(Photo: Reuters / Brian Snyder)
No Victory, No Redemption: The Continued Demonization of Tiger Woods
by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan
The national media experienced a major buzz kill last weekend. Prepared to launch the “Tiger Woods redemption” tour – part celebration of his ability to persevere and make it back and bigger part jubilation for the willingness of the American public to accept Tiger back in good graces – the media found itself with Bubbha instead of Tiger. Having won a tournament a few weeks back, his first in three years, Woods was on the precipice of receiving national absolution, through stories of redemption and forgiveness. Unfortunately for the media salivating at the prospect of celebrating itself and an exceptional American populace that can look beyond Woods’ “transgression,” Woods failed to deliver, finishing in a distant 40th place.
The efforts to link redemption to victory is telling in itself as it illustrates how winning and athletic success determines the narrative and value placed upon Tiger Woods within the public discourse. When winning, he was “America’s multicultural son,” yet his fall from the leader board, even more than his infidelity and personal difficulties, is the source of both the criticism and the calls for him to redeem himself before the alter of the American public.
Worse yet, in the eyes of the media, he has continued to act not like “gentlemen.” Calling his performance “embarrassing” and his club kicking unacceptable because of what has happened over the last three years, Michael C. Jones describes his 2012 Masters in the following way:
Woods needs to clean up his act, and he’s smart enough to know that he needs to do so for more than just his public image. He’s being scorned for his attitude throughout the debacle at Augusta National and rightly so. As an ambassador of the game, he’s showing mental weakness that is a far cry from the signature psychological edge the old Tiger used to display during each one of his 14 major victories.
His mind is in a wandering state, and he’s gotten away from having fun on the golf course. He needs to get back to that for the sake of his game. Beyond just the club-kicking, Woods’ demonstrative displays of bitter anger at one of the most sacred venues in golf’s history show that he has no control and no regard for the way he carries himself. If he truly means what he said in his famous apology in February 2010, then he will act accordingly and at the very least refrain from making a complete fool of himself.
The constant references to his marital situation and the club kicking is revealing because it reflects an overall subtext that imagines the world of golf as a place defined by whiteness and its upper-class identity, as a space of proper decorum, desired values, and gentlemen disposition. “Golf has always placed a special premium on honor and good sportsmanship,” writes Orin Starn in his newly published The Passion of Tiger Woods. “You’re supposed to maintain a respectful, church-like silence every time your playing partner is about to hit a shot.” (p. 46). Reflecting the history of race, class, and notions of civilization, the culture of golf oversees its operations on and off the links. Similarly, David Whitley, noting the ample public shaming directed at Woods in recent years, describes Woods as a 5-year who needs public scolding as part of his redemption process.
Evident here, Tiger has failed to uphold these values; evident in his infidelity and his kicking a club, Tiger once thought to be the future of golf has betrayed this possibility. Yet, in reading this column and others, all would be forgiven if he just won, revealing what values matter most within America’s victory culture.
What becomes clear in reading the media narrative is as follows: (1) Tiger is immature; (2) Tiger is a bad person; and (3) without success on the course, he has little appeal. His redemption starts and ends with titles, particularly Majors. This point was sadly illustrated in a troubling and surprising column from Robert Lipsyte, whose relationship with the likes of Dick Gregory and Muhammad Ali leaves me baffled by his piece about Woods. Entitled “The Lost Boys” (reference to Lost Boys of Sudan?), Lipsyte laments Woods’ fall from grace, linking his career to that of Tyson and Simpson:
When Tiger crashed his car in 2009 and the turgid details of his psycho sex life emerged, I had the same thought I had in 1997 when Mike, after three years in jail for rape, bit off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear while losing a title fight: This is how you declare emotional bankruptcy when you’ve been conditioned to never quit, when blowing up your world is the only way out.
Maybe O.J.’s blundering kidnapping and armed robbery caper in 2007 was also a psychic suicide. It seemed too silly to be judged seriously, so I figured he was sentenced for being acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and her friend in 1995. I had been ridiculed for my theory then that O.J. was protecting the real killer, his son, knowing he could beat the rap while the kid couldn’t. I’m delighted that the theory has reappeared in a new book. O.J. is 64 and in prison until at least 2017.
Continue reading at NewBlackMan: No Victory, No Redemption: The Continued Demonization of Tiger Woods.