Almost from the jump, I’ve been “sports spoiled”. The first ten years of my life revolved around the greatest basketball player and a few of the greatest basketball teams of all time dominating the NBA. This is where my obsessive fandom began. One of my first memories are of me begging my first grade teacher, Mr. Lennert, to use the faculty laminator so I could preserve and protect the “clippings” of different Bulls players that I’d cut out of the Sunday paper my dad would bring home with the donuts he’d get for my sister and I. I’d then post them all over my room.
Bulls wallpaper. Bulls posters. Bulls clippings. And a Ken Griffey Jr. cut out that I would ultimately dunk on so much that his head fell off (easily, one of my biggest adult regrets).
Now, as I quickly approach 30, I’ve had to spend a good portion of my adult life coming to the hard realization that the greatness that I just assumed every one reveled in, doesn’t grow on trees.
That doesn’t mean that I’ve all of a sudden stopped witnessing greatness. Quite the opposite. I know it’s all around me. I’m the first one to tell people that LeBron James is my King. But I’m also the one to finish that sentence by telling them that I also pray at the alter of Jordan.
I love watching LeBron James. But he’ll never be MY dude. I can appreciate his greatness. But I’ll never eat, sleep and breath it in. I will remember some of his best moments. But I won’t remember each and every second in between them.
This is why, after a few days to reflect on this past weekend (and a podcast in which the People’s Champ and I wouldn’t let DC speak for longer than a few seconds on the topic because he’s a #HATER), I was sucked into the Honda Classic. This is why I was sitting on the edge of my seat every time Tiger Woods hit one of those rocket iron shots. This is why I’d get giddy when Woods would put himself into a position to score. This is why I wouldn’t just think, but I’d BELIEVE that he’d make every single putt; even if it was 20+ feet out.
When Tiger won his first Masters in April of 1997 (a month before Jordan would go on to win his fifth title), I was still in my “greatness is everywhere” phase. As I laid on the ground of my cousins all-seasons Gazebo (Indiana Life), I remember my dad and uncles talking about what was happening. I remember them talking about how this was one of the greatest Masters performance in the history of Augusta and it was being done by a kid that was just barely able to have a cocktail in celebration.
They just couldn’t believe it…but we could.
To me and my cousins, it didn’t matter. We were to young to get the big picture of what that win mean’t (or why some people were upset with his style of play). All we saw was that he looked like us. All we saw was that great smile, that bright red Nike sweater with the sleeves rolled up and the “I-can’t-possibly-contain-myself” fist pumps after every important stroke of his putter.
We were sold.
Before Tiger came along, we wouldn’t have been caught dead watching golf. Not with Crash Bandicoot waiting for us downstairs. Golf was something our dads took naps to. Not appointment television. Shit, none of us were clamoring to pretend to be Fred Couples or Tom Watson or Ernie Els in the backyard when we could be on the basketball court and imagine we were Jordan and Pippen.
But once we laid our eyes on Tiger? We were hooked.
13-majors later, I still am.
There is nothing more special to me right now in my sports fandom as a nearly 30-year old than Tiger Woods. This man who was larger than life for so much of my childhood is still flashing that greatness as a 42-year old coming off of four back surgeries.
That’s absolutely insane.
Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Derrick Rose are all out of my life. But Tiger? Tiger is still here. He’s still playing — and at a high level.
And he can still win.
Am I being nostalgic? Of course I am. There is an all-time great athlete around that can still connect me to my younger self. That doesn’t just happen all that much anymore.
The waves that rushed over me when I watched Tiger this weekend is similar to those that I get when I watch the latest Fast installment. I know they aren’t as great as they once were, but, like Toby Keith once sang, they’re as good once, as they ever were.
Even if Tiger only wins one more major, there’s no doubt in my mind that it would mean the most to all of the #TigersBack backers. It not only would solidify him, once again, as one of the greatest golfers of all time, but it would also give us those feels we thought we’d never be able to experience again.
That’s why every time Tiger Woods picks up a club, he’ll matter. He’ll draw. He’ll turn professional adults into outlandish and ridiculous fanboys. He’ll make you want to pick up your driver, rip it as hard as you can. He’ll make you want to go putt 20-footers and walk them in (even when they aren’t even close). He’ll make you want to lay on the floor in the middle of an all-seasons Gazebo and waste away hours of your most precious weekends in hopes of seeing those flashes of greatness again.
And for those of us that are hovering around 30-years old, he’s the only one left that can do that.