Monday, April 12, 2010

Tiger Tale With Two Endings

The golf at the Masters this weekend was as exciting as hitting a ball into a hole can be, but the morality play starring Tiger Woods was fascinating in more complex ways.

The fallen hero did not achieve redemption with his clubs and came away unsatisfied, saying "I enter events to win--I didn't get that done," and now is taking "time off" to "reevaluate this."

"This" may be simply be the mechanics of his golf game, but a comparison of Woods and the protagonist of the 20th century's most provocative sports novel and movie suggests something more.

In a New York Times blog, Robert Wright sees "an eerie parallel between Woods and Roy Hobbs, the baseball player at the center of Bernard Malamud’s 'The Natural,'" who sets out to be "the best there ever was in the game” and is derailed by his appetite for women.

Wright points out the disparity between outcomes in the 1952 novel and 1984 movie starring Robert Redford, which appeared at the start of the era in which Oprah arrived to become such "a showcase for redemption that, when Tiger Woods had his fall, people started counting the days until the seemingly inevitable Oprah cleansing ritual."

Redford comes back from his downfall to win it all in an explosion of lights and to live happily ever after with a virtuous woman in white, but Malamud's novel ends with an earlier version of American attitudes toward sin, with Hobbs being condemned for his flaws and cast into publicity hell.

For Woods, the ending is still being written, but yesterday's chapter offers some clues. On the greens, he appeared unusually rattled while struggling to regain the old magic. His admirers may have been rooting for him with mixed feelings.

In his "time off," while still striving to be "the best there ever was," Tiger Woods will have to work on more than his game to determine which Roy Hobbs ending will be written for his story.

1 comment:

kreiz1 said...

Bob Wright's great. Hopefully Tiger's top 5 Masters finish will put him on the road toward moral and professional recovery. He needs some time to reduce the gap between expectation (perfection) and reality (not so much).

I was at Augusta National Sunday, btw. It's Mecca for a lowly but worshipful pilgrm.