This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

November 30, 2009

Catch a Tiger By His Toe: Speaking Back to the Woods Affair

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — pprscribe @ 2:22 pm

Heard on this morning’s TJMS:

Tom Joyner: What’s the n-word in Swedish?

Sybil Wilkes: The same. It’s universal.

There seems to be a certain level of glee in the discussions about what might or might not have contributed to golfer Tiger Woods’ car accident near his home. Glee from all sorts of places, but right now I am interested in the glee coming from some quarters of Black folks.

I guess I should speak for myself in admitting that I have had an ambivalent relationship with Woods over the years. I am speaking for myself—but suspect others feel similarly.

I have rooted for him, and taken some level of satisfaction when he has achieved at the top of his field. I do not like golf one bit. Once when my father-in-law—an avid golfer since his childhood days—took me out to the course with him I got sunstroke and swore no golfing green would ever see my body again. Watching televised golf for me is only slightly more exciting than watching TV test color bars. But still I rooted for him and even watched SportsCenter highlight of his shots.

I have grieved for him. I sensed how close he and his father had been and knew what he must have been feeling when his first and biggest fan died. To me they made the cutest pair: the pride emanating from the elder man, Tiger with his baby face and broad grin by his side. I am not one to talk about folks “looking down from heaven” and being pleased (or displeased). I generally hope that if there is a heaven, there will be something more and better to do than keep tabs on the goings-on here on earth. But in Tiger’s case, I generally have hoped that his Dad was tuning in to tournaments and continuing to take pride in his boy’s accomplishments.

I have scratched my head at him. His characterizations of his racial identity have challenged me to walk my talk. I firmly believe that people should have the freedom to self-identify as they please, in such a way that feels authentic to them—the rest of us be damned. At the same time, I feel that choosing to self-identify as Black in a nation in which Black is degraded can be an important—and brave—political act. I believe that people should have the freedom to love who they want to love and who loves them back—the rest of us be damned. At the same time I am aware that some people in our society are deemed more “lovable” than others, and Black women are often holding the short end of the dating game desirability stick.

So against this context I took in the initial reports of Woods’ one-car collision. My first thought centered on the initial reports that his injuries were “serious.” I thought about how none of us really knows what is in store for us by dusk when we rise out of bed at dawn. How each moment is precious. How money and fame cannot protect us against the great equalizers.

Then the story seemed to stray off of the fairway into the rough. The developing story is starting to read like an action movie that starts out great, but then develops so many holes that you are no longer able to enjoy the plot or even the special effects. Your whole viewing experience dissolves into pointing out to your movie mates how implausible different aspects of the film are. This, actually, becomes the source of most of your enjoyment such that if these loose strings were somehow tied logically in the final act, you’d be disappointed. You cannot wait to review the film for all your friends and relations—telling them that they must see it for its non-intended laugh-value alone.

So the story of Tiger’s accident has developed. I’m not so much worried that he has suffered great injuries—and certainly I am no longer worried that he is on death’s door—as I am interested in the story he has given to the police (apparently) and to the public as well as the public’s reaction to that story. Which brings me back to the glee I am detecting in the reactions.

Again, I’ll speak to myself. (Though I think I could ask these same questions of others.)

I ask myself: do I feel vindicated to see that Woods is being exposed, perhaps, as a regular male human being with normal failings? Am I happy that White women may, after these rumors, no longer be perceived by some Black men as the higher value, lower drama alternative to Black women? Am I relieved that whatever happened in that driveway resulted in Tiger wearing cuts and scratched instead of his wife? Am I tickled and entertained at the implausible (though, I must say, still possibly true) details Woods is sharing with us? Am I titillated by the proactive “lawyering up” of the other woman identified in the gossip around this case? Do I secretly wish that through this experience that Woods may realize that no matter how loved and accepted he may be by mainstream media and White fans, he can still be knocked down to size (and race)?

Am I hoping I am the first to think of the following board-game-inspired punchline to some joke about the affair: Mrs. Woods, in the driveway, with a nine iron?

Am I “wrong” for any or all of these reactions?

On the other hand, do I fear that the familiar apologies for domestic violence—e.g., most of the time it’s the woman who starts it—will be given fuel? Am I sad that whatever the case may be, two little children will have to suffer the upset to their family life and privacy? Am I wary that Blacks harboring unresolved ambivalence toward Woods will be singing the same chorus as Whites harboring unresolved bigotry toward him? Will I be tricked, as I have been in the past, by letting my attention drift to this new, shiny thing instead of focusing on more important national and global matters?


  1. I do like the fact that he is being exposed, but I don’t see him as being exposed as a regular man. I see him being exposed as being fake.

    I feel that he has always been given too much of a pass for not having a personality or convictions. He was like Michael Jordan in that sense. Jordan at least had the benefit of not being connected to an elitist and racially insularly game. I think he hung with Mike a little too much.

