Monday, April 13, 2009

The Master

I crept downstairs at my in-laws’ house during Easter family activities yesterday to sneak a peak at the Masters. More accurately, I wanted to see how Tiger was doing at the Masters. If he wasn’t involved, there is no chance that I would have bothered at all. Such is the allure of Tiger. It’s strange because I usually dislike the favorite. I hate the Yankees, Red Sox, Lakers, Spurs, Patriots, Steelers (boy do I hate the Steelers), Cowboys etc. But as my wife told me yesterday as I was discussing this with her, “Those are all franchises, not individuals.” Well, that’s a good point. But is that really it? I’d still love basketball if LeBron wasn’t playing. I’d still love football if Tom Brady wasn’t playing (as evidenced by last year). I’d still love (ok, like) baseball if Ichiro wasn’t playing. But I would not watch a single hole of golf coverage if Tiger wasn’t playing. In fact, when he was injured, I didn’t watch a thing. I only care about golf if he’s involved and I don’t get it.

I suppose I’ve got a few reasons. He’s a minority guy, in a sport rife with white guys, historically and presently. He’s about my age (I’m about a year and a half older). He’s revolutionized the sport and made everyone around him (competitors included) wildly rich. He’s amazingly good at what he does and may go down as the best player the game has ever seen. I suppose those are all good-enough reasons, but they all seem awfully shallow.

He’s not especially engaging and has such a measured, nerdy kind of voice. He rarely says anything interesting and the only things I know about him are that he lives in Orlando (or thereabouts), he has an exceedingly gorgeous wife, he has two kids, he’s filthy rich, Nike loves him (and he loves Nike), and he has a boat named Privacy. Those are boring things to know.
But he’s not boring on the course, which is the important part. He gets pissed out there and doesn’t hide his frustration. He expects every shot to be incredible, and when it’s not, he gets angry and pushes to make the next shot the incredible one. He’s relentless and it’s cool to see because with all of that drive, talent, and mental toughness he’s bound to put together something that we’ve never seen before.

For lack of something better, I guess that's what I love about the guy. He knows that he is physically the most talented guy in the game, but he also practices harder than anyone else (or, to be fair, it's probably more accurate to say that he practices at least as hard as anyone else). He's the best in the game and doesn't waste his talents by coasting. Going further, he never, ever cheats the game, he always comes ready to dominate. By extension, he never, ever cheats us as fans because we want to see him at his best.
I appreciate that.

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