I've never been a fan of Tiger Woods either, not once I came to know more about it. His first major victory, at the Masters, was awesome, at least in the sporting sense (and that's not a word I use lightly), and while there were other golfers I preferred, I could at least appreciate his talent. However, the more I got to know about him, the less I thought of him. While I don't rejoice in his current tribulations, I do often think that what goes around comes around.
And that's the most I would have thought of either Mike Tyson or Tiger Woods, but in this column Joe Posnanski draws some real parallels between the careers of the two men, and in the process takes a look at how we regard greatness; I think it tells us a lot about how we look at our own mortality as well. The punch line:
Call it Tysonography, our refusal to believe that even the most extraordinary talents fade quicker than we expect. There are a lot of “What’s wrong with Tiger Woods” stories out there right now, and some of them are interesting, but I still suspect they miss the point. Nothing’s wrong with Tiger Woods except that he’s human and he’s fading and it’s the most obvious thing in the world but, like with Mike Tyson, we willfully refuse to accept it.
Very true. Some people just refuse to believe that Woods can't win it all again. Hey, maybe they're right. But if they are, it's not because they have the odds in their favor.
But doesn't this speak to our views on our own mortality as well? I don't mean the "invincible" stage that teens go through when they think there isn't anything in the world that can hurt them, although that certainly is a part of it. No, I think it's the way we look at life in general - unable to believe that we aren't the people that we used to be. That's why we buy Viagra, and color our hair to get the grey out (or buy new hair, which is even better). It's why we gravitate towards fast cars and trophy spouses, why we dress and talk and act like we're decades younger than we really are. A perpetual adolescence, some call it, an unwillingness to accept the responsibilities of adulthood. And that's true, but I think it's also our unwillingness to accept mortality, to think about what happens on judgment day. There's a lot of whistling past the graveyard going on nowadays, but as Harry Reasoner once said, no matter what man does, no matter what he gives up or avoids, "he may get one day extra or none; he never gets eternity." Not on this earth, at least.
Anyway, read Poz's column. It's really good, and not nearly as heavy as I make it out to be.
Originally published February 20, 2015