Tiger Woods and social change

The world will soon overflow with the digital ink expended in the quest to describe Tiger Woods performance over the past three days. I have never seen a golf tournament that managed to sustain the level of drama we’ve seen over the (long) weekend. Since I’m on vacation this week, I watched every gripping hole Monday, and found it as thrilling as golf could possibly be. All of us had the same lingering question during Tiger’s grind-it-out playoff Monday, “What if he jacks his knee up forever?”. The thought that this could be the last time we ever see this dominant iteration of Tiger only added to the glory and the pressure of the moment. Couple in as close to a real life ‘Rocky’ as you can get, and the sum total was something I’ll tell my kids about.

I’d like to by-pass all that for a moment and comment on one of Earl Woods grandiose statements about his only son that made us all chuckle or at least cock our heads in disbelief. When the father said that the son would have a bigger impact than Gandhi, we wondered how crazy he could possibly be. Now, a decade later, we have a major party nominee whose ethnic background is at least similar to Tiger’s, and there is a good possibility that Barack Obama will be president. I think that Tiger Woods has had something to do with that.

I don’t want to overstate the case, but I don’t think it’s coincidental that millions of white Americans have grown to be massive fans of the best golfer in the world and a scant few years later a similar looking man of deep eloquence is garnering millions of votes for president. I believe that most people in the US are not racist but rather ‘culturists‘. I think there are many people who discriminate not on skin color but rather on cultural trappings like corn-rows, tattoos, names, and speech patterns. Many of those cultural affects are closely connected to African-Americans, but a dislike of those doesn’t make someone ‘racist’. Many Americans would accept a ‘Cosby Show’ black guy (“Hey! I have black friends”), while they would still feel uncomfortable with African Americans who conform to a different cultural pattern. Certainly, there are still many pure racists who see skin color and nothing else, but I think that many have traded one prejudice for another. Being a culturist is still wrong, and it has its roots in racism, but it is dramatically more accepting (I don’t care what you look like as long as you act like me).

Setting aside the whole issue of whether Tiger or Barack are actually ‘black’ (an issue which is largely irrelevant since for the purposes of analyzing their societal effect because for our purposes, they are what people think they are), I think that the sea change that is well coming in this country has been accelerated by Tiger. Millions of white Americans have grown used to Tiger and comfortable watching his dominance and excellence in an overwhelmingly pale faced environment. I think many of those same people are now approaching Barack Obama with a different level of acceptance than they might have had they not become Tiger fans.

I can’t prove this. I have zero polling data or evidence connecting rooting with Tiger to voting for Obama. My point here isn’t to endorse Obama or criticize people who don’t want to vote for him (I voted for him in the primary, but will wait to endorse any candidate until they debate head to head), so let’s not allow the discussion veer in that direction. I just have to believe that rooting for Tiger for 10 years has affected the way people think. It may well be that this is a connection that others have made more eloquently than I did, but I think it’s a valid suspicion that Earl Wood’s boy might have already had a much greater impact on society and the history of the United States than we realize.

LINKS:
Colvin signed for the money. I don’t blame him. He’s got rings. It’s his last chance to get paid.

Scouts Inc. has the Colts at 5 in their O-line rankings. I hope so. Injuries really hurt their production last year.

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