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Assault on America, Day 113: Rush Limbaugh, Trump and the non-greatness of Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods Masters
It’s ancient history by now, but Tiger Woods won the Masters. More than just a golf tournament victory, Woods’ life comeback story spurred tremendous commentary in the real world about the meaning of “greatness” and what defines it.

Numerous conservatives hailed Woods’ win as the ultimate act of redemption for a man who’s struggled mightily to right himself over the past decade. Woods’ dramatic fall from grace began over Thanksgiving weekend, 2009. The rest is history and doesn’t require repetition here. Needless to say, Woods inspires many -- but in different ways. A hero to all? No chance.

Last week, Rush Limbaugh monologued on his radio show, “America loves champions. Americans love greatness. They love people who pursue it, they love people who excel at it, and they love people who achieve it. I can’t tell you the number of people who sent me texts, ‘Hey, hey, how can that happen in such a racist country? See all those white people cheering Tiger Woods?’ ...

“So Tiger Woods shows that not only can you come back, but that you can regain the respect and the love and the adulation. Because when the pedal hits the metal, everybody was pulling for him yesterday. Ah, there were friends of Koepka, friends of Francesco Molinari that were hoping Tiger wouldn’t do well, but that’s friends and family of competitors. Most everybody out there was happy.

“And I tell you, the people playing the game of golf are happy as hell he’s back. Bigger TV audiences, better everything. So the next time you get worried about what people think of you, and it will happen maybe in 10 minutes from now, 20 minutes or whatever, just remember: Tiger Woods.”

Rush is right that golf folks are ecstatic about Tiger’s reemergence. TV ratings will skyrocket whenever Woods plays from now on. It’s always been that way. But Rush is wrong on Woods. Not everyone was pulling for him on Masters Sunday. Many of us see Tiger for what he is -- probably the best human being to ever place a golf ball on a tee and stick it in the ground. But does this make Woods great and admirable? Heck no.

Greatness has nothing to do with excelling at putting a little white ball in a hole; anyone who's played golf regularly with and been beaten by someone you know is a moral leper scumbag understands this. Greatness is being given power to do big things and doing them without abusing and betraying the people who trusted you the most. Tiger didn’t do that. He let us all down -- or at least the ones who admired him from the start.

Tiger Woods is indeed great -- at golf. At life, not so much. As a dedicated golf fan (and recreational player) I’ve spent endless hours over the years watching professionals win and lose in front of the world. One of my most cherished golf memories was watching the 1986 Masters with my dad as Jack Nicklaus came from several strokes back to win his 18th and final professional major championship at the age of 46 (which seemed ancient to me at the time). Nicklaus epitomized greatness on so many levels, a true role model in a sports world full of insignificant personalities.

Of course, Nicklaus was “great” in his personal life too. Many have suggested Nicklaus could’ve accomplished even more in his golf career had he not been so passionately devoted to his first love -- his wife and family. Jack made it a point to lead as “normal” a life as possible away from the golf course, a perspective decidedly lacking with Mr. Woods (at least the “old” Tiger).

In addition, American history provides numerous examples of great men and women who were handed crushing responsibility and authority and persevered through near-impossible conditions to realize wonderful things. One need only look to our “Founding Father,” George Washington, to discover a man with superior moral character and an aversion to personally profit from command.

Everyone has flaws, inclusive of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. None of the truly greats permitted their personal imperfections to limit them the way Woods did. Woods took the money, fame and fortune he’d amassed to gratify himself. A good argument could be advanced that Tiger's still doing it, though he’s spent considerable time working on his charity causes and now seems faithful to his children and girlfriend.

Woods earned great power; he used it to satisfy Number One. Pure and simple. It’s always been that way. At his core Woods is one of the most selfish people who’s ever walked the earth. Has he changed? Let’s hope so. People love inspiring reclamation tales, especially at Easter time.

Redemption, yes. Greatness? No. Woods’ Masters win was a terrific story of an amazing personal comeback. Was it “great”? One stunning triumph does not a man make.

Greatness is not epitomized by squandering the enormous God-given talent you're blessed with and the loving nurture of parents who instilled in you discipline, dedication and other values that make successful people what they eventually become. By the time Tiger was born, for example, Earl Woods (Tiger’s famous father) was retired from the military and able to devote 100 percent of his time to honing his son into the golf machine that he became.

