This is one of those days when blogging's a pleasure. Not that it isn't always; I love writing, and I love writing for all of you out there (however many of you there may be). But a day like today is especially good, because I don't have to wonder what I'm going to post about next. The ideas just pop up right in front of me.
Take this column by Bill Syken that I ran across today at SI.com. It's all about the new, improved Tiger Woods. What's that, you ask? Has he finally gotten his game in order, straightened out his crooked drives, fixed that balky putter? No, nothing so mundane as that. Syken is glad that Tiger seems on the verge of getting edgier, more in-your-face, throwing away all those old conventions like sportsmanship. For example, here's Syken's take on Woods' early departure from the rain-delayed PGA Championship, when he still had at least a theoretical chance of winning:
Of the 156 players in the field, 155 would have waited out the finish. Staying the extra day is what Tiger was supposed to do -- just like we're supposed to compliment a friend on their new haircut, no matter how bad it looks. Woods had a chance on paper, but not really. By going home, he showed he won't be held hostage by propriety.
That's right, let's just toss propriety aside as if it were an old-fashioned superstition - which, unfortunately, more and more are starting to believe. Propriety, by the way, is defined as "conformity to what is socially acceptable in conduct or speech." Is that really such an awful thing to be accused of, Syken? I mean, laws against murder or rape are kind of confining too, I suppose. After all, they do require law-abiding citizens to "conform to what is socially acceptable."
Golf is one of the few sports left that still takes pride in sportsmanship, that continues to follow rules of etiquette. Apparently, that just isn't 21st Century-enough for Syken. Until now, Tiger has followed in the footsteps of golf's greats, such as Palmer and Nicklaus. Syken thinks his role model ought to be Muhammad Ali:
Michael Jordan is a fine role model, but before him there was another sports icon, Muhammad Ali, who let fans know how much he enjoyed being the greatest of all time. Tiger's Accenture commercial, with its hint of preening, is a step in that direction. How great it would be if Tiger really showed everyone how much fun it is to be Tiger Woods?
Sigh. I guess you just can't have fun anymore without getting in someone else's face. Yes, by all means let's turn golf into boxing - hey, there's a sport that's thriving, right? And we all know how much more exciting sports is now that you've got these junior Ali-wannabees out there - loud, obnoxious, braggerts who taunt their opponents to the point of cruelty. (Remember Ali's fights against Floyd Patterson and Ernie Terrell, Syken?) We rush to cannonize Ali because of his frail health, but let us not overlook his desertion of Christianity, his evasion of the draft, his broken marriages, the crassness and coarsness he added to society. Yes, he could be entertaining, but at what price? For the love of Pete, what's wrong with being a gentleman?
Ironically, it's just those qualities that Syken despises that are being celebrated in this SI.com column in praise of Andre Aggasi, written by Justin Gimelstob. Aggasi, once the brash, bad boy of tennis, has now become its elder statesman, and the game's greatest ambassador - a gentleman both on and off the court. As Gimelstob writes,
Andre's accomplishments through his charitable foundation are well documented and incredible in their own right (he's raised more than $50 million for underprivileged kids), but it's just as amazing to hear him talk with passion and pride about the kids whose lives he affects. Andre is a role model not just to young tennis players, but to all professional athletes -- all of whom have the ability to positively effect change in people's lives.
Now, I'm not trying to dis Tiger here, because for all of Syken's blind wishing, it's far from sure that Tiger's going to turn into the object of Syken's desire. But haven't we had enough of athletes like Terrell Owens lately? Let's hope that Tiger turns away from Ali, and follows the lead of Agassi. And while we're at it, maybe Syken can take a lesson or two from Herbert Warren Wind.