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Monday, June 4, 2012

Memorial Tournament: Tiger Woods is Human, Just Like the Rest Of Us

As the Memorial Tournament, held in Dublin, Ohio, not far from where I currently live, came to a close yesterday, the big story revolved around the PGA's most popular (and, according to whom you talk to, its most polarizing) player, one Tiger Woods. Not only did Woods' fifth victory at Murifield Country Club set a tournament record, but, he also tied the immortal Jack Nicklaus with his 73rd victory in professional golf, and, at the age of 36, in 10 fewer years than the 'Golden Bear' did.

Yet despite such a dramatic comeback, there are still people that have trouble separating Tiger Woods the golfer from Tiger Woods the man. While many people are aware of the spectacular birdie saving chip shot Woods made on the 16th hole on Sunday, that ultimately help propel him to victory, few may be aware of the drama that awaited him on the 17th, where he would miss an attempt for a second consecutive birdie. I could be mistaken, but it has come to my knowledge that while the majority of the gallery was silent after this miss, one person took particular joy in this failure. So much so that it rose to the level of heckling, where this person was almost escorted off the premises.

I bring this instance up for two reasons: the first is to illustrate the proper decorum for attending a golf tournament. Many of you have seen the movie 'Happy Gilmore' starring Adam Sandler(if you haven't I suggest you do so now), where Sandler's title character gets heckled repeatedly. Well, that only works in the movie. No matter how much you dislike a golfer, it is an unwritten rule that as a fan you should not yell 'you suck, jackass!' or anything similar to a professional golfer at a live event. It is also not cool to climb the TV tower to get a better view, no matter how much you want to be on TV or how much you have had to drink. Such things might be tolerated at other sporting events such as a basketball, baseball, or football game, but in golf, the so called 'gentelman's game' they are forbidden, part of the unwritten code of etiquette.

The next is to rehash a topic that will be brought up whenever talking about Tiger Woods from now to the end of time, that is his personal life. It is understandable that people should be angry at Tiger for the way he behaved in his personal life. However, we have to remember that he is human, and he has apologized for his trangressions to his fans and his family. If you no longer want to be a fan, then so be it. But what purpose does continuous heckling of this man serve? If I surveyed my readers I am sure I would find that no one is perfect themselves. Matter of fact, I will admit I am far from perfect, that I have made my share of mistakes and asked for forgiveness when I needed to do so.

Athletes are human, like the rest of us, and they are prone to mistakes. Many people would be shocked to know that the man the call 'Larry Legend', the one and only Larry Bird, fathered a daughter out of wedlock and had ignored her existence for a number of years. Bird was one of my favorite athletes growing up as a child, and even though this revelation is saddening, he remains among my favorite basketball players. Michael Jordan, called the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) by many, divorced his wife several years ago. Even guys like Joe Dimaggio and Babe Ruth had their dark sides, as both were known as womanizers for starters.

The question then becomes, are professional athletes role models? My answer to that question is yes AND no. Yes, as figures in the public spotlight, they should carry themselves with a certain amount of professionalism and class. What they do on and off the field, course, diamond, rink, etc can have an impact on the lives of fans of all ages. On the other hand, athletes are human, like the rest of us, and, as such, they are not perfect. Shouldn't it be up to parents to ultimately instill a sense of right and wrong in their children? Can we not root for an athlete while not necessarily condoning the choices that he or she may have made in their personal lives?

Bottom line is if you don't like Tiger Woods, then don't root for him. But heckling him is not only in poor taste, it also goes against the unwritten rules of golf.  And as fans, we can root for whomever we like, but we also have to abide by the rules each sport has set forth for spectactors.

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