The Corner

U.S.

A Saw about a Hammer

Tiger Woods puts his finger in the air and golf patrons react after he chipped the ball into the hole on the second green during practice for the 2018 Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., April 2, 2018. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

After a long dry spell during which he dealt with various physical and personal problems, Tiger Woods is back. He’s been swinging the clubs pretty well, and he finished second in the PGA Championship, so naturally everyone wants to hear him talk about his back surgery and his short game. Well, everyone except the media; all they want to hear about is his political opinions, which he has so far declined to share (recently, at least; back in the day he did make some rather pointed (and inaccurate) Nike ads).

Lots of athletes hold strong political views and are eager to discuss them, and of course there’s nothing wrong with that. Athletes’ political comments are a lot easier to ignore than the ones you get from your dentist or bartender. But does anyone outside the media think it should be obligatory for athletes (black ones, that is, since no one calls on white golfers to “speak out,” and understandably so) to share their political views? Or that history will harshly condemn those who don’t?

What’s most striking is that this is not just a case of jaded sportswriters looking for a fresh angle, but rather one of idealistic sportswriters who actually appear to believe that if Tiger Woods says Trump is a jerk, it will hasten the day when peace and love and diversity reign, whereas if he stays silent or evasive about politics, it will further entrench the evil naughty bad guys. Can they really believe he’s that influential?

Yes, they can, and the reason is just another example of Sportswriter Syndrome. After years of hyperventilating over the biggest greatest most important event ever ever ever (until next year) in a dozen different sports, sportswriters eventually start looking for Meaning and Importance and Something Larger, and since it’s their lot in life to cover sports, by god they’ll find it in sports.

It’s the same type of thinking that attaches vast importance to using the correct pronouns for someone’s chosen gender, or avoiding sentences that, if the words were suitably rearranged, could be made to sound like an ethnic slur. People who write or talk for a living make an enormous fuss over words because words are the only thing they can reliably control, or at least influence. As the old saw says: “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” And if the only tool you have is words, everything looks like a word problem.

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