in the absence of tiger woods

August 14th, 2011

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.

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  1. So very, very true.

    Comment by Debra — August 14, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

  2. well put1 I hope Tiger reads this….

    Comment by marilee pittman — August 14, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

  3. Well written and so, so true.

    Comment by Kristal — August 14, 2011 @ 5:33 pm

  4. This reminds me of something, a quote I saw a few years ago:

    “In the Buddhist religion you have to work for it yourself, internally, in order to achieve anything in life and set up the next life…You have to work for everything in life, and you get out of it what you put into it. So you’re going to have to work your butt off in every aspect of your life. That’s one of the things people see in what I do on the golf course, but that’s just one small facet of my life.” — Tiger Woods, when asked about Buddhism and what he learned from his mother

    Comment by Lana — August 15, 2011 @ 3:52 am

  5. wow do i love this. pitch perfect. ***

    Comment by Gail — August 15, 2011 @ 3:53 am

  6. What an utterly amazing post. Thank you. Such perspective. SO grounding. I will be forwarding this on to many. Thank you Karen!

    Comment by kasey — August 15, 2011 @ 4:53 am

  7. What an excellent article on the meaning of life. Thank you!

    Comment by Edith — August 15, 2011 @ 5:17 am

  8. Yes. I see what you mean…

    Comment by Bobbi — August 15, 2011 @ 8:27 am

  9. I want to tell you that the reading of this has made my monday into something special. It it so refreshing to see him/it/us in this light, to dispel some of the myth and let us be ‘on solid ground’. Lovely.

    Comment by Mamie — August 15, 2011 @ 8:52 am

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