Stephen Brunt on Tiger Woods: What kind of heroes do we want?

The Big Story


Hey, it's Jordan, and I've podcast for you. Commons is Canada's most popular podcast about politics last season. They tried to answer the question how corrupt is Canada this time around. They're investigating our national addiction oil the currency's featuring host Arshi man is called crude. And it's about Canada's relationship with the oil industry. The good the bad the ugly and the weird you'll find Commons wherever you get your podcasts. So go check it out. I'm going to try to tell you today's story the way all probably tell it to grandkids someday. There was this guy a golfer named tiger. He was the best golfer in the world probably ever, you could argue if you wanted to, but nobody who'd watched him play would listen to you. And if that was our story, it would be a boring one, but it's not anyway, tiger was the greatest he had it all the fame money commercials endorsements beautiful wife and adorable children. But he was also a jerk. There were a lot of stories about this. He was rude to fans who wouldn't give kids high fives or sign autographs. He had his caddy yell at people who was a notoriously bad Tipper. He was a sullen guide to play with. He was robotic with the media, and none of those things mattered because he was the greatest until he wasn't just after two on Friday morning. Thirty three year old Tiger Woods. Drove out of his house alone. His car I hit a fire hydrant then a tree police after that crash. His wife left him. It turned out he'd been cheating on her with dozens of women across the country. His sponsors dropped him. Almost as fast as she. Did Ben details of his affairs came out, and they were humiliating. I want to say to each of you simply and directly. I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior. I engaged in his knee gave out and then his back and even when he felt good enough to play golf. He was bad at it. And then despite surgeries his backup worse and worse until he could barely sit down without pain. He needed a spinal fusion surgery he had it just so he would be able to play with his children in his old age. He said but afterwards he felt better. So about two years ago, he picked up a club and tried to play again, and he could and he started getting better at it on the rest. Well, we'll tell you the rest, but you probably know how this ends. Then he doubted we'd ever see it. But here it is. Turn to glory. So it's Tiger Woods. Now. Redeemed? What is it about him that compels so many of us to root for him despite his flaws? What does the way we cheer for tiger tell us, but the kind of stories that were drawn to and about the kind of heroes. We prefer. I'm jordan. He's rawlings. And this is the big story. Stephen Brent from sports net is one of our favorite guests to talk to you. Whenever sports gets bigger than the games on the field. Why did everybody I know even with people on my production team who don't care about sports watch golf on Sunday? Well, let's see because the greatest golfer of all time came back under what seemed like impossible circumstances in rows right to the top of the sport in a after being written off for really good reasons over the last several years, especially over the last five or six years because he because Tiger Woods is a ground-breaking figure culturally. The people who don't know the wouldn't know Jordan Spieth of walked up their driveway know, who he is the he's he's an icon and a groundbreaker. So we has significance beyond the game. He plays. And because we all love a good redemption story, whether it's true or not we all want to believe that if you turn your life around if you do the right things instead of the wrong things if you follow the rules. You will be rewarded somehow in the cosmic sense. And for a lot of people. I think that's what it felt like I I'm not sure if the greatest I'm trying to think is this. Latest comeback story in sports history. That's a big one. Right. And I have a personal bias on that. Because I saw George Foreman. When the heavyweight championship at age forty six having been away for eleven years, and then come back as a big fat guy had people laugh Ataman lose nine rounds of a fight Nakagawa the tenth. So that was pretty good. But this that probably just me, but otherwise yet may potentially the greatest comeback story in the history of sport, a nostalgia moment for some people. I yeah, I get creeped out thinking of nineties style. Just somebody my age at doesn't nineties is like yesterday. But there's it's an established a moment, you know, this kind of the big three right there. Right. So within the sport historical greatest of all time, and the redemption narrative, and the and the style jet for a certain generation who remember remember when way way back in those nineteen nineties tell me about that. Because that was something that everybody was talking about right after he won is that moment twenty something years ago. Now when the world saw Tiger Woods for the first time. Do you? Remember the first time you saw Tiger Woods. That's good. I know not specifically. I certainly remember the first master's I remember talking about him in the US amateur. I remember him being out. You know, what I know? I take that back. You know, when I saw him the first time, I was at home as a teenager, a young teenager. Maybe not even a teenager yet. And after school. My parents watched the Mike Douglas show, which was a talk show that was on every day like five o'clock in the afternoon, and that's the famous show where they were L. Whereas whereas all man brought him out as a six year old and he had calls. I saw that show. Do you remember when Tiger Woods became I guess the Tiger Woods that we talk about? When we talk about the beginning of this story. When is