Change to meet your Needs

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The great unknown -Tiger Woods helped clear the way for Barack Obama?

There's something happening here. When Tiger Woods won his first Masters, in 1997, most every story noted that he was the first African-American to win at Augusta. Back then, the exotic ancestral history of Woods — his black father, his Thai mother — was an engaging subject. But now, with Tiger in our living rooms one weekend after another, it hardly ever comes up. Familiarity breeds comfort. We've moved on.

We’re debating in many Blogs, websites that whether United States is ready for a Black President who would be known as the great “Change Agent” for the coming generations and world. Now, at warp speed and on a scale that dwarfs anything to do with sport, something similar is happening with Barack Obama. We know about his black father from Kenya and his white mother from Kansas. But when you watch Obama in a televised debate, or see him on the evening news, are you thinking about his race? The man won Iowa! Zach Johnson, the Masters champion, is from Iowa.

So the question here in the toy department is this: Has Tiger Woods — simply by conducting his business the way he does — helped make the country more tolerant? And if you believe he has, do you think Woods, in a way no CNN pie chart could ever capture, has helped pave the way for Barack Obama? Discuss.

I don’t expect Tiger to post a comment on my blog. He talks politics on his plane, not in the press tent. But he's following the presidential campaigns closely. John McCain is a decorated Vietnam veteran, as was Tiger's father, Earl. Hillary Clinton's husband, the former First Golfer, stood on a California stage with Woods at the opening of the Tiger Woods Learning Center in 2006. Obama, like Woods, knows that the continental drift is now in reverse. (Look how each got here.) The campaigns have approached Tiger's people, but none of the candidates has directly asked for his endorsement.

The act of endorsing is presumptuous, and Tiger is not. He's modest. Even with friends he doesn't say, "Look what happens to the TV ratings when I play. " The Nielsen numbers speak for themselves, just as his golf scores do. He likes precision. He'll tell you how many kids are enrolled at his learning center, but he would never try to analyze his impact on race relations. For that, to use a fancy Mitt Romney word, there's no metric.

As a rookie, Tiger appeared in a Nike spot in which he said, "There are still courses in the United States that I am not allowed to play because of the color of my skin. " He wouldn't recite that line today, chiefly because every last course would welcome him now — but also because Tiger has no use for grand and sweeping oratory. He's a golfer, not a pol.

Tiger in grand terms, that was his father's specialty. In '96, when Tiger was SI's Sportsman of the Year for the first time, Earl said, "Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity. " The father went on to say, "He'll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations. The world is just getting a taste of his power. "

At the time, it sounded like crazy talk. Actually, it still does. But less so all the time.

9 comments:

Martin Thomas said...

No more than any of the zillions of others who have made small steps in developing an integrated US - going back to Rosa Parks and further.

I think it's actually not very flattering to Obama or indeed Woods to single them out for their apparent colour. I realise there is residual racism in the US but both these two are successful ENTIRELY because of their INDEPENDENT skill and talent imho.

It's been a long and rocky road to integration in the UUS and it's not over yet and these two are small pebbles en rouute I think - but no causal connection between them.

Pierre Clark said...

I don't necessarily think the country is more tolerant or that Tiger's performance has necessarily made the country more accepting of Barack's candidacy. As we've seen in recent weeks with the controversy over speech clips from Obama's former pastor, Rev. Wright, and as Obama said in his speech - race is still a complicated and incendiary subject about which most of us still refuse to have a frank conversation. And don't forget the controversies that got Tiger caught up in the race question - Fuzzy Zoeller's inept slur against Tiger some years ago, Tiger's declaration some years ago of being Cablanasian instead of black, and the most recent one where a network commentator declared that other golfers should string Tiger up to keep him from winning, a controversy Golf Magazine fanned with its cover photo of a hanging rope. The comments got that sportscaster suspended and the editor of Golf Magazine fired.

What I think is true about Woods is that he has been so spectacularly talented, and exhibted such grace and skill and personality, that he has broken through social barriers that unfortunately still exist for many other talented people of color. I think the same is true of Barack's performance as a presidential candidate which I believe absolutely astounds many white people who had no idea how truly talented Barack Obama is as a presidential candidate, organizer and leader.

James Wallace said...

Seriously? Are you comparing Tiger Woods to the likes of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks? Tiger Woods has very little if anything with the general public accepting Obama.

There was Michael Jordan before Tiger. His business paved the way for marketing and pushing products by african american atheletes. But lets be honest, he didn't make his millions by being the smartest man. He affected politics about as much as Fred Flintstone.

Obama on the other hand is very intelligent and educated. I believe he paved his own road.

Gary Clarke said...

If this is the case, then Lee Elder (the first, black golf professional) paved the way both.

Nandini Minocha said...

It is interesting that you bring up Tiger Woods and the Masters, the Championship that still will not allow women to participate in 2008 as a vehicle of increasing tolerance! Tells you why Obama is ahead of Hillary. In our country it's much more acceptable to be a sexist than a racist! What do you think of that?

To your question , yes I do think he has probably helped Barak by being in our living rooms for all these years.

Subhankar Sengupta said...

That’s too far fetched :)

Tim Tymchyshyn said...

what about Jackie Robinson?

Charles Caro said...

I think you are looking at America through a lens that perhaps never existed.

If anything, Senator John Kerry, who essentially "owned" the 2004 Democratic National Convention helped clear the way for Barack Obama when he was selected, as the Democratic candidate for the Illinois U.S. Senate seat, to deliver the Keynote Address at the Convention. Obama's speech set the tone for the Party Platform. His speech proclaimed the unnecessary and artificial divides in American culture and politics. Here is what made the key theme for the speech and the Party Platform:

==========
"We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states, and yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."
==========

Obama's overall theme was the nature of the American Dream. It is the story of a boy of interrracial and international heritage born in Honolulu, Hawaii to a Kenyan immigrant father and a white mother from Kansas. Obama emphasized the power of education, recounting the privilege of attending the exclusive Hawaiian Punahou School and Harvard Law School despite his family's poverty, and criticized the perception that poor black youths who read books are "acting white." He continued by describing his successful career in law and politics while raising a family in Chicago. Proudly Obama proclaimed, "In no other country on Earth is my story even possible," Towards the end of his speech he emphasized the importance of hope in the American saga in the lives of John Kerry, John Edwards and in his own personal life as "a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him too."

In 2008 Barack Obama is truly representative of the United States of America, and it is his message of hope and unity that generates such enthusiasm where ever he speaks.

Debra Green said...

Dude, are you serious? Tiger Woods has kept himself deliberately apolitical. He's a great golfer, but that's about it.

Seems to me there are any number of people who would better fit your paradigm: Oprah or Bill Cosby or Colin Powell or Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks or Jackie Robinson, for example. These are people who've all had huge impacts on the national conscious when it comes to race, not simply because of who they are but because of the public stance they've taken on issues.

Tiger, on the other hand, doesn't appear to take much of a public stance of anything. But he can definitely swing a golf club....

Just my two cents' worth, for what it's worth. :)

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