There's an old Chinese curse that goes "May you live in interesting times." But what better times could one live in? Indeed, what times aren't interesting? We live at a time when there are few great heroes. Most of them are tainted in some way. Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's home run record but is tainted by allegations of steroid use. George Bush instills pride and courage in America in the days following the 9/11 attacks but gets us embroiled in an unpopular war. Mayor Guilliani is praised for his leadership following those 9/11 attacks but is then tainted by a scandal in his marital relationship. A couple dozen people are running for president, most of whom we barely know, and all seem to have some deep flaws, real or insinuated. Is Obama "black" enough? Are Hillary's negatives too great to overcome? Can the country elect a Mormon? An African-American? A woman? Will another former actor run and win? Yes, I think we live in interesting times. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
Where are the truly great men and women? Looking back in history, we see such heroes as Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Lincoln. As children most of us were taught how honorable these men were. As we grew older, we learned of the flaws; slave owners, womanizers, less than noble goals wrapped in powerful rhetoric. Even in the just past century, we have many great men who may not have been so great when examined closely. Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic but was also a Nazi sympathizer before the war broke out. FDR pulled us out of the Great Depression but might have fed the appetite of the Soviet Union and allowed it to oppress Eastern Europe (not to mention signing an order to inter thousands and thousands of Japanese immigrants and their families). Harry Truman brought an end to WWII in the Pacific when he authorized the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, acts which are now questioned as wise or just. Dwight Eisenhower got us out of the Korean War but gave us the U2 incident. J.F.K. inspired us but, apparently, also had no problem sneaking around on his wife and also helped embroil us in an unpopular war.
Where are the heroes? Only one stands out today. Eldridge "Tiger" Woods. No whispers of steroids surround him. No talk of secret liaisons. No mention of a shadowy private life. He seems to be what we see; a man capable of almost superhuman strength of character. He has managed to capture our imagination and awe. He has also built, by deeds alone, a reputation as the man to beat in any tournament he enters. Woody Austin, his closest challenger in the PGA Championship, pointed out that some of his actions are reported differently when performed by others. A show of temper on his part is seen as a sign of his competitiveness but on the part of one of his competitors as losing control. The media has been been caught up in the making of the legend, perhaps. It is part of the power Tiger holds over his peers. The aura surrounding him is possibly his greatest weapon. Imagine the added stress of having Tiger nipping at your heels, just a shot or three back. Or worse, trying to catch up to him.
Mr. Woods is one of those celebrities recognizable by just a single name. One of those who are known even by people who don't care much about the thing he excels at. You may never have played the game, may never have picked up a club, might not have even played miniature golf, but you know who Tiger is. He will surpass Jack Nicklaus in time, there's little doubt of that now. He may grab every record in golf there is. His talent is incredible. His character immense. We are truly privileged to have such a man among us. If only we had more such men and women.
Until Mr. Woods, too, fell.
Do all heroes have feet of clay?
A Night Unremembered
6 years ago