lapping the field at the masters. I'm one of those moments when he just did something that when he seemed on another planet when he seemed different from all of the rest when he separated himself and that puts him on a very short list with Jordan and alley and what was it like watching him in the late nineties and early two thousands. Well, the guy so I'm not a golf guy. I have to. So is this I read like, I quit playing golf is fourteen. I walked off the course on the second hole. I hated hated the people here that the clothing, I did everything. So I just laughed. I literally just walked off in the middle of the game. And that's why we're talking you. Because this story is golf, so I hate golf and everything about it. But no, he was he was like a he was a superman, right? He was this. And and again, the nontraditional nature in terms of golf the whitest of sports. Yeah. Those days more so than now. But the idea that you could be, you know, someone other than a rich white kid, and and take on the sports or the way they're with Williams sisters and tennis the same that you could you could kind of just going to throw this back through all of that back in people's faces planned courses that were segregated up. You know within my lifetime. Yeah. There were courses that I remember remember the commercial? I think that Nike did about that. He was the first black person to ever play on some of these courses that he'd been playing. Yeah. I do remember that. And that was you know, again, that's a very so you felt like this was righteous to that that he was kicking down those doors and breaking those barriers and thumbing. Knows that the racist and the racist traditions and golf news, you know, total package now that that said the other side of them was completely unknowable. You know, we saw him. He was again public use a public figure, and he's a six year old to a degree. And he was kind of a brand Ike on it was like, Jordan. He was universal. Right. You could you could show that picture in any continent on earth and people say, oh, that's him. But he was impenetrable. He still is I have no idea who that guy is I really don't you know, has left people try to figure it out. And a lot of very fine writers have taken a crack at it. But I have no idea who what's inside them. Do you think we know him better now than we did ten twelve years ago? I think we would like to think we do again, I think under pretending that we know these people is important to us because it gives meaning to something that's otherwise meaningless which guy just put myself out of out of a job here. But you know, it doesn't really matter this stuff. Right. It doesn't. It's funny. You're like putting a little white ball and a hauler Gorna touchdown or scoring a winning goal and overtime and hockey game. Then add up a whole lot. You know, it doesn't even add up to what your doesn't add up art adds up to you know, with art. You can say the the art is the is what's important. So we will forgive people when number one you don't need to know the personality of the person producing yard you. Appreciate the art as a separate thing from them. And number two, you forgive them their sins. Right. Doesn't matter miles Davis horrible person. Right. Like one of the worst people ever, but produced sublime transcendent, revolutionary, art. And that's enough. You don't have to care about him. But but fleet was that's the thing. It's different. Because this no one's I. Yeah. I know it's you can argue make the argument that it's art, but you know, games come and goes Gore's, come and go somebody wins somebody loses. Like I've been doing. I've been writing about this stuff for a long time. It it. It doesn't add up to a la- beans, but if we can give it meaning, you know, if you can kind of imbue it with meeting and say, there's a human lesson here. And there's a human involved in this. Then I think it kinda justifies it. So I think that's part of we want to turn this into a parable. We wanna turn sports into a parable. That's how we understand the world is, you know, through parable as someone who. Who tries to do that and turn sports into those lessons for us. What did you think when I guess when Tigers false started when the news broke of the car crash and the details of that came out any stepped away? I you know, I felt like Klay like the rest of us. You know, it was it was interesting because it was kind of a flash of humanity in there he'd been so packaged and so protected in so manufactured, and, you know, both as a player, you know, by his father, and then certainly by Nike and everybody else who were in the image business image management business to to to be around tiger. I was a couple of times golf tournaments. And you know, there's no, you know, sense of what was behind this thing. And so, you know, I think that there is well, it's what the gossip industries built on right that they're kind of the Makarius thrill of oh, they're like us, aren't they? They're just like us. As a real under the Nike. Yeah. But especially on a flawed Cuban, right? So yeah, he may be rich, and he may be handsome, and he may be may have this beautiful wife. And but really he's like, you know, the the bad guy down the block, you not like you because you would never know that he was like the bad guy down the block. He has flaws. He's he's he's human in a so, but I I think there's a little bit of glee that goes without sometimes kinda, you know, the the whole shot and Freud thing, right? That you're you're you. I think a lot of people kind of were excited about it. You know, in some ways and said there, you go, you know, you may have thought you were something else. But here's what you really are. But I think it would it mostly revealed was a guy who I again, I'm not going to I wouldn't try and put a framework