Tiger’s temper just fine

28 07 2009

I’ve been somewhat disturbed by the upheaval against Tiger Woods and his perceived poor attitude on the golf course. After missing the cut on July 17 at the British Open, Tiger’s critics came, well, out of the woods to sneer at his propensity to throw his club after an errant shot while cursing at a faster rate than any number of characters from Snatch

Even Rick Reilly got into the act in a July 22 ESPN.com piece where he questioned whether Woods would outgrow his temper. Here’s my problem with the argument that Tiger should readjust his temperament on the golf course: Athletes can’t always win the way we want them to win. The way we think they should win.

It’d be easier if fans made a determination beforehand about which was more important: whether an athlete wins or how he or she carries himself on the course/court/field. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t expect a semblance of dignity, but we can’t expect athletes to adjust the way they play their games just to appease us. 

Every person, like Tiger on the golf course, has his different method of pacing himself mentally, emotionally, through a tournament, game or match. Some can be steadfast in their emotional consistency. Picture Retief Goosen, you golf fans. Others, like Phil Mickelson or Sergio Garcia, show an antsyness when things don’t go right. And others, like Tiger, erupt in a ball of fury at misplaced shots. But it’s okay — Tiger’s method to his madness was certainly good enough during his previous 14 Majors wins.

I remember NBA fans questioning John Stockton’s desire when he played. The man was possibly as tenacious and competitive a player as has ever existed, yet because he showed so little emotion on the court, fans wondered if there was even a heart beating underneath that purple Jazz jersey. Of course, the question of whether Stockton “brought it” every night was ludicrous. He simply had his own way of playing the game, which included showing minimal emotion.

Look to the other end of the spectrum and you have someone like Tiger, whose intensity burns so bright that fans and critics of the game wish he could turn it down a notch. That he could show a little more resolve and respect — like Stockton. 

See, athletes can never win. Fans want the perfect sportsman who shows a cold-blooded killer mindset one minute, then turns around, signs an autograph for a kid and poses with a big, fat smile for the cameras the next. Athletes will always be better off by staying true to their emotions and pacing themselves as they see fit. Fans would be better off by ridding themselves of their idolization of athletes and accepting their emotional rifts for what they truly are: the result of high expectations in an extremely competitive environment.

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