world learned at the Open last June that 70 percent of Tiger Woods is better than 100 percent of any other golfer. It was one of those performances that transcends the sport, up there in the annals of gimpy greatness with
The Open alone makes Tiger a Sportsman candidate. What seals the deal is the great, roaring vacuum that his departure created in the world of golf. Other than the Ryder Cup, a patriotic venture people like me care about in the same way we care about the Women's World Cup, I can't recall a single golf event since June. The rest of the competitors blend into one visor-wearing, soft-bellied, middle-aged guy who seems to always be squinting.
Life without Tiger? Five months later the No. 1 player in golf is still Woods, by a mile. Five months later TV ratings have plummeted as if they're being traded on the NASDAQ (the PGA Championship's numbers were down more than 50 percent from last year). Five months later the biggest non-Ryder golf buzz I can recall is when Tiger appeared in some video game commercial where he walked on water. And it wasn't even a good commercial.
What has become increasingly clear is that not only is golf better off with Tiger Woods, but that it's downright screwed without him. Think NHL, think tennis, think of other slowly atrophying sports that can't compete with short attention spans and diversifying entertainment options. Without Tiger, only people who play golf will follow golf. Without Tiger, golf is the province of old white guys who remind you of your friend's dad, and that is not a demo that plays well with the 18-24s. Without Tiger, golf is a niche.
So when it comes to Sportsman talk, no, Tiger is no great humanitarian. Neither has he taken advantage of his clout -- would there have been an easier, more natural move for a guy like Woods than endorsing