“He’s no Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer,” I heard a starch conservative talk show host say on the radio this afternoon. Of course, the host was referring to the Tiger Woods fiasco that hit an apex today as Tiger admitted to regretting “transgressions” as more proof came out about his alleged extramarital affairs.
So, what do Tiger’s marital issues have to do with the other golf greats Nicklaus and Palmer? Well, the host, who shall remain nameless, went on to describe how moral and classy these old-timers were and how such stories would never come out about them. Hmmm, how can he be so sure of their moral caliber?
Racists have always had a problem with Tiger Woods lauded as one of or the best golfers in the world. Moreover, the host showed that as he kept repeating that statement in a sly voice that seemed to be screaming, “See, I told you he wasn’t good enough.”
When Tiger started making a name for himself in the 90s, many die-hard golfers didn’t want to accept that Tiger, a black man, could top their good-ol’ boys on the greens. For example, in 1997 golfer Fuzzy Zoeller made racially tinged statements about a 21-year-old Tiger, who won the coveted Masters golf tournament.
Zoeller said, “That little boy is driving well and he’s putting well. He’s doing everything it takes to win. So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here? You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year (at the Champions Dinner). Got it?” He added after a beat, “Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.” Ouch!
After Zoeller’s statements were blasted all over, he made a mea culpa saying that he was just joking. Still many in the golf world and beyond jumped to Zoeller’s defense. Even Tiger said he didn’t pay too much attention to the Zoeller hoopla, which is another story. Meanwhile, Tiger, whose mother is Asian American and whose father is black, became the first black person, to win a major professional golf tournament.
Now before I get feedback that I am going overboard, let’s not forget that golf has had its problems with discrimination and sexism for decades. People of color, women and Jews were openly banned from country clubs with their plush golf courses. Noted author Lawrence Otis Graham, wrote a biting book about this phenomena in 1996 called, “A Member Of The Club: Reflections On Life In A Racially Polarized World.” In the book, the Ivy League graduate, whom I interviewed, describes how he decided to go undercover as a busboy at a Connecticut country club to crack the code – why a black corporate lawyer was never invited out by his white colleagues? Well, he got his answer – no matter how many credentials he had, he probably wouldn’t be accepted because of his skin color.
Of course, I’m not saying that most conservatives are like this. However, what I am saying is that some do relish when certain people fall and sometimes it harkens back to what many try to tell us doesn’t exist anymore – RACISM!
Yes, what Tiger did is wrong, wrong, wrong! Nevertheless, please, let’s leave his profession out of it. He’s still the best golfer in the world!