Editor’s note: This article appears in the September 11 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
After Tiger Woods won the PGA, there was, as there always is when he wins a tournament, trouble. In today’s sports world, we feel obligated to either pick sides or blow something out of proportion. With Tiger, there are no sides to pick. He’s great. He’s dominant. There’s nothing else to say.
So that leaves hyperbole! One national writer declared Tiger “the greatest athlete of all time,” which is an interesting theory given that he doesn’t run or jump, someone carries his bag, fans aren’t allowed to make noise or snap pictures while he’s playing — and he still loses to guys who cower at the sight of a treadmill. He may throw a baseball like Ray Kinsella’s dad, for all we know. But I don’t blame the writer; I blame Tiger. He’s a relatively blank slate. He keeps winning and winning and gives us nothing to say. In fact, I once wrote an ESPN.com column titled, “Tiger Woods: What Else Can You Say?” That was five years ago.
Shouldn’t it be Tiger’s job to keep us interested? When he broke down after the British Open, it was the one poignant moment of his career — not because he won for Big Earl, but because he cried. He showed finally that he is human, that things affect him. I loved that. But that was a special circumstance, obviously.
It’s never fun to root for the favorite. I won’t support him so passionately ever again, at least not until age wears him down and he rallies for one of those Nicklaus-in-’86
moments at Augusta in 2023. He’s too good. He’s going to shatter the Golden Bear’s record for majors. He’s going to make a billion dollars. He’s going to own Florida. He’s going to obliterate the Senior Tour and leave everyone in his catheter-strewn wake. Every time someone brings up dominant sports figures, he’ll be mentioned with Ruth, MJ, Gretzky and not too many others.
Look, Tiger — you’ve won. In every respect. Even your smoking-hot wife is the envy of every guy between the ages of 13 and 120. I repeat: You’ve won. So for the rest of your prime, couldn’t you at least try to keep us on our toes?
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Please consider these 10 tips to keep us tuning in:
1. Back in 1997 you were covered in Nike gear, flashed that infamous toothy smile and talked with the same voice Dave Chappelle uses to make fun of white people. Nine years later? Nothing has changed. Maybe you’re a little thicker and have a little less hair, but basically you’re the same. Time to mix it up. Wear Kangol caps and fedoras. Show up for Sawgrass looking like Jules from “Pulp Fiction,” right down to the Jheri curls and muttonchops. Hit the Ryder Cup with a playoff beard. Why not a gangsta phase — Yankee cap, diamond grill, tons of chains — followed by a preppy phase, with Mr. Rogers cardigan and Top-Siders? The more phases, the merrier. Don’t knock it; it’s worked for Madonna.
2. Along the same lines, you’ve had the same nickname for far too long. In just the time you’ve been on Tour, Sean Combs has gone from Puff Daddy to P. Diddy to Diddy. So how about Woodsy or T-Dub or even Tigg Daddy? Change is good.
3. Add a degree of difficulty to the proceedings. Play the Masters without a sand wedge. Carry your own bag during the Buick Invitational. Play Pebble Beach in Birkenstocks. Putt one-handed at Doral. Not only would everyone be more impressed when you won, but you’d have a built-in excuse when you lost. And either way, you’d be reminding all the other golfers that you don’t even play the same game they do.
4. You need to play up the whole “I’ve won all 12 majors that I led after the third round” thing. Would a little trash-talking kill you? Remember when Larry Legend sat in the locker room before the 3-point shooting contest at the All-Star Game and wondered out loud who was going to finish second? Why can’t you do that?
5. T-Dub, you might need to get divorced. I’m sorry, but married people aren’t interesting. Trust me, I’m one of them. I want to see you on the cover of US Weekly linked to Jessica Simpson, Ashlee Simpson, O.J. Simpson I don’t care, just keep rotating the girlfriend du jour every few months. Maybe you could move into the Malibu babe lair with McConaughey and Lance. Hey, whatever it takes to be noticed, right?
6. Name your fist pump. Call it something like Charlie. As in, “That birdie on 16 seemed like the perfect time to break out Charlie.”
7. My dad thinks your wife should caddie for you, just so we can see her all the time. I disagree, and not just because I think you need to dump her (see item 5). Your caddie should be like a late-night TV sidekick — someone who overlaughs at your jokes, keeps galleries loose and remains eminently likable at all times. Seriously, you could use the backup. You’re about as dynamic as a 5-wood. Here’s a vote for a rotating crew of celeb caddies like those fill-in hosts on “The View.” One week it’s one of the Wayanses. Then Jeffrey Ross, the Mind of Mencia guy, Patton Oswalt, Guy Torry, another one of the Wayanses
8. Write a controversial autobiography. You need to take shots at every one of your rivals, with crazy quotes like, “I’m not afraid of Mickelson. The guy looks like a pre-op trannie.” Call the book “Tiger Unleashed,” then claim you were misquoted and sue your ghostwriter after it comes out. That’s always good for a little attention.
9. Every hero needs an archnemesis. Unfortunately, everyone’s afraid to cross you. Still, Sergio Garcia could be the guy: He’s smarmy and European, and with the right coaching and facial hair, he’d be a decent villain. Take him under your wing. Teach him some tricks. Build up his confidence. Then, orchestrate some sort of dramatic falling out. If we’re lucky, he’ll grow a Fu Manchu, start to refer to himself as The Serge, and say inflammatory things like, “Tiger Woods is just like the rest of America — lazy!” Every golf fan would be rooting for you to crush him. So it’s a WWE plot. The stuff works.
10. You need more obstacles to overcome. What if you tell everyone you severed a tendon in your hand while you were opening a wine bottle, and now your career is hanging in the balance? You could go away for multiple “surgeries,” and pay a team of doctors to say, “It’s 50-50 right now,” and “At this point, we’re just hoping he regains feeling in his fingers.” That’s nine straight months of front-page stories and “SportsCenter” leads right there. And you’d have the entire free world supporting you upon your return. You’d be like the two-legged Barbaro. Oh, and you should also develop a “major” back problem that you’ll always be battling. Maybe you could keel over in agony during the fourth round of a major, then “grit your way” (wink) through the back nine for the win. Didn’t you see the NBA Finals game when MJ pretended to have the flu in Utah? C’mon — that was great TV!
The thing is, you don’t have to remain a blank slate, Woodsy. Keep us guessing. Keep changing. Keep us on our toes. Only you can ensure we’ll never read another “Tiger is great, what else is there to say?” story again.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His new book “Now I Can Die In Peace is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.