Paul Daugherty: The age of sports heroes is dead – Cincinnati.com
A police report lists four medications, including Vicodin, that Tiger Woods reported taking when he was stopped for DUI. Woods told officers he was recovering from surgery. Woods has had four back surgeries since 2014, the latest in April. (May 30)
The age of sports heroes officially died Monday. Time of death was 4:22 a.m., in a jail room in Palm Beach County, Florida, where Tiger Woods was asked twice to take a Breathalyzer test. “Don’t suck it,’’ an irritated jail employee tells Woods. “Blow out.’’
After completing the task, the erstwhile subject of worldwide adulation slumped in an office chair in the corner of the empty room, his dignity in pieces across the shiny linoleum floor.
And this is how we know him now.
If Woods ever returns to competitive golf, whom will we choose to see? The player who won the Masters by 12 shots at age 21, who won the U.S. Open on a broken leg?
Or the vaguely coherent guy blowing into a tube in a jail room?
Show of hands: Who believes we needed to see that? Or the dashcam video that preceded it, when Woods couldn’t walk a straight line and believed officers had asked him to recite the National Anthem, not the alphabet?
I don’t know what was gained in this particular transaction. Prurience satisfied, I guess. I know what was lost, though. I know what was moved along like a vagrant on a downtown street corner: Whatever dignity Woods had left.
You could say he did it to himself, and you’d be right. We human beings are pretty good at finding ways to mess up our lives. What isn’t right is the modern demand to see everything, to know it all. Leering as a spectator sport, with a little humiliation on the side. Oh say can you TMZ.
We leave nothing to the imagination. When we eliminate imagination, we do away with wonder. When we do that, we remove a lot of what makes sports lovable.
In a cynical world, heroes matter. Even if they’re just as human as the rest of us. Even when we mistakenly assume sports prowess equals social grace. The inspiration that Lance Armstrong offered cancer survivors should not be dimmed by the way his career ended. Drugs or no drugs, he still had to get up on the damned bike and ride. PEDs improved his performance. They didn’t fortify his will.
It’s OK not to know and see everything. It’s OK to be a little naïve. Sports heroism depends on it.
I didn’t need to see the dashcam video of Woods fumbling his way through a sobriety test. I felt the same way years ago, when police released the video of Bob Huggins’ arrest for DUI.
It was necessary to detain Woods. Not to humiliate him.
Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated senior writer and sports writing colossus, died last week. For those of us who grew up wanting to be sports hacks, Frank was Zeus. He was a hero, in his own right. Frank fits this narrative, because he was a gentleman. Thank goodness TMZ never got ahold of him. Thank goodness he lived in a gentler age. Frank’s skeletons, if he had any, remained closeted. Are we any worse off for that now?
What set Deford apart wasn’t his prose, even though his words were unusually highbrow for his profession. Reading Frank could make you want to put on a pair of white gloves.
It was his tone. Deford never yelled in print. He wrote gracefully.
Who does anything gracefully now?
Brandon Phillips returned to Cincinnati Friday night. It should have been a festive moment. Phillips was the best defensive ballplayer I’ve ever seen, at any position. No Red of his era had a better relationship with the fans. Judging from the extended ovation he received Friday, no Red was appreciated more.
Phillips used the moment to complain that someone else was wearing his uniform number. C’mon, man.
It seems doubtful Tiger Woods will ever be Tiger Woods again, only Eldrick. Four back surgeries keep him from playing golf at all. His aura of dominance has vanished. Tiger Mystique was so long ago, it could have happened in Camelot.
He could still be inspirational, though. He could still move kids to play golf and strive for excellence. If they didn’t know everything. Only they do. We’ve pulled the curtain on Oz. Now what?
The age of sports heroes was real, then quaint. Now it’s just dead. Are we better for it?