Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Props to Tiger Woods, and why I think people love sports

Soundtrack time: Eye of the Tiger, from Rocky III

by Survivor. Hit play and start reading.

Congrats to Tiger Woods, playing in visible pain (still recovering from knee surgery) to win the U.S. Open (more video after link), in a sudden death playoff: the regular 72 holes weren't enough, the next 18 on the playoff round wasn't enough, on the 91st hole, on a gimpy knee, Tiger finally finished off his upstart rival, Rocco Mediate. This was Tiger's ugliest, but also his most beautiful major. He had so many bogeys and double-bogeys that he got behind during the front nine of just about every round, but then pulled so many beauties like this one out of his hat to catch up again on the back nines:

This, to me, was the shot that won it -- somehow, despite ALL the strokes played, these golf tournaments still seem to turn on some one, unforgettable shot.

It hit the flag and went in.

Tiger has the eye of the tiger (bwahahaha) -- that smell for the jugular, like I've rarely seen (Michael Jordan. . .who else, really? Roger Federer)? He finishes. Period. Wills his knee to hold up, and gives us shots like the one above.

But jeez, Roboseyo, isn't this a Korea blog? I mean, why are you writing about sports?

Actually, while it's often a Korea blog, in the end, it's my blog, so I'll write about what I darn well please. Today, I'm impressed by Mr. Woods.

Some of my friends don't understand why I follow sports and watch highlights, go down to Rocky Mountain Tavern and watch hockey games, care at all about what a bunch of muscleheads get paid gajillions of dollars a year to do. Well, first, they're not ALL muscleheads, but even if they are, who cares? If you want somebody who says clever stuff on video, watch a stand-up comic, not a hockey game. If you want witty words, read me, instead. . . though Steve Nash is funny (wait for it: 42 seconds in)

For one thing:

Sports never asks more of you than you're willing to give. Somehow blogspot ate this part of my post twice, so I'm only giving you the summary now, but believe me, the first two tries were pretty darn funny -- maybe my best writing ever! Seriously!

If I get involved with women's rights, or saving the environment, there might come a point where doing what I feel is right might not be convenient any more -- heck, what if I feel it's my moral imperative to turn into this guy? Sports is the perfect vent for my bottled-up passion, because it will NEVER ask me to go farther than I want -- buying the jersey won't necessarily force me to eventually go in for the season tickets, too. In the meantime, I'm more fun at parties, arguing about Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, A-Rod vs. Albert Pujols, and whether I'd want to build my team around Sidney Crosby or Dion Phaneuf, while the "sponsor acres of rainforest. . . think about the children" guy makes everyone feel guilty. That makes sports a perfect partner.

Reason 2:

Your average newscast:

6:00pm: begin.
corrupt politicians
economic uncertainty
other sad stuff
something about somebody's puppy (human interest story)

I remember watching Dwayne Wade score that basket, back in 2005 and thinking "that's it. It's only the semi-finals, but that dude already won the championship, right there." Three weeks later, I was right.

Watching something amazing is sure a lot easier than digging the downers in the rest of the news, and dude, you NEVER KNOW when something brilliant might happen -- you turn on the TV, and you just don't know whether it's going to be a dull, dreary game, or a wild shootout that ends in quadruple overtime, or a no-hitter, or a historic record-setter -- that's the tease of sports. And if you bought tickets, it might just be another workmanlike win, loss, or tie for the home-team. . . but you might see something like Lebron scoring 29 points in a row for his team to break the will of the Detroit Pistons in last year's playoffs:

and be able, for the rest of your life, to say "I was there. I was at King James' Coronation Game." "I saw Babe Ruth's called shot." "I saw Manning to Tyree"
(superbowl 42)

"I saw Willy Mays make 'The Catch'" "I saw Tiger win the 2005 Masters on the 17th hole":

(with apologies to Billy Shakespeare)
And mild-sports-fans in houses now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That cheered with us upon Air Jordan's day.

