...and Tiger Woods.
At the risk of alienating every golfer, sports fan, and loyal American in loyal America, I just have to say—I’m baffled and bemused by our adulation of Tiger Woods, a recent Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient.
I get the whole reclamation piece, the descent into perdition and the resultant salvation. But it happens to folks all the time, on an enormous scale. Workers who lose their jobs, young people who contract horrible illnesses, families that suffer personal hardships—they all struggle to find a way back and often, through strength of character, manage to do so. Just as often they struggle just as hard and fail. Many of these personal battles involve greater trauma than a loss of fame, a shattered marriage, and a bad back.
I’m not dismissing Tiger Woods’s currently being a good father and maybe having become a better man. I’ll even admit that his scale may be balanced, and further, whether I think it’s balanced or not is irrelevant.
But the Medal of Freedom?
Certainly public shaming is a different animal (ask Cersei Lannister) and rebounding from it—while the world watches—cannot make for a lot of pleasant days. Add to that Woods’s medical procedures and rehab and just reclaiming his stroke—his victory at the Masters is nothing if not extraordinary.
But the Medal of Freedom? From a bigot like Trump?
Woods is quoted as having said of the president “You have to respect the office. No matter who is in the office, you may like, dislike personality or the politics, but we all must respect the office.”
That’s a convenient response, and one which may have been accurate and suitable until January 2017 when the presidency became Trump’s private bank account and a shelter for a rogue’s list of liars and thieves. Trump himself has no respect for the office. How can we? How can Tiger Woods? Better yet, why should Tiger Woods?
Admittedly, not everyone can be Lebron James or Steph Curry or Colin Kaepernick, all of whom have spoken eloquently and passionately against racism, but we can at least aspire to be someone with the ethical compass of Red Sox manager Alex Cora. He who knows what we all know—Trump is a racist—but at least he acts on it. Cora knows that his Puerto Rico has been treated with open disdain and, as such, is refusing to attend today's White House ceremony honoring the 2018 championship team.
Why then was Tiger so complaisant?
Perhaps it’s this: like everything else Trump touches, there’s a seamy side to the story. Woods currently has a contract to design a golf course for one of Mr. Trump’s properties in Dubai. (Don't bother asking for directions—you won't be playing there.) In addition, a villa at a Trump Miami property is named after Mr. Woods. It’s win-win for both of them. But it does take some of the luster off the award.
In truth Bill Cosby has a Presidential Medal of Freedom. So do Orrin Hatch and Yogi Berra. We can scratch our heads over many recipients and argue their merits. But it’s important to note that, during the Trump presidency, the number of recipients in the fields of art, dance, literature, economics, media, medicine, diplomacy, environmentalism, science, and many others stands at zero. ZERO. None. Zilch. (Full disclosure: in 2018 Trump did award one in philanthropy to Miriam Adelson—the wife of Sheldon Adelson, who has donated an estimated $123 million to conservative causes. That amount, incidentally, comprises about 15% of Tiger Woods’s net worth, currently estimated at $800 million.)
I remain baffled and bemused by our adulation of Tiger Woods, but now with the disparity between his submissiveness and Cora's resistance so evident, I’m a little disappointed too.