I love Jon Wertheim’s quip from his excellent tennis awards post this week: “apparently the off season falls on a Tuesday this year.” Agreed that the off season is too short, but at the same time, what the heck are we going to talk about?
Well Tiger Woods, of course!
I was hoping Tiger Woods’s self-exile would mean a reprieve of Tiger Talk for a while, but the Associated Press had to go name him “Athlete of the Decade” this week. In a poll of members of The Associated Press, Tiger got 56 of the 142 votes. Lance Armstrong got 33 and Roger Federer got 25 (which is considered respectable given the AP’s reputed preference for American athletes.)
Here’s the AP’s explanation:
“For 10 incomparable years, no one ruled a sport like Woods. He won 64 tournaments, including 12 major championships. He hoisted a trophy on every continent where golf is played. And those 56 titles in one decade on the PGA Tour? Consider that only four of golf’s greatest players won more in their entire careers.”
“No one ruled a sport like Woods” heh?
Since 2001 – when he snagged his first on the ATP tour – Federer’s won 61 singles titles, including 15 major championships (Tiger’s won 14 total, but two of those came in the 1990s so aren’t counted in the decade). Roger hasn’t hoisted a trophy on every continent where tennis is played – but that’s just a question of geography. Roger has won multiple titles on every surface where tennis is played. He’s one of only three pros in the Open Era (Agassi and Laver are the other ones) to win a career Grand Slam. And when Rod Laver was playing, 3 of the 4 majors were on grass. Admittedly, Roger’s nowhere near the total title wins of say a Jimmy Connors (109) or Ivan Lendl (94) but he’s broken the record that counts the most with his 15 Major titles. Tiger’s still four away from Jack Nicklaus’s all-time record of 18. The way things are going, Roger may beat Nicklaus’s numbers before Tiger does.
Click here for more awesome stats (Thanks, Judy!)
Crunch the numbers as we may, I do think we’re comparing apples to oranges here (or clubs to racquets.) Do you cramp in golf? Do you sweat on a cold day? Must you ever move faster than a brisk stroll (unless someone yells “fore!”)? Do you face opponents as physically awesome as Rafael Nadal? Guys who can serve at 150 mph like Andy Roddick? Dudes who can slice and dice you like Fabrice Santoro (slice is a bad thing in golf, right)?
There is no doubt that Tiger Woods is terrifically fit – his fitness is a big part of what makes him an extraordinary golfer. In tennis, supreme fitness makes you Tommy Robredo. Tiger’s abilities to concentrate, endure and succeed under pressure are justly celebrated – but does this make him an athlete? Doctors, military personnel and circus performers face the same challenges and much higher stakes. Are EMTs athletes? Fire eaters? Stilt walkers? Big animal veterinarians? Probably more so than golfers.
I’m not hating on Tiger or his chosen profession – I just think golf is more of a game than a purely athletic pursuit. Perhaps this was once true of tennis, too, but Big Bill Tilden changed that in the 1920s.
In the interest of finding common ground, I propose the AP rename Tiger Woods as the Player of the Decade, instead. Heh.
What do you think?