The Breakdown: When the pedestal collapses
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
My two earliest memories of watching sports: Game 7 of the 1997 second-round NHL playoff series between the St. Louis Blues and the Detroit Red Wings; and the finals of the 1996 U.S. Amateur golf tournament.
Sure, those might seem like two pretty random events when you put them together, but trust me, they weren’t – at least, not to me.
You see, there are few athletes that I would really say I looked up to as a kid. I was really into sports, as you might guess, but there weren’t many people that I’d watch on TV and feel that the way they acted, played, etc. impacted my life at all.
In fact, I’d say there were only two. And, un-coincidentally, they were the key components of those two events I mentioned earlier.
The first athlete is Wayne Gretzky, who was always one of my “heroes.” And for those that don’t remember, the 1997 playoffs were only months after The Great One was traded to the Blues.
The other athlete? Tiger Woods.
Even if you didn’t already know, I’m sure you can guess that Tiger won the U.S. Am in 1996. It was his third-straight win in the world’s most important amateur golf tourney (never been done before), and he did it in remarkable fashion – three down, with three to play and won in extra holes.
Take into account that I was 10 years old and getting pretty into golf at the time, and it’s easy to see why this tournament sticks out so much in my mind.
From that time on, Tiger was always one of my absolute favorite athletes, and, really, someone that I’ve always looked up to as a person, not just a golfer.
I’ve been as much of a Tiger-defender as there is. Whether it’s his temper, his shortness with media or his isolation from his fans, I’ve always had excuses for him.
After this past week, I’m not so sure that I do anymore.
Now, I’m obviously not writing this column to bash one of my childhood heroes, because that really does no good for anyone. And I think we’ve heard enough people doing that the past few days.
And I’m certainly not going to talk about how his “transgressions,” as he referred to them, will affect his career – because they won’t, sadly, not one bit.
No, I’d rather talk about how this affects the people, like me, that grew up watching him grow up on TV, watching him destroy his competition with class and become an athlete that people could always point to as someone who, in an era of steroids and infinite forms of cheating, did things the right way.
I’m writing for the people who now feel duped.
Now, I’ve never been naive enough to ever think of anyone as even close to perfect, whether it be their personal lives or sports. So, I’ve always figured that there were negative things about Tiger we didn’t know about.
At the same time, though, I always, deep down, trusted that he was as good a person as he seemed, and cheating on a spouse is certainly not something I’d correlate with being a good person, a good man and definitely not with being a good husband or father.
As someone that is married, I can say that the trust I have with my wife is far and away the strongest I have with anyone in my life; it’s something I could never imagine breaking.
Sure, people are allowed to make mistakes in their lives, and we all certainly do. And I definitely have forgiveness for Tiger and believe he deserves a second chance. But I won’t ever look at him the same again.
This is probably the most disappointing sports story I’ve ever heard, and it’s definitely the one that has hit me the hardest personally. It’s hard to realize that your heroes are simply human, even if it should’ve been obvious from the start.
Tiger Woods will always be, in my mind, one of the greatest athletes to ever live. As a person, though, let’s just say the pedestal isn’t as high anymore.
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