Kirk: Tiger Woods Defines American Exceptionalism

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 14: Tiger Woods of the United States celebrates after sinking his putt on the 18th green to win during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

When does an American sporting event become a defining statement about American exceptionalism?

Answer:  When Tiger Woods wins his 5th Masters.

For anyone who can only handle about 12-minutes-per-day of anything news related before needing to retreat into isolation, allow me to recommend spending those 12 minutes listening to the opening monologue of The Rush Limbaugh Show.  In that segment, Rush, who has been doing this long enough to have archived recordings making fun of Michael Dukakis, weighs in on the top story of the day.  He is insightful, he is intelligent, and he always has the line you wish you could have said.

This past Monday I caught Rush’s opening in which he talked about Tiger Woods.  Everybody in America was talking about Tiger Woods Monday, save for Pete Buttigieg, who was talking about Mike Pence, and AOC who was talking about how divots at Augusta pose a threat the environment.

The theme of Rush’s riff was that people shouldn’t let their behavior and actions be governed by what others think about them.  They need to be driven by doing what they know they need to do and what is right for them to do.  They need to not obsess over being “liked.”

If you waste time worried about what other people think of you, I want you to remember two words: Tiger Woods. If you ever worry — I mean, this has been a pet peeve of mine. People so concerned with what other people think, it’s what drives Washington. The Republican Party is obsessed with what the media thinks of them, obsessed with what the Democrats who are perceived to run that town think of them. And it’s paralysis.

Tiger Woods experienced perhaps the greatest fall from grace of any celebrity in American history.  It was Thanksgiving of 2009 when the man who had already won 14 major golf tournaments left his home and wrecked his vehicle after an altercation with his wife.  An extra-marital affair had become known to her, and soon it and others would become known to the world.  Next followed injuries, abuse of pain medications, and more public humiliation.

The golden boy of sports, the one who inspired a famous commercial by Nike with a host of people saying, “I am Tiger Woods,” one after the other, lost endorsements, lost tournaments, lost supporters, and seemingly lost his way.

Or did he?

As a professional, Tiger Woods always knew what he would have to do to come back to the top.  While keeping a celebrity’s version of a low profile, he continued to rehab, practice, and adjust.  He experimented with new techniques and a new coach. He stayed focused.

He stayed focused on himself and what he had to do.  He was part Nike’s “Just Do It” and part “Just do you.”  He was not focused on what other people were thinking.  This is something very American by way of trait.  It is embodied in the great military and political heroes throughout our history and it is represented in nearly every movie character John Wayne ever played.

It is also embodied in our President and it is the defining symbol of American exceptionalism.

What Tiger Woods has encountered in terms of public humiliation and backlash pales in comparison to what our President has faced.  If President Trump let his actions be governed by wanting to have people like him, by worrying about what others thought, he not only would not be an effective President, he would have dropped out of the race the minute the press falsely stated he called Mexicans “rapists and murderers.”

The President has not been dissuaded.  Tiger Woods was not dissuaded.  They have a job to do and all they worry about is getting done what has to be done.

Damn the opinion, full speed ahead!

Another professional athlete who is someone I personally admire is Tom Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots.  The excellence of the Patriots over decades has made them and their quarterback easy targets for the same kind of people who would like to see the United States governed by the United Nations. 

Brady has taken heat for everything from deflated footballs, to personal trainer choice, to wearing a Make America Great Again baseball cap.  His response to hearing “what people think of him” is to train, throw touchdowns, and win championships.

It is part of the American ethos to have this kind of unrelenting drive toward excellence; to rise and to fall, to come back and to conquer. It is also becoming far to trendy in America for people to dismiss these attributes as if they are a kind of behavioral relic.  There is a struggle taking place between Americans like Woods, Brady, and the President and those who feel more enlightened and call themselves “progressives.”

As always, Rush gave us the right perspective and reminder:

If you ever, ever get paralyzed by what people think of you and think all is lost after something you think has been humiliating and embarrassing, just never forget Tiger Woods.  We live in a fabulous country that, yeah, we love to build people up to knock ’em down. But we let ’em come back, too, and we celebrate it.  We are happy for people’s success in this country.  Don’t let the left or anybody else tell you differently.  Nobody wants to punish Tiger Woods because he came back.  But the left wants to punish the rich, they want to punish high earners, they want to punish the successful under all kinds of premises.

It is part of our human nature to want to be liked.  It is part of our human nature to worry about what others think of us.  It is an attribute of greatness and of American exceptionalism to not surrender to our nature, but to be guided by an inner calling to persevere and to prevail, no matter the personal cost.

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