Tiger Woods, Once a God, Made Us Feel Human


Tiger Woods is the perfect 21st Century character. He pushed boundaries and challenged tradition on his way to the top of the sporting world. His megawatt smile and larger-than-life persona made him an iconic figure. Then, he exploded in epic public fashion. His personal foibles derailed him and his dirty laundry aired with no detail left unscrutinized.

Athletic juggernaut. Celebrity. The dream of the New York Post — able to grace both the front and back cover of a newspaper. A Michael Jordan given the Kardashian makeover.

But a character like Woods was imagined long ago. He’s more than a reflection of our current world. His type is memorialized in mythology. The pillars of his story were built by the Greeks and Romans.

He’s Icarus flying too close to the sun. Achilles with a singular weakness.

That’s the thing about Woods. He rose up as a god but he’s only a man. That is what the last decade has been about. The fall from grace. The inglorious grind back. The passing of time and inevitability of age. The complexity of life we all realize.

It’s been a long, strange trip. From a Thanksgiving weekend car accident to countless injuries to just as many doubts to the 18th hole at Augusta Sunday, where Woods tapped in a putt to win his fifth Masters.

It had been 11 years since his last major victory. Most people thought this day would never come. No one will ever forget that it did.

Upon winning, Woods rushed to see his family. He embraced his mother and his girlfriend. And he found joy in the arms of his children, ages 11 and 10, who have never seen their dad do something like this. It was what a young Tiger used to do with his father after victory.

The symbolism of the moment was rich and not subtle.

This weekend was a profoundly human experience. A complicated protagonist rising to meet a destiny that once seemed lost. A viewing public who first loved him because he could do no wrong now loves him more because they know all the wrong he did.

There were times when Woods’ broken body couldn’t carry the baggage. There were times when the fans weren’t ready to forgive. There were times when it looked like Tiger would fade into irrelevance.

They all led to this. A glorious morning and early afternoon where everything fell into place, and a long-dreamed dream became reality.

If you didn’t feel something watching, you weren’t human. Love him or hate him, Tiger taps into something primal. People see themselves in him, or don’t want to see themselves in him, or judge him because they see someone else in him.

So many connect with him because he represents a time they were falling in love with sports. They connect him to limitless possibility, to a time before reality set it. For them, seeing him climb the mountain once again brought closure. Personal closure.

They see a man who had it all and lost it all and now, improbably, seems to have found it all again. He is the main story in one of the greatest and oldest stories ever told. And the latest chapter is the greatest to date.