Two of the nation’s biggest sports events take place this week, and they couldn’t be more different. First, we get the NCAA basketball Championship Monday night. Huge students with tattoos will slam into each other in a muscular aerial ballet to determine which college will be the national champion of a sport that largely thrives on the playgrounds of our ghettos. Then, later in the week, all manner of plutocrats, corporate bigwigs, and professional golfers from every corner of the globe, largely without tattoos, will once again gather in the Shrine of American Golf, Augusta National, for the Masters.
In both contests, very large sums of money are at stake. A significant difference, however, is that in the Masters, some millions of of it will land in the wallets of the contestants, whereas at the NCAA, any monetary benefits will be indirect, in the form of fat NBA contracts down the line for a fortunate few.
Frankly, I don’t care about the NCAAs, because it’s just become too bizarre. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not interested in “reforming” college athletics any more than I want to argue the merits of veganism. If that’s your cup of broccoli, dig in with my blessing. I do pause at the notion that a system built on exploiting young black men so nakedly and with such feral enthusiasm should be so enthusiastically embraced by our President, but politicians are comfortable with all manner of contradiction where ethics are concerned.
But the Masters — that’s different. The Masters seems almost completely free of hypocrisy. Augusta flouts social mores with no apologies or excuses — no nonsense about “scholarships” or “equality.” Women? Nope. Black people? Yes, there are one or two as members, and one with four green jackets — but by and large, Augusta is pretty much the stomping ground of the elite. Which makes the name Tiger Woods an even more intriguing one. I want Tiger Woods to win the Masters. Again.
Nor do I wish this outcome because of the now-tired irony of a black (white, Thai and Amerind) man as the Masters champion. I want it for a much less admirable or noble reason.
For some time now, I have been compelled to listen to various idiots speak in knowing and measured tones about how “Tiger is finished” and “Tiger is all washed up.” Maybe, I thought, but you don’t know that. What was apparent was how much they wanted it. I watched Woods submit to their demands for penitence, even subjecting himself to a hilarious boot camp parody in the name of “sexual addiction therapy.” I don’t make excuses for him, and I don’t condone his behavior towards his wife, but frankly, it’s none of my business. And I love watching him play golf. I don’t want to be him, I don’t need a role model, I don’t want to judge him. After listening to our good citizens on the topic of Tim Tebow, I sure don’t expect him to think of the public as anything other than a fickle, demanding and mindless mob.
What I do want is that all the mopes, fleas, and other mites in the sporting press and the population at large that have derived so much pleasure in proclaiming his downfall to gnash their teeth in outrage as he walks up the eighteenth fairway on Sunday to the wild cheers of the crowd. A month ago, no one thought that could happen. Today, it is a distinct possibility. Tiger is 7 to 1.