Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tiger May Be Putting, But Money’s His Driver

The Olympic Committee’s frustrating decision to overlook squash yet again is many things, the most important of which is further confirmation of its focus not on the universality and worthiness of a sport but rather the money the sport might bring into the Olympic fold.

I had high hopes that this time squash would succeed, and I was under the impression that the organized efforts put forth by the squash community were pretty good. But I had a very bad feeling when, during the U.S. PGA championship, just a few days before the Olympic Committee’s decision was due to be handed down, Tiger Woods answered a reporter’s question about Olympic golf. He said that he would love to play in the Olympics, and it would be very important to other top golfers as well. With those words, I feel the sport of squash was effectively sunk. (I also felt it strange that this pronouncement was coming out just hours before the momentous vote, and wondered, was the timing of this planned beforehand, or was this mere happenstance? I suspect, but certainly can’t prove, that the reporter’s question and Tiger’s answer were scripted; the timing was too perfect.)

Tiger Woods, while certainly a huge star and perhaps the greatest golfer ever, doesn’t need a trip to the Olympics, nor does the game of golf. The winner’s check for the U.S. PGA championship, for example, totaled $1.35 million. Golf World estimated that Tiger makes $288,000 a day from endorsements alone, exclusive of winnings. The winners’ checks in golf are so exorbitant, indeed so grotesquely padded, that the stage that the Olympics provides pales by comparison. It also mocks the foundational idea, now thoroughly abandoned, that the Olympics is not about money and professionalism but glory and the brotherhood of sport.

So Tiger utters a few portentous sentences in his colorless, affectless fashion and that’s that. I can’t help but be irritated when I think how he might use some of his obvious clout to help do good in our world. If he were to take a public stand on important political issues, for example, would his words make a difference? I bet they would. But I don’t hear him talking.

Does Tiger Woods need yet another world stage to stand on? No, he does not. What he needs is another accountant…

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