Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

There are sports superstars and then there are mythic figures

The last thing I ever want to do is write the same column as everyone else. If you are a sports fan, there are lots of places where you can find words of praise for Tiger Woods.

Not only is Tiger the best athlete in his sport, he has fine-tuned his incredible talent with an over-powering will to succeed. He has rebuilt his swing more than once, sacrificing short-term goals for long-term dominance.

We have never seen an athlete like this before. He is rewriting expectations of greatness while he is rewriting the records books.

However, I chuckle at the plethora of writers and talking heads that beride Tiger's opponents. Why doesn't anyone challenge him? Why doesn't someone step up? The players of old would have never allowed Tiger to scare them?


God bless Jack Nicklaus and his 18 major championships. Recently the Golden Bear hinted that if he had known some kid would one day be gunning for his records, maybe he would have won more of his 19 second-place finishes in majors. Really? Winning at the time wasn't reward enough?

Tiger Woods would have dominated at any time and in any era. In my opinion, if he had played at the same time as Jack Nicklaus, that would have fueled his desire even more.

He is the greatest golfer of all time. Does he have better equipment? Sure, but tell me if you gave Tiger a two-by-four, he would not find a way to get the ball in the hole better than anyone else.

Critics have said Tiger has advantages because of his length off the tee. So at the British Open, he left his driver in the bag and dominated the field. At the PGA with the longest yardage in the history of major golf, he dominated again.

Even his mistakes are of legend. On Friday, he over swung just a little. He hit his nine iron an estimated 212 yards (read that again), the ball hit a cart path and landed onto the roof of Firestone's clubhouse. It was such an unimaginable feat that there wasn't even a rule against it. It never occurred to anyone to make the roof out of play.

This country loves Supermen and Tiger is just that. If he is in contention in the final round, ratings always skyrocket. We are enthralled by his greatness.

Critics said changing coaches would change him. That marriage would change him. Losing his father would change him.

Michael Jordan, either through grief or potential scandal, took a break at the height of his greatness. Then again he left too soon. As a result, he will never have as many rings as Bill Russell and you won't convince me that he is indeed the greatest ever in his sport. Best player maybe, but Bill Russell dominated for a decade and changed the game of basketball.

Boredom or lack of interest doesn't appear to be a problem with Tiger. He is just 30 years old and Nicklaus won his last major at the age of 46. Woods has not even entered his prime yet. This weekend he was quoted as saying, "My body took me out of the tournament, and my mind will bring me back in it."

It is that faith that will that make him the greatest ever.

It is rare to be alive at the same time as a man who is aware of his legacy. In the past, men of legend conquered nations. Now our heroes belong to the world of sports. Woods is on the path to being the greatest ever in any sport.

And it is honor that we get to watch.