Earl Woods was previously married and had three children with his former wife. Needless to say, with Earl’s special forces commitments in his younger days he didn’t have the time to spend with his other children the same way he did with Tiger. Did this make them less great? For his part Tiger reportedly has little to no contact with his half-siblings despite repeated attempts to establish a relationship with their famous and “great” brother.

(Here’s a story from 2012 on Woods’ siblings trying in vain to even get a returned message from him.)

Family relationships are what they are and everyone should hesitate to judge from afar, but it’s clear Tiger had advantages and privileges very few others enjoyed in reaching his final destination. From his earliest days Earl sheltered the young boy and also brought him into contact with people who could mold the lad’s obvious talent into a champion competitor. Together with Earl’s ability to work on Tiger’s mental strength, it was a lethal (to his rivals) combination.

As Obama would say -- Earl didn’t build it. At least by himself. Tiger had plenty of first-rate teachers to fashion the winner.

In addition, Tiger’s mother, Kultida, instilled in her son a strong Buddhist tradition and mental discipline, allowing him to virtually disappear within himself in moments of high stress. Tiger’s unique ability to focus in the moment is frequently on display…especially when he gets in trouble on the golf course. His robotic concentration is legendary. Every athlete possesses some talent for inward tranquility -- otherwise they wouldn’t achieve what they’ve done -- but Tiger’s is beyond the extraordinary.

Rush was right in observing the Masters gallery was exceptionally supportive of Tiger until the end. Clearly all those who were disgusted with the likely outcome had already left the grounds, not wishing to lay eyes on the revolting adulation of the unknowing and uncaring given to a man who didn't merit it. I switched channels when it was clear Woods would win (but did check in a couple more times to see if one of the others had done something miraculous to come back or force a playoff).

The CBS announcers couldn’t contain their glee at Woods’ comeback (I’ve labeled it “Tiger slobber”). It’s their job, to report on golf. In golf terms, Woods truly is “great” and he’s a heck of a storyline. But taken together with the totality of the circumstances, I’ll pass. Here’s hoping Woods won his final major last week -- the golf world will survive and so will everyone else if Tiger Woods returns to his recent place as a slightly better than average pro golfer.

Rush Limbaugh wasn’t alone in hailing Woods’ win. President Trump did as well -- and he’s planning to take it a step further. From the Associated Press, “President Donald Trump says he will present Tiger Woods with the Presidential Medal of Freedom...

“Trump tweeted … that he spoke to Woods and congratulated him on ‘the great victory’ and ‘to inform him that because of his incredible Success & Comeback in Sports (Golf) and, more importantly, LIFE, I will be presenting him with the PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM!’

“Trump didn’t say when a ceremony will be held. The medal is the nation’s highest honor for a civilian.”

Judging by Rush’s -- and many others’ -- reactions, Trump is doing the right thing by honoring Woods. People who’ve achieved great things in life admire other achievers. Greatness, and the fame it engenders, is a pretty exclusive club and membership is incredibly restricted.

Trump no doubt sees Woods as “great” despite the younger man’s personal foibles. So does Rush. Perhaps because of their own noted imperfections in that realm these “greats” are better able to overlook the flaws of others and understand each other’s feats of grandeur.

But Trump’s greatness stems from true leadership, enduring tremendous reputational peril and hazard and through unselfishly championing people’s causes apart from himself, the “forgotten Americans.” Woods is all about himself. If Woods is truly great, let him risk the public’s adoration by leading in a way that’s eminently productive, as Trump has. Would Woods risk his endorsements and fan base by openly backing Trump and the cause of liberty? Don’t hold your breath.

With just a few sentences Woods could shake the world, much more so than by strapping on another green jacket or expanding on how he’s managed to overcome his own personal demons. (Note: Jack Nicklaus has very publicly backed Trump.)

Rush is wrong -- Tiger Woods does care a lot about what people think of him, but only where money is concerned. His fame translates to big dough. If he were truly great, as Rush and Trump insist, Tiger would transcend. He doesn’t. Woods is selfish…it’s all about him.

Real heroes are parents who toil in relative anonymity, known only to those in their immediate circles. Or military men and women who risk their lives for us. Or border patrol agents and policemen who do their jobs out of service and love. Does Tiger Woods fit in the same “greatness” category? You decide.

Note: If you’d like some insight into why Tiger Woods fell so far, so fast, read this long but excellent three-year-old piece from ESPN.com. It is, was and always will be, all about Tiger.

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