    I also see him as incredibly overrated in regards to his impact on golf. Since Tiger has emerged how many Black golfers have you seen on the tour? Just one more than before and that one doesn’t even see himself as Black. lol

    Comment by 8thlight — November 30, 2009 @ 10:14 pm

  2. “Then the story seemed to stray off of the fairway into the rough”

    That was good. So, watching golf is like watching color bar – huh. *lol*

    You’re full of witticisms today.

    I am the guy who gets up in the middle of the night to watch golf that is not jiving with our time zone.

    I notice that you left some of your self imposed questions hanging in the air. I feel you. I am not trying to find some sort of satifaction behind another man’s errors. I have followed Tiger since he came to my hometown to play in one of his first PGA tour events. He never came back because the local press spanked him for being underage on a gambling boat. I don’t care what he does in his personal life or how he wishes to classify himself. He’s still the greatest golf of all time!

    Comment by careycarey — November 30, 2009 @ 11:54 pm

  3. 8thlight, so he’s a fake? What is he faking?

    “I feel that he has always been given too much of a pass for not having a personality or convictions”

    Again, I don’t understand how you can make that statement. Golf at his level is a very difficult sport. If he didn’t have convictions @ his level the world would swallow him in the whole. His personality is what it is. I think some would be please if had a personality like Charles Barkley. Yes, a loud fool. To be a celebrity/personality is a curse in itself.

    “I also see him as incredibly overrated in regards to his impact on golf.”

    You are obviously do not follow the game of golf. On the PGA the golfers are not permitted to receive apperance money. If they could, at every,
    Tiger would receive more money than the winners purse.

    “Since Tiger has emerged how many Black golfers have you seen on the tour?”

    The question should be… how many more children are playing golf? It starts with the first step –the first seed. Only the top 125 golfers earn tour cards.

    Comment by careycarey — December 1, 2009 @ 9:28 am

    • @careycarey

      I feel he’s fake in the same way that I felt Kobe was long before Colorado. He seems like someone just trying his hardest to say the perfect thing for his sponsors.

      You don’t need personality or personal convictions to play golf, poker or bowl or do any other activity. It’s not about his commitment to play golf. I’m talking about the fact that to me he has always come off as insincere to me.

      I’m not looking for anyone to be Charles Barkley. Charles is great doing the in studio stuff for TNT, but as a player he often did and said things that I didn’t agree with, but I always felt that Barkley was being honest even when he was wrong.

      As for his impact, I’m not talking about his monetary impact on the game and his or anyone else’s appearance fee. I couldn’t care less about that. What I’m talking about is the amount of Black or Cablinasian players on the PGA tour. The only way to measure his impact is by how many are on the tour. The amount of children playing golf is impossible to know and if they don’t stick with it, it really doesn’t matter.

      Tiger has been more of a media creation, because TV execs love to push golf down our throats and he’s the only golfer that the mainstream media and popular culture care about.

      We are just going to have to agree to disagree. He just seems to be in that Kobe, OJ and Jordan category. I’m not saying he’s going to commit some crime or anything like that, just that I don’t believe him when his mouth is moving. *shrug*

      Comment by 8thlight — December 1, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

      • What Iā€™m talking about is the amount of Black or Cablinasian players on the PGA tour.


        Comment by pprscribe — December 1, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

  4. Hi, 8thlight. I would agree that Woods’ impact on golf in terms of greater Black participation in the sport is not that great. If he does do anything high profile to get minority and/or low income kids involved (along the lines of Agassi or the Williamses in tennis, for example) then I must have missed it. Carey, do you know of such efforts?

    I think that ultimately it will still be more difficult for lower income folks of any race to be able to golf than it is for them to play tennis–at least the way the sports are structured right now.

    Plus—and here I will just admit my bias—tennis is just 50 times more exiciting than golf. It will probably take more for *any* kid to choose golf over a faster paced sport.

    Is Woods “fake” though? I had to think about what you might have meant by that, 8thlight. I think his image has been scrubbed so clean that there just did not seem to be much of of a there there at all.

    Until now, that is. šŸ˜‰

    Comment by pprscribe — December 1, 2009 @ 1:13 pm

    • “I think his image has been scrubbed so clean that there just did not seem to be much of of a there there at all.”

      ^^ This is exactly what I meant by fake. ^^

      BTW, I tweeted your article. I hope you get more feedback. Definitely interested in hearing more points of view on the subject.

      Comment by 8thlight — December 1, 2009 @ 1:18 pm

      • Thanks! I’m new to the whole Twitter thing, not very good at it, and am considering giving up the entire enterprise.

        Comment by pprscribe — December 1, 2009 @ 1:19 pm

  5. One more thing. I think his greatest disservice for future Blacks (or Cablinasians :)) in the sport of golf is that he has been so dominant. Unless the next golfer of color is as dominant as him or more so—or at least head and shoulders above the White ones—he or she will be discounted and nitpicked to death. I have a post coming up about Blacks’ rights to be “average” and this is a perfect example of that.

    Comment by pprscribe — December 1, 2009 @ 1:17 pm

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