Tiger Tiger Burning Bright In the Forests

Tiger Woods is bigger than the PGA. This is a straight-up fact, and to extrapolate upon this a little further, Woods is bigger than just about anything out there, except maybe a Barcelona versus Madrid soccer match. Sorry to all those basketball and baseball and football prima donnas, but Woods overshadows just about any athlete, if not any event or personage around.

Woods has captured the imagination of the country and of people around the world, and all through a sport such as golf. Golf is a great sport and it is fun to play, but conversely, how much fun is it to watch? Golf is usually just a bunch of tubby, pasty white men huffing around a golf course, each in pursuit of one of those enormous purses that golf tournaments provide. There is no action in golf like there is in football, basketball or baseball (though some people might disagree with me there).

Despite golf’s innate disadvantage in the area of excitement, Woods, like The Bear before him, has transcended the sport of golf and has come to represent something better than just his sport. He is part of that new class of athletes, who have come to save us from the egos that so pervade America’s professional athletics system.

In baseball we have Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra. Football gives us Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner and Jevon Kearse. These are some good guys. Sorry about basketball, but all of those guys are still just whiners and show boaters.

The above athletes have class and respect, which is more than can be said for a good portion of the athletes in professional sports, and Woods leads all of these people; He is the head of the class.

I remember seeing Woods on “”Scholastic Sports,”” an old ESPN show, when I was about 12 years old, which would make him somewhere around 15 or 16. Even then, the guy had it in him, and you could tell he was going to be great. I just didn’t know that he was going to be this spectacular. He is winning major tournaments like they’re miniature golf at the local put-put and taking event after event from the best golfers in the world, relegating them the place of candyless, screaming babies.

This year alone he has won 10 tournaments and collected over $12 million in prize money. By the way, as long as we are talking about money, let’s not forget the $54 million he will be making in endorsements this year. At the same time, he wins with class. He gives deference to those who have gone before and to those who will come after him. He has studied his game and plays it with edict.

He had such a good start, no slip ups, no gargantuan sporting ego taking the place of his fragile perch atop America’s current sports heroes. We should have known, though, that the days where a man can stay atop forever are gone, if they even existed at all. Even Joltin’ Joe went through a phase of disdain when he became the first million-dollar man in baseball.

But here is Woods, this year alone, $66 million richer, and he hints that because of his popularity, he and only he in this day and age should be entitled to more money: specifically some of the TV money that will be negotiated next year, because of the number of people that he attracts to the tournament.

When asked if he thought he was entitled to more money than other players, Woods responded, “”Philosophically? In a perfect world I would be. Arnold [Palmer] would be. All the great ones would. Arnold is the one who got it all started.””

Right you are, Tiger, and good job maintaining your image of young upstart deferring to the greats, but as Dave Anderson of The New York Times points out, “”Palmer and Nicklaus helped resolve the Tour’s financial structure a quarter century ago, but they were acting on behalf of the other touring pros, not just themselves.””

Note to Tiger: This is not what you are doing.

Furthermore Tiger has been complaining about how the commissioner of golf, Tim Finchem, doesn’t talk to him enough, saying, “”The only time he talks to me is when he wants me to do something for him — to play in this tournament or that tournament. It’s not like he comes up to me and asks me how I’m doing.””

What is he, 5 years old? I am sure Bud Selig is calling up Barry Bonds and Mike Piazza all the time just to shoot the breeze. Why don’t you grow some cajones and learn to survive on your own? The commissioner’s job is not to make you feel better, Tiger, but to make the sport that he presides over better for all the players in it. Finchem probably goes up to Phil Mickelson and David Duval once a week and asks them how their day is going. Wait, I forgot — those players don’t matter, do they. It is only Woods and his $66 million-plus that should matter to the PGA.

Maybe this is just a stage. Tiger could be tired of the hype; I would be. All day every day, followed, harangued and accosted by anyone and everyone. Maybe this is his way of lashing out, and I hope so, because if that is what it is, then it is not that bad. He could be punching cameramen, like certain movie stars have been known to do.

However, if Tiger has any common sense left in that brain, which seems to have been swelled by the sweet nectar known as feeling God-like, he will just get back to playing and retire 30 years from now as possibly the greatest sportsman the United States has ever produced.