aunt and say, he was you know, all about golf and then never developed the other dimensions of his humanity. I have no idea. Like, I I don't know who the guy is. I don't pretend. But I think the impulse there is to say, yeah, he's he's a he's he's a flawed human being like the rest of us. And again weirdly to take some satisfaction from it. Well, there is that narrative that we probably like to put on. Sports stars because they're bigger and faster and better and richer than us that they are missing out on an essential part of humanity because they had to focus on this game since they were three years old. And they missed the whole rich tapestry of life that we got. Yes. No. And that's a great point. Right. That is a great point that, you know, the those character lessons you learned by being a really crappy little league player, right? For instance, or how to sit on a bench or being dumped by various girlfriends or ignored by others or just understanding failure that these guys were believed they were impervious to it. But in fact, you know, everybody gets their come up at some point. But again, that's that's kind of a religious theme. Isn't it? It really is. Yeah. Well, it's the it's the new idea of the human experience. Right. And that we all kind of go through the worst valleys in our lives. And it's what comes after that makes it worthwhile. Theoretically, you're radically. Yeah. Theoretically, or you know, it could be just all pointless, which would be another another more bleak way to look at it. We'll how unlikely was the next peak after that Val. Because it wasn't just the personal life scandal. It was like I mean you cover lots of athletes who try to come back from Steph. If I asked you five years ago, Steven what's the chance that I see? Tiger Woods win another green jacket snow slim two years ago. Right. Look, it's not about and it's not about the personal life stuff in this sense. Because look he was quite capable of winning golf tournaments while his personal life was apparently you're Radyr chaotic he managed to keep those things separate as when it was the physical stuff. It's one is back when you know, this guy who could barely bender bent over to pick something up off the floor two years ago the back. You can't swing a golf club with with that. You know, I think physically that idea that no matter how hard he worked his body at broken. And that's you know, way that it was not it did not appear to be able. So he could try as hard as he wanted to and he can live as clean life as you want to do and all of those things, but it didn't matter because this machine was broken. So I I don't think anybody hearing those stories from twenty sixteen twenty seventeen about his back kind of whispers because. It wasn't very public thought. You know this. No, there's no chance right? He can't go out there and compete. We can week out. And then he kind of comes back, I guess about a little over a year ago now and starts playing golf and laying. All right. And even then I don't know about you. But it was like watching an older athlete play out his years with some semblance of what he used to be. But not the same person, certainly the British the British Open right in the open championship. Right. Where you come thought. You know, he's he's not that far off and it's not like, but it's a different year. Right. It's a different vibe was a different vibe in at the masters because you know, the the old vibe is the, you know, I'm going to I'm going to destroy you. I'm going to destroy the golf course, which is what really I'm going to destroy the rest of you in this tournament. And that kind of Uber confidence that he had. I thought the most interesting thing watching that last round was watching him play the eighteenth hole, so carefully so super carefully. Right. Because you know, again, I would have been it would have been just insane you up there and hit a driver at that point, you know, because God knows and and but just. Kind of watching him play a really safe bogey to win that tournament. That's that's not in some ways. That's the anti-tiger. Right. It's just but it was it was smart. It was the right thing to do. And really the way he won that the way you try in that last round was by being kind of dog it and watching and consistent and then watching other people fail around him. It wasn't like he just sees them by the throat they had to fail. So that's a little different. If we're going to do the metaphor thing. Again, he humbled himself in front of the eighteenth hole. And is that can we read into that anything about his new life? I mean, a lot of people talked even before this tournament about how he just wanted to win for his children. Right. And he wanted his kids to see daddy win. And that's not the old tiger. Yeah. And who knows who knows who knows this guy enough to actually say that. I have no idea. I think he probably likes being tiger. Yeah. And I thought the and the chance to be tiger one more time at forty-three. That'd be pretty cool. Right. That'd that'd be an yes, it'd be great to have it. Do it in front of your children? Who'd never really got to experience it in to shut up the nose of everybody who ever said anything about you, there'd be a lot of things that you would take satisfaction from. But again, this is a guy who has programmed to be that that thing that character that kind of golf playing robot from the time he was a toddler, and you know to have that. It's right Thompsons got a new book about kind of greatest the kind of the the nature of some of the greatest of all time athletes him Jordan criminal for the other two are, but is his take on tiger is among his takes on tiger. Now, he's a great writer of golf and a Greg. I was around the sport is you know, that he thinks tiger hated the sport that whole first phase