There is a certain tier of athletes I like to classify as “one-namers.” That means they’re recognizable by their first or last name only.
LeBron, Brady, Jordan, Serena, Babe, and Gretzky are a few that come to mind. Oh, and Tiger.
I recently watched a two-part documentary on HBO Max with a one-name title — Tiger. It delves into the life of golfer Tiger Woods. I watched it after it was reported on Feb. 23 that Tiger was in a serious car accident.
When I first heard of the accident, I hoped Tiger would survive. Thoughts of Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash last year, came to mind, and I didn’t want another megastar athlete of my generation to experience such an early and tragic death.
Other questions surfaced as well. Did Tiger suffer another relapse? Was he driving under the influence? Will he ever golf again?
These are questions that people who know Tiger’s history couldn’t help but contemplate.
Soon after the accident, it was reported that he had emerged from the wreck alive but suffered serious injuries to his right leg that required surgery. I put the story aside for a few days. I then watched the documentary and had a lot to reflect on.
Last summer, the 10-part documentary The Last Dance gave a behind-the-scenes look at Michael Jordan’s illustrious basketball career with the Chicago Bulls.
After watching it for the full eight-plus hours, I understood how Jordan was so successful, but I didn’t know anything more about him as a person than I did before I started.
But after three hours of watching Tiger, I feel as if I truly learned about the person he is. I learned how he came to be Tiger.
Earl Woods cared for his son Tiger deeply but viewed him almost as a savior or mythical figure, not as a son who needed ordinary parenting. Yes, Tiger was a golf prodigy. But his parents focused so much on his golf training, they forgot — or neglected — to help him grow into a healthy adult.
He was thrust into the spotlight as a child, completely unprepared for the fame that his extraordinary talent brought. His father was militant about his golf training. There was so much emphasis on his game that everything else was pushed aside.
Tiger quickly became the best golfer the world had ever seen. He had a lot of innocence when he was young, but that side of him vanished as he grew older and focused solely on winning tournaments. When things became too much for him, he delved into a different part of himself, which led to sex addiction, drugs, and poor life choices. His emotionally deprived upbringing made it impossible for him to succeed socially as he had professionally.
Fans and media members pounced on Tiger’s downfall. They trashed him and made him out to be a villain, then switched gears and cheered him on when he came back to golf a year or so later. Why? Because he had become a performer again.
Tiger made bad decisions, but the documentary made me realize how we, as a society, treat every megastar who comes along. We love to watch the rise of these athletes but, ultimately, feed on their demise so we can take them down to being mere mortals. We then wait for their rise out of the depths to cheer them on once again in the sports arena. But we never forget their faults.
It’s as if they’re not human — that the sole purpose of their ups and downs is to entertain us.
I felt selfish for even wondering whether I’d be able to watch Tiger golf again after his accident. Online comments mocked his addiction history.
We hold athletes close to us, as if we know them, so when they struggle with addiction or experience a downfall, we should not bask in their misjudgments or wonder whether they’ll ever entertain us again. We should, instead, hope for and encourage them to improve as human beings.
Let’s enjoy greatness when it’s here, while recognizing the humanity in all of us. The “one-namers” won’t live forever.