Another Game of Inches

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Well, it's Wednesday, which means I find myself at a self-imposed deadline for a mid-week post.  I keep a (regrettably short) list of things I might wish to unravel, but my thoughts so far this week keep returning to Sunday.

Football is known as "game of inches."  Just as pre-season football camp is the precursor to many wonderful weekends of games (and therefore my favorite season, autumn), tuning in to watch another game of issues, "The Masters," is a rite of Spring.  Golf isn't something I watch a lot of, but that particular tournament draws me, in part because I've been there, and partly due to the scarcity of commercial interruptions.

Otherwise, I'm like 80% of the golf watching public; I tune in when Tiger is playing.  Well, maybe not.  I used to tune in when he was playing, but now I tend to watch when I know he is playing well.  As such, I set aside other things on Sunday afternoon to watch him win the PGA Tournament, his first Major in over a year.

Only, he didn't.

I've watched many sports "heroes" win and lose.  Michael Jordan, Kobe/Shaq, Magic/Kareem/Worthy, Bird/Parrish, the Yankees, the Redwings, the 49ers, the Cowboys, the Steelers, whatever...  There's something about champions that draws my interest, even if I don't pull for them... the renegade Miami Hurricanes of the 1990's come to mind.  But I like to watch sports when they are being played at the highest level consistently.  (This excludes my faithful watching of Clemson games, which I'm just stuck with, but that's another story.)

Fact: Tiger Woods leading a tournament after 36 holes = certain victory.  Sunday, it was time to watch him claim his 15th Major title on his path to surpass Jack Nicklaus' record of 18.

As most everyone knows, despite an 8-0 record when leading Majors, he lost.  Much credit goes to YE Yang, a 37 year old Korean who earned a great victory with his unflappable composure and great play. 

Tiger PGA

I don't really know anything about Tiger Woods other than from what I've seen in his interviews and what his Public Relations firm allows the outside world to digest.  But we all get a sense that he is extremely talented, conscientious, goal oriented, respectful, hard working, and extremely competitive.  And he's (probably) a nice person. 

Should I care that he lost?  Should you?  I can't find a reason that anyone should, other than just being admirers of the things listed above.  So at most, there might be a sense of disappointment.  At the same time, YE Yang staged a completely unexpected and unprecedented upset, succeeding where far more notable players have failed.  That's a great victory with a storyline that should be amply rewarding to any sports fan.Tiger Woods PGA 2009

So why am I still thinking about it?

I saw this (AP) photo.

Ever just have an off day?  Woods still dominates international golf, and considering that he was only at a single stroke disadvantage (when it mattered) entering the last three holes, he had 9-10 putting opportunities through the day that he missed by 2 inches or less. It was still great golf.  If he had made, as he normally would, just half of those, it would have been said that he dominated the tournament.

But he didn't.  And for a casual fan of Tiger Woods, there's something deeper than the superficial disappointment that came with his loss.

Just as Michael Jordan made a commercial commenting on all the would-be game winning shots he missed, it doesn't take Tiger Woods for anyone to understand that that we cannot win all the time, regardless of our talents and preparation.

It is not as if Tiger suddenly hung his Superman cape in the closet; he was never Superman to begin with.  Looking at Tiger's dejection in the picture, it's not that he let me down, but more of a reminder of how much I looked up to him, how easily I put a person I know so little about on a pedestal of sorts.  And when our idols topple, or even wobble as is the likely case with Tiger, it's worth reflection on how easily we tend to look up to others.  Experientially, we seem to be built to look up to someone who is worthy.

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