Monday, April 05, 2010

Role Model Masters Class

Like many Americans I was measurably shocked and repulsed by the heartless shenanigans of Tiger Woods revealed over the past 4 months. Given the magnitude of his selfish actions I feel no empathy for him. His friend and former college/NBA basketball star, Charles Barkley, has stated on many occasions that he and other notable athletes in all sports are not role models. Barkley suggests that this role is rightly reserved for parents. Frankly, to a great extent, I agree with Charles. However, reality dictates that celebrities – no matter their field – ARE role models. Certainly as we mature many of us are proud to emulate ‘dear old dad.’ But within the minds of impressionable adolescent boys – many of them, anyway – is the desire to ‘be like Mike’ or ‘bend it like Beckham.’ I recall my own adolescent years and endless summer hours playing a game we called Strike Out with my pal Rick Vargo. It required a tennis ball, a broom handle bat, knowledge of professional baseball players and a tremendous imagination. Rick and I would each play a number of roles in this glorious pantomime: pitcher (Koufax, Gibson, Bunning, etc.), batter (Clemente, Aaron, Mantle, etc.), fielder (Callison, Wine, Mays, etc.) and even the play-by-play announcers (Saam, Scully, Allen, etc.) We emulated wind-ups, batters’ postures, wild basket catches, throws from the right field wall and the unique vocal delivery of each announcer. Role models? Hell yes they were role models; for a couple years they were everything to me and Rick and I suspect we weren’t the only 12 year olds recreating their own fantasy games in streets, alleys and playgrounds all over America.
With little effort I have removed any preoccupation with The Tiger Woods Soap Opera from my mind. In early January I told one of my sons that I was certain Woods would return to the PGA for The Masters – not before, not after. Unlike my NCAA March Madness brackets I was right on the money. This was an easy prediction: his ego simply dictated that he is present on golf’s premiere stage. But on this day after Resurrection, this Monday of Masters’ week, I find myself more annoyed by Tiger Woods than at any other moment since his notorious Thanksgiving excursion from driveway to fire hydrant. Upon the fairways and greens of golf’s Mecca is the brooding shadow of infidelity, selfishness and egocentricity. The prurient interests of the media have clouded this annual moment of challenge and respect. Our minds are naturally turned away from the other formidable talents on the PGA tour and toward the darkness of Woods’ exploits and empty explanations.
The most tragic component in all of this is Woods’ betrayal of his wife, Elin and their children. No doubt. And yet there is also a betrayal of the fans, his remarkably stellar competitors and the game itself. His unique talent is no longer of any interest to me. I cannot bring myself to root for him any longer. He is an empty vessel. This is not an admirable quality for a role model.


Blogger Neil M. said...

Thom- I'm right there with you! I'm a golfer and I have watched exactly 2 minutes of the circus.

April 7, 2010 at 12:27 AM  

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