That tease hooks you in more -- you watch more, to see something like that again. Humans are incredible, and what they can do is incredible, and sports packages that wonderful potential in a way you can see from your couch -- it's hard to gasp in wonder at specs on a new hybrid engine; it's much easier to see "Michael Jordan just jumps higher". (Yes, there are a lot of basketball highlights on here, just because in my opinion, basketball highlights are possibly the most fun to watch on youtube. Hockey's second. Soccer and Golf, (surprisingly), tie for third, and American football and baseball are just a little above car-racing. In my opinion.)

Sports gives us the chance to see something incredible, and to participate along with vast numbers of people seeing the same thing. Plus...
(an old MJ ad)

There are other reasons sports captivate us -- the collective experience is also significant -- I've met nary a Canadian who hasn't watched this game, for example:

You know the one. . .

And sure, there's bad stuff about sports -- it's sad when corruption, doping, or crimes by players dominate sports pages -- but joy this pure, shared with fifty-thousand people (Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees, Game 5, David Ortiz's walkoff hit) is hard to find. Twelve years later, anybody who was at that game might still share a giggle of glee, remembering that moment. What else can do that for two total strangers?

More fun than reading alone.

this never happens when you're reading:

(though this might: from Araby - maybe the most perfect short story I've ever read)

We waited to see whether she would remain or go in and, if she remained, we left our shadow and walked up to Mangan's steps resignedly. She was waiting for us, her figure defined by the light from the half-opened door. Her brother always teased her before he obeyed, and I stood by the railings looking at her. Her dress swung as she moved her body, and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side.

Back on topic, then:
Finally, sports are hopeful:

Every season, every team has a shot at winning. Unlike in the real world, where America positioning itself during 1900-1950 led to a ridiculous run of world dominance where nobody's had a chance at challenging for fifty years, in sports, in October, every Hockey Team has an equal 0-0-0 record, and (technically) a shot at the championship. This is different from the real world, where a new filmmaker trying to take on Disney, or a new programmer gunning for Microsoft has a ten, fifty, or hundred-game deficit before the first game of the season is even played. That's comforting: there's always next year, you know? Sports are ever-renewing, and that's nice. Even if the Leafs blew last season, they might just turn it around this season. Who can say?

That's why it's fun to watch. Not important. But fun.

(Update: by the way, in case it wasn't impressive enough already, here's an article about just how hurt Tiger was when he played.)


Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's just too bad more people aren't as excited about the science and technology it took to get man to the moon, the continuing discovery of cures for much of lifes health problems, and the ongoing quest to make our lives so much better than those who have come before us--well, as long as you don't happen to live north of the DMZ or some other crappy locations on our planet. Now, that's some impressive stuff.

Tiger Woods may know golf and Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett may know basketball (I guess Kobe isn't on his way to Disney World), but I'm more impressed by the doctors who saved my life last year here in Daejeon when my appendix ruptured and my 90 year-old mechanic who keeps my mother's, nearly as old, Plymouth Fury running.

Life is hard, and it is good to have outlets, be they entertainment related or other hobbies. Some people like to hike up mountains like goats, and others like to spend days in front of the computer playing the latest in mind-numbingly addictive games like zombies. To each their own even when the man (or woman) tries to put you down for buying your third "Lost" t-shirt featuring Evangeline Lilly. Damn, how could she fall for a hobbit?

BTW, what did the teeth whitening set you back?

John from Daejeon

Anonymous said...

Tiger's awesome win on Monday has cost him the season. I just hope it hasn't cost him his career.

John from Daejeon

Roboseyo said...

Yeah, and we shouldn't take anything away from a person's choice of outlet. . . as long as it's taken in perspective.

I, too, am bummed that Tiger's season is over. . .but you know the rest of the season doesn't matter to a competitor like Tiger, when he's close enough to smell the kill.

And hey, stepping out in the playoff round would have been the wise choice, but as with Curt Schilling's bloody sock and the risk of ending his career -- the season is gone, but this is the kind of win that builds legends -- like Jack Nicklaus in the 1986 masters, and Michael Jordan's flu game in 1997.

I also hope (a lot) it doesn't cost him his career, but any way you slice it, what a story!

And if it does, he'll jump to the top of the ultimate "what if" list -- with Len Bias, John Keats, the 27 club, and Otis Redding; if it doesn't, even better.