I was driving to the Zen Center Saturday morning listening to NPR and I heard an unsurprising report about the latest professional debacle for Tiger Woods — his failure to make the cut at his comeback tournament. The story has really stuck with me; this saga has stuck with me, and not because I care one bit about golf or gossip. The commentator said it in one long wail, with breathless wonder and disbelief, like an eyewitness to the Hindenburg disaster:
“What happened to Tiger Woods? What didn’t happen to Tiger Woods? This was awful. This has been a continuation of the most spectacular collapse, I think, in American sports history; to have a player be on top of the sports world, to be the most recognizable sports figure in the world to fall apart in so many different ways, at so many different levels. It’s stunning to watch simply to see what’s happened with him on the field of play. But I think it’s even more stunning when you look at him in totality. He went into this tournament feeling optimistic, feeling like he’d had a clean slate, and it was one of his worst rounds of his career. And I think on top of that, what’s even more stunning about Tiger, is while all of this collapsing for him on field — while his family life has collapsed — you also have some of his great sports friends who have also wondered exactly what’s happened to him. Charles Barkley, Roger Federer, all say that he’s no longer friends with them. And so I think it’s really interesting when you watch what’s happened with them; a perfect storm of physical injury, of personal catastrophe. And it really is one of the most unbelievable public spectacles I think I’ve seen for a professional athlete.”
I was riveted to the radio through all of this, sitting still and captive, a patient to the doctor speaking an unspeakable diagnosis. The diagnosis is mine, and yours too.
Let me be clear: I am not a victim of Tiger Woods. For all the moralistic associations and denunciations, there are not many victims of Tiger Woods. And yet, we should all feel the collateral damage. What we are witness to is a completely artificial and manmade disaster — the collapse of the superhero myth. We all buy into it, and not just the corporate branding types, we all buy into the superhero myth, because we buy into the myth for ourselves. We want to be special, only that’s not quite special enough. We want to be extraordinary! Oprah told us we could. Everyone keeps telling us we should, in helium infused hyperventilated overpunctuated pitches: be your best crazy sexy self!!!!
Tiger has fallen, yes he has fallen. But where has he fallen to? A collapse brings us to the solid ground, where all the truly unbelievable spectacles occur. We stand up, without wings, and walk the Earth in the supernatural act of being utterly ordinary. The miracle, you see, is what we already are.
“In the absence of Tiger Woods . . . “ the commentator continued, to move the story along, and I turned the radio off and stepped out of the car. That’s where the real story begins, you see, that’s where we all pick up and move on. Even Tiger will have to move on in the absence of so-called Tiger Woods. What sweet redemption! In the absence of myth, there is truth, spectacular truth from which there is no collapse.