that he he was incredibly good at it and hated every minute of it because it had been forced and imposed upon him. So again, if I'm going to play amateur shrink here, I could talk about them being liberated in this second half and doing it for himself and for his own reasons rather than someone else's reasons and not having the daddy figure hovering over in them and being the daddy himself. And but like now, I'm a sports I'm being a sports writer here. Just extrapol-. I saw that column come into view. I just don't know if it's true, right? I honestly don't I have no idea. I I've no idea we know what lies in his soul. But I don't have any idea. What lies in most people souls? Right. It's we, but we go seeking it. We go seeking that story. Yeah. We're trying to find the meaning we're trying to find the meaning. Yeah. It's and you know, and then tomorrow, we'll try and find the meaning and something else. But this one looked the one thing as a sports writer sports writers people. I was asked to do cheer. We cheer for stories. Yeah. I've been lots of press boxes. Lots of press rooms everybody. Cheers for the story. Everybody got what they were cheering for and you'll end fan through the really that's what fans want you wanna. Yeah. You support your team and you support the uniform. But man, there's nothing like a story is there. Well, here's the question. Then how come I was and probably you were certainly millions and millions of people were cheering so hard for a guy who objectively from the little that we do know about him, isn't that great guy at least hasn't been and cheering form as a huge underdog went objectively. He's one more majors than anybody. But one person and he's one hundreds of millions of dollars because we're flexible. We as a species are very flexible, I wanna feel like we shoot for a real underdog. But we can you know, you can turn it. You know, think about watching the March madness if you have no real rooting interest. And so there's two schools on there. You have no idea who they are. You have no idea who those players are. But you can construct something around that game where when you know, east west North Dakota state beat somebody you go. That's the greatest thing I've ever seen your route informant that basket goes in. And then you go onto the next thing we we do construct stuff like that. And you know, he's like that the idea of the fightback that's really fight back from adversity fight back against the impossible. And the character stuff as I said, it's tricky we could because sport has been a place where we've confused being good at something having great motor skills or winning the genetic lottery, or, you know, working hard or all this up at everybody works hard. Right. We we do confuse I with character. Sometimes those things are blurred might that. You know that he's a character guy. You know? That's that's why that's why he succeeded. Not because you know, he was born this way. A or had some advantages or because there's something else inside. We got we go for that. And a lot of time and the flip side of his we're we're quite willing to ignore the opposite with where somebody could be like Michael Jordan's. Not a nice guy. Right. There's not really any suggestion. That Michael Jordan's a nice go. No there's like with tiger. There's plenty of stories to the contract. And you know, Allie was a terrible husband and a crappy fodder by and large. Now, there's also a political social components rally. So that's you know, it's a little bit different. But as I was saying before about, you know, the separating the art from the artist you can do that with our, you know, Pablo Picasso is bad guy. Right. Really bad guy. But it didn't stop anyone from treating him as Picasso during his work that way. Well, you don't have to cheer for Picasso. You don't and you can see you know, it. It gets tricky with the, you know, the Woody Allens of the world, you know, it gets it gets into some dicey territory there. Maybe I'm not sure anybody's going to listen to a Bill Cosby monologue the same way anymore. But but sport, the two things are connected. The two things are connected, and we'd like to you know, we want to kind of link those two things. Say this guy triumphed or this woman triumphed. Because a yes, they were very compact because they worked harder because they had more of that grit and character in, you know, Royal jelly, we we really we seek that. And I'm not saying, it's not true. But I think it's more that we needed to be true. Or we want it to be true sometime like it's a chicken or the egg did tiger win again because he became a better person or because he's winning again. Do we just think he became a better person Ingo? Yeah. And his backup better. Yeah. That to actually could swing a golf club dad like he may he may be a great guy now and totally, you know, Saint Paul on the road to Damascus had a moment where hang on when everything's clear down. And I'm not going to do all those terrible things anymore or maybe just got healthy. I don't know. We'll never know. But the, but the, but the former is way more compelling than the lab. Thanks, Steven bye. Stephen Brennan from sports net hates golf, but loves narrative that was the big story for more from us. You can find us at the big story, podcast dot CA or at frequency podcast network dot com. We are also up in your social media at frequency pods on Twitter on Facebook and on Instagram, and you can always reach us at v big story. F P PIN on Twitter as well. We're in your favorite podcast app. No matter which one it is. And we'd love a rating or a review. We've us comments. We love comments, apple Google, Stitcher. Spotify you pick where there thanks for listening. I'm Jordan he throwing we'll talk tomorrow.

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