Call it "Tiger fatigue," or "schadenfreude," or "fickleness," or evidence of the fact that Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption, but whatever the reason, I went from being a huge, unabashed Tiger Woods "snob," rooting for him to win everything, to being a Tiger Woods "stinker," rejoicing in his defeats. I went from wanting the man to win every golf tournament to never wanting him to win another one.
But now that I appear to have gotten my wish, it's turned out to be way less gratifying than I had hoped. In fact, watching this guy struggle on national TV has has been fairly painful. When you set the bar as high as Tiger set it, anything short of winning, or at least always being in the hunt, isn't acceptable.
You want to say, "Brother, either find your stroke, or retire. Move on." No one wanted to see Johnny Carson leave the "Tonight Show" and then take a job as host of an afternoon game show. Having been ranked #1 in the world for all those years, what satisfaction is there in being ranked what--#127?
And this has nothing to do with his marital problems. For one thing, I began rooting for Tiger to start losing way before the world learned about his sexual affairs. For another, I realized long ago that if I were to reject my favorite authors, actors, politicians and athletes on the basis of their marital infidelities, the cupboard would be bare. I'd be left only with JFK and Bill Cosby (Oh, wait....).
Tiger will turn 40 at the end of the year. That's a tough age. Not only does an athlete not get better when he hits 40, he becomes hyper-aware of all the Young Turks out there preparing to surpass him. Tiger used to intimidate the field, cause golfers to get the jitters when they saw him make one of his patented charges, but all that has changed.
Not only do these guys -- guys with names like Jordan, Rory, Jason, Dustin, Martin and Rickie -- not "fear" Tiger, they view him as irrelevant. They regard Tiger the way KC Royals pitcher Bret Saberhagen regarded an aging Reggie Jackson. Jackson's lifetime batting record versus the young Saberhagen was 0 for 22.
Anyone who watched the U.S. Open heard the great Gary Player say that Tiger has more talent than any golfer who ever lived. Even though that's quite a sweeping statement, who's going to argue with it? On the other hand, who's going to take pleasure in watching this remarkable athlete futilely struggle to regain his early form?
What Tiger needs to do is spare us the agony of watching him fail. He needs to retire. It's no disgrace to leave the game at age 40. Orson Wells made "Citizen Kane" when he was only 25, and never made another movie anywhere as good. The great Hank Williams tragically died when he was only 29. What's Tiger going to do? Keep trying to rediscover his stroke until he's 50?
Of course, if Tiger were just another golfer, none of this would matter. If he were just another guy on the tour, we'd all be pleased that he was able to hang around in his chosen profession for as long as he liked. But Tiger isn't simply "another golfer." He's the most talented golfer who ever lived. Alas, he should probably just move on.