Tuesday, June 17, 2008

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.

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.


Anonymous said...

If you care about the Supreme Court and which way they'll sway, you wouldn't vote for McCain.

Unless, of course, you want them to sway to the right which is probable, being from the "heartland".

Although I still don't know why farm land in the middle of nowhere is the heartland.

Alito and Roberts replaced Day-O'connor and Kennedy. One more tight ass white guy goes to that bench and it's 5-4 the other way on a lot of issues.

On the other hand, having the last name COHEN I'm not in love with Saint Barry wanting to have tea and crumpets with ahmedinijad (sic).

We'll see what happens.


jc said...

Rehnquist not Kennedy.

Bob M. said...

JC, it's been said here before, but you never fail to amaze. In this case (aside from the gratuitous heartland jabs) I'm 100% behind you, but just didn't expect the poli-sci analysis and commentary. Bravo.

I am of the opinion that if everyone in the world sat down in one room and talked, the world would be a better place. I think "tea & crumpets" trivializes any potential meeting's expectations. Not likely to be social by a long shot. A candidate has to differentiate himself from the field, and that statement about meeting was one way.

On the other hand, his expected opponent's method of differentiating himself is to say (and I paraphrase here), "I'd do everything the same as the past 8 years. Only, um, better." Then again, it worked last time.

Shake'n'bake said...

Not all "Heartlanders" lean right. The best analogy I've heard is islands of blue in a sea of red. I grew up and live on a very blue island.

Deshawn Zombie said...

Let's NOT go down this road. The post is about whether or not Tiger has affected society. Not about Obama per say.

Shake'n'bake said...

k, I'll start help steering the conversation away.

Very interesting stat I found.

Manning was sacked 10 times in the 12 games Ugoh started.
He was sacked 11 in the 5 Ugoh missed.

In the 10 games Charlie Johnson started (at LT and RT). Manning was sacked 16 times. In the 7 he did not start Peyton was sacked 5 times.

DZ said...

nice. CJ was horrible at tackle last year. Granted, Ugoh got beat on consecutive plays at the goal line that cost us the SD playoff game, but giving up pressure to Sean Merriman a couple of times is still light years better to the beating Manning endured when CJ played LT. Care to put together the rushing stats in those games?

Shake'n'bake said...

Without Johnson starting: average of 142 yards per game.

With CJ: 85.5 yrd/game. They never topped 131 yards in any one game. The Colts rushed for nearly as many yards in the 6 games without CJ starting than in the 10 with him (855 to 852).

Charlie Johnson in the lineup wasn't the only thing that changed, but wow. That's a huge difference.

Anonymous said...

Eh, that's more than a stretch. A lot of people like Tiger Woods because of his damned talent. Believe it or not. And I don't think a lot of people support Obama because of some golfer. Or that those two successes are even related.

But I suppose this is implying that successful blacks before Tiger didn't exist.

jc said...


That helps the SB loss.

There's no truth to the rumor that Doc River videotaped Phil Jackson's play calls.

Another parade baby....

And Bob:

Just because I'm an opiate/steroid/woman abuser doesn't mean I'm not college educated and politically oriented. Or obsessed for that matter.

Looking forward to November.

Deshawn Zombie said...

It isn't implying that successful blacks didn't exist. It is implying that a 'black' man was never so universally embraced by whites due to his accomplishments in an area that was particularly exclusive to whites. It is implying that perhaps some people found Barack Obama less 'foreign to their experience' because they had grown comfortable with Tiger Woods. Jackie Robinson was reviled by millions of whites for his success. Times have changed since Robinson, and the wheels were obviously greased for Tiger, but while not completely segregated, golf was (and frankly is) a massively white domain. I think Tiger has had at least a subtle psychological effect on people. No one may say, "oh I like Tiger, so I like Barack", but they unconsciencely their affection for one may bleed over to the other and at least allow them to listen to what he has to say. I think Tiger 'smooths out' the discomfort some may have otherwise felt.

jc said...

Rewrite this column as "If Willie Randolph Were White He Would Have Been Fired Last Season"