Five reasons to root against Tiger. It really is a moral imperative.
I might be the only golf fan who has been rooting against Tiger Woods from almost the day he arrived on the scene, but particularly since around 2000 when he began to totally dominate the sport.
Others tune in to watch him win. I tune him hoping he will lose. When the field withers, as it usually does, I turn off the TV in disgust, convinced, again, that we live in the devil’s world and that Tiger is one of Satan’s minions.
Now, this is a pretty strong feeling over a guy who plays golf for a living. I concede it. Tiger Woods has never done anything to me personally — but he does represent things that in a better world most of us would find repugnant (and I am not even referencing his personal life.)
Here are five reasons it is not only right to root against Tiger, it is really a moral imperative.
1. He is a bully.
He plays golf like a bully — and I mean that emphatically. Fans are a nuisance, rules are followed but only because they have to be, and the game exists solely as a stage for his greatness. There is nothing in him that resembles a sportsman in the traditional sense. Whether he is glaring at a fan who snaps a picture, throwing a club, mobilizing fans to help him move a boulder in the middle of the golf course or inking huge corporate deals, Woods cares only about one thing: Woods.
Notice that Woods has almost never been able to play the role of underdog or launch a come from behind victory of any magnitude. This is classic bully — he wins when he can impose his will on others. But when others play him tough and puts pressure on him, far more often than not he shrinks and plays small.
I can think of only two exceptions off the top of my head — his play against a couple of journey men guys like Bob May and Rocco Mediate. God forbid the fates allow these two guys, who played with great steel and courage, to take one from the god of golf. Woods beat them both but once again he was merely imposing his will on inferior talent. Big deal.
2. The world fears him. There is nothing more repugnant than a bully and nothing worse than a world that lacks the character and toughness to face the bully down. In the Players Championship, Sergio Garcia dared to suggest Tiger had moved and stirred the crowd while he was hitting a shot. A sportswriter on Yahoo berated Sergio, without even checking to see if what he said was true. Tiger Woods act like a troll on the golf course! Really! But Sergio got blamed instead.
For almost 20 years now, no one on the tour has shown the resolve or ability to play Tiger and beat him. Sergio, alas, proved the point yet again Sunday. With a chance to take out Woods, he instead imploded, typically. In fact, the entire field has been wilting in the face of hthe Tiger glare — and so, too, those who govern the game. That is a sad commentary on the game and a culture that will tolerate almost any boorish behavior provided it brings victories and money. (The one guy who I applaud for showing courage in the face of Tiger’s nonsense is Brandel Chamblee, the golf channel commentator who dared to call on Tiger to withdraw during the Master’s because of his violation of the rules. I think there is still something that stinks in Augusta.)
3. He uses people. The guy can’t handle anyone else being in the spotlight when he is around. I realize that in professional sports this is pretty routine behavior, but Woods is worse than most in my view precisely because he pretends to be above it. He is a hypocrite through and through — a guy who demands loyalty but gives little. But, like many stars, he buys loyalty and friends.
4. He lacks class. Class is a tough thing to define, but Woods lacks it. Again, he is not alone in this regard. Over the decades certain players exude it and others don’t. But class is grace under pressure, a generosity of spirit that at least occasionally rises above self or ego. Woods has no capacity for this — so he bends rules, ignores fans, refuses autographs to children, and walks the course like a demigod who is better than everyone else.
5. Of course, he is better than everyone else. Call it the “Damn Yankees” syndrome but hating those who always win is natural. When combined with all his other traits, why not root against a guy who disdains the fan — even as he transcends the game.
Woods is a great player — arguably the best of all time. I happen to think he will always be third — behind Jones, who defined the sport in the modern era and Nicklaus, who competed against a half dozen of the world’s greatest players — Palmer, Watson, Trevino, Player, Casper, etc. There are no players today (at least not in the past 15 years) that compare to the guys that Nicklaus battled week in and week out. So even if Tiger breaks Jack’s record, I will still argue that Nicklaus was the greater player relatively speaking.
Let me close with this. We have always admired winners in this country — and Tiger is a winner on the golf course, no doubt. But he has come to personify something terribly astray in our culture: that rules don’t apply to those on top; that winning, even at the expense of dignity or respect for others, is okay; that money matters more than character or grace; that the ego must be fed at any cost, even when it leads to massive cultural and personal dysfunction.
Now, there are others in sports that could be disliked for similar reasons. Michael Jordon was a notoriously bad sport who berated other players and lacked grace. But Jordan was playing a team sport that is defined by macho displays and intimidation. Magic Johnson’s use and abuse of his position and celebrity both personally and professionally is well documented. Bobby Knight was perhaps the biggest bully in college basketball history. Pete Rose — hustler that he was — probably wasn’t a guy to have a beer with. Neither was Ted Williams for that matter.
Tiger’s time will come and go. He will be recalled as one of the greatest to ever play the game. He will probably own most of the records long past my lifetime and most of those living today.
I say so what. He still isn’t a good guy and rooting for him to lose makes all the sense in the world. Now that he appears back in old form, alas, I am apt to be a frustrated fan for a long time.