Gandhi and Tiger Woods

Exploring the natural links between spirituality and golf

BY: Robert Wright

 
Reprinted from Slate, used with permission of the author.

"Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity.... He is the Chosen One. He'll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations."


--Earl Woods, Tiger's father


"Tiger has Thai, African, Chinese, American Indian, and European blood. He can hold everyone together. He is the Universal Child."


--Kultida Woods, Tiger's mother

These quotes come from an article by Gary Smith published in Sports Illustrated three years ago. When I first read the article, and saw Earl Woods compare his son to Gandhi and the Buddha, I thought, "Now

there's

a proud papa! A wacky one, too." But now that Woods has established himself as the most dominant player in the history of golf--and shows signs of becoming the most dominant athlete in the history of sports--other golfers have started talking about him in mystical terms.

"He is something supernatural," says Tom Watson, one of the game's greats. And I'm starting to have second thoughts myself. Though I still think Earl Woods suffers from doting parent's syndrome, I do believe that in several senses his son warrants consideration not just as an athlete but as someone of potentially political, even spiritual, significance.



In the modern world--thanks to CNN, Nike, and so on--a superlative athlete can command global attention and can even cross national and cultural bounds in a way no political or religious leader can.



Sense No. 1:

Earl Woods, pressed to justify his belief that his son could have greater humanitarian influence than Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, or the Buddha, explained that Tiger "has a larger forum than any of them. Because he's playing a sport that's international." It's true: In the modern world--thanks to CNN, Nike, and so on--a superlative athlete can command global attention and can even cross national and cultural bounds in a way no political or religious leader can.



Of course, Woods won't be shifting his focus from the PGA to Middle East peace talks any time soon. But it would be interesting to see what happened if, years from now, he started dabbling in inspirational speaking, and ventured beyond themes of mere self-help; or just published a best-selling secrets-of-golf-and-life book that ventured there.



Continued on page 2: »

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