Friday, July 24, 2009

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Tiger Woods? Or Michelle Wie?

This is my reaction to a Patterico's Pontifications comment in this thread on the topic of what is acceptable commentary on the brief arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates on charges of disorderly conduct by Cambridge, MA police. In his July 23, 2009 press conference pushing for universal health care, President Obama said the police "acted stupidly."

voiceofreason2 wrote:

The most disappointing thing for me about Obama is the lost opportunity he had to really bridge some of the gaps in our racially sensitive society. Had he focused on the fact that he is biracial and been willing to acknowledge that all racial groups have bad apples whose behavior is not acceptable he would have won me over.

Contrast him with Tiger Woods who has been notably absent in the “national dialog” on race because it is just not that important to him. He accomplished his feats through hard work and perserverance and is a good role model for anyone.

Here’s what I wrote about Tiger Woods — and tennis’ emerging stars, Venus & Serena Williams — back in September 2000:

I wasted about a year rooting against Tiger Woods because I thought that if he was as successful as he has turned out to be, he and his father Earl would do for golf what the Williams family has done for tennis: make it a racial battleground on which everyone who doesn’t cheer their in-your-face attitude is suspected — or flat out accused — of being a bigot…


[Tiger] has gained the admiration and respect of his peers not just because of his extraordinary talent, but because of his classiness … [On] his way up, he never engaged in the Williamsian taunting of the game’s reigning players, and his talk about his chances for winning whatever tournament he was in never seemed like an attempt at chest-beating intimidation — not when he would time and time again back up what he said by winning as he predicted.

It is my belief that had it not been for Tiger Woods, Obama wouldn’t have become President. I am incapable of proving it, but I am sure that if you hooked up Obama’s mentors and imagemakers to a sodium pentathol drip, they would admit their “high concept” of his candidacy took into consideration the admiration and respect the articulate, tall, half-black, and nearly unflappable Woods has generated for himself across not only America, but the entire planet.

Here’s the problem: Barack Obama isn’t Tiger Woods. Woods’ raw talent garnered multi-million dollar endorsements which he parlayed into a billion dollar empire (and a $30 million dollar charitable foundation) by first meeting and then far exceeding all reasonable expectations.

Obama is more like his putative fellow Honolulu native Michelle Wie.

Since she was ten years old, Wie was heavily promoted as The Female Tiger, bound to shatter gender barriers the way Woods did racial ones. In 2005 — having not won a tournament in two-and-a-quarter years — the statuesque Wie, after turning pro at the tender age of 15 on the strength of her otherworldly 300-yard-long tee shots, was handed an approximate 22 million in endorsement cash. Instantly, she was one of the world’s richest teenagers. But as golf fans know, the game isn’t just about hitting the ball far away, it’s about hitting it into a four-and-a-quarter inch diameter hole far away, which is harder. Compounding her obstacles were her ambitious parents, who allowed her to pursue her folly of entering men's tournaments rather than going against other women. She not only never credibly competed for a title in her attempts to beat men, she made a cut only once, finishing at or near the bottom several times. Wie did enter some major LPGA events, but only contended for a win one time. Accomplished female pros were either silent or supportive at first, but as Wie continued to blow off women’s tournaments only to bring up the rear battling the men, they grew weary of the way she sucked all the air out of the small room reserved for them. Neither did they appreciate her treatment of the women’s tour as being almost irrelevant. All of this, mind you, while getting paid more than any female individual athlete in history who hadn’t won a darn thing.

Now, the irrelevant one is Michelle Wie. While the sports world’s cameras were focused on the supposed future of women’s golf shanking, bogeying, and losing against men, other young ladies were actually, y’know, winning on the LPGA tour. Paula Creamer won a tourney the age of 18 years, 11 days, and Morgan Pressel took a major LPGA event at 18/313. This year, finally concentrating solely on the women’s tour, the improving yet winless Wie will turn 20 in October, too old to be worthy of the years of hype and dozens of millions of dollars. That’s money and attention she’s never going to see again unless she rallies and becomes the greatest golfer in history. But thusfar, she hasn’t proved she’s capable of overcoming her mistakes.

That’s where Obama is now. He’s been treated as if he’s the Tiger Woods of Presidents. But he’s sliced himself into a trillion dollar sand trap, and will be have to be extremely lucky to save par.

Who wants to take that bet?