It might not be obvious at first glance, but Tiger Woods and Danica Patrick share something in common.
While Woods, of course, is a male professional golfer and Patrick a woman who races on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup circuit, neither is anywhere near the top of their game right now in their respective sports in terms of victories or rankings. Yet to the casual observer or fan, they are the two figures who first come to mind when racing and pro golf are mentioned.
Call this another example of America’s celebration of mediocrity, which is common in our society today and is accompanied by a reduced emphasis on excellent and quality. In Woods’ and Patrick’s case, no one seems to care what they do on the golf course or race track as long as they have marketing appeal.
Evidence of this exists in the way sports networks that are televising a game also report on other sporting events that are taking place, which is done through the use of “crawls” — you know, those pesky little tidbits of information that flow across the bottom of your TV screen.
Invariably, if this involves a golf tournament, the names of the leaders will be displayed and at the end of the crawl Tiger Woods’ name also will appear even though he might be in 65th place at the time. The same is true of Danica Patrick. She can be running 35th in a 43-car race, but sure enough her name will pop up at the end of the leader board.
It’s almost as if there is a federal law requiring Patrick and Woods to always be acknowledged in such a manner.
But as a hard-core sports fan and competition purist, I find this sickening and resent performance taking a back seat to glamour and superficiality. Sorry, I don’t care if an athlete (male or female) is pretty or considered a media darling, I have no use for that person if he or she can’t play.
This applies to other sports in addition to stock car racing and golf.
In my opinion, Mike Tyson was the greatest boxer I have ever seen, who decimated the heavyweight ranks during his prime with a no-nonsense approach — Tyson simply walked into the ring wearing his black trunks and knocked guys out, usually in the first couple of rounds.
However, many fans consider Muhammad Ali “the greatest,” basically because he had a flamboyant style and ran his mouth a lot. Once again, fans confuse media appeal with true excellence.
Tiger Woods, though, is really taking the cake for this as of late. He truly is one of the greatest golfers of all time, whose mystique is boosted by the fact that he also happens to be African-American.
Throughout the early part of this century, Woods was the dominant force in golf, spending 264 weeks as the number one player in the world from August 1999 to September 2004, and another 281 weeks from June 2005 to October 2010.
Woods’ golfing fortunes began plummeting in late 2009 after his marital infidelity was exposed and he suffered a series of injuries and coaching changes coupled with issues concerning his swing.
After the recent PGA championship, Woods had missed four cuts this season, meaning he didn’t score well enough in tournaments to qualify for the final rounds, and went home early.
This week, Woods was ranked 286th in the world — repeat, 286th.
Somehow no one seemed to notice that when he showed up for this week’s Wyndham Championship in Greensboro.
At first, there was some doubt as to whether Woods would play in that tournament, but when he decided to, breaking-news headlines in the Greensboro area proclaimed the good news.
This announcement also prompted TV stations in the Triad area to disclose plans to devote extended coverage of Woods’ appearance.
“That coverage will include following Tiger’s every move on the golf course, fan reaction and the added media attention he brings to a tournament,” one TV news director was quoted as saying.
“We will increase our live presence at the Wyndham by dedicating one reporter and one photojournalist to follow Tiger Woods.”
Keep in mind that this is all for a guy ranked number 286.
While Tiger Woods was showing some signs of improvement as I write this column on Friday afternoon, it’s safe to say his glory years on the golf course have passed him by.
I think the fans, and those in the media, need to move on, too.
Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.