Is ELDRICK "TIGER" WOODS: (A) potentially the greatest golfer the sport has ever known or (B) just a greedy opportunist whose main goal in life is to cash in on his enormous talents and multi-cultural marketability? Perhaps the answer is (C) both of the above, although only time and many more championships will prove the former, while there are mounds of evidence that already make the latter an ugly reality.
Actually, Woods probably is no more a greed monger than any other big-name athlete we see haughtily parading through the daily sports pages and the nightly TV highlights. What is irksome is the hypocrisy that seems to be Tiger's modus operandi. For example, although he has Thai, African, Chinese, European, and American Indian bloodlines, Woods, 21, paints himself as a black man who has had to battle his way through the indignity of prejudice, even to the point of being portrayed as the Jackie Robinson of golf. This is a real slap at the Robinson legend, especially this year, which marks the 50th anniversary of the Hall of Fame Brooklyn Dodger breaking major league baseball's color barrier. Robinson endured unimaginable hardships and brutal racial taunts from a country still in the throes of Jim Crow. Woods, meanwhile, grew up enjoying a comfortable California middle-class existence while playing golf morning, noon, and night. (He was swinging a club while still in diapers and beat a club pro at age three. Eventually, he won three straight U.S. Junior Amateur titles and three U.S. Amateur championships in a row.)
To be fair, though, it should be pointed out that Woods exploits blacks, too. He has five-year endorsement deals with Nike, Titleist, American Express, and Rolex for $40,000,000, $20,000,000, $13,000,000, and $7,000,000, respectively. Nike is notorious for using ultra-cheap foreign labor (paying sweatshop workers pennies per hour) and then selling its sneakers for $150 to inner-city black kids who have to steal to come up with that kind of purchase price. Moreover, Nike is one of America's biggest suppliers of gang wear (when you see in the news that some kid was killed for his jacket or sneakers, odds-on it was a Nike product), and the company's commercials display the violent, in-your-face attitude that now pervades society and gives most law-abiding citizens the jitters. Yet, that doesn't stop Earl Woods, Tiger's father and top advisor, from having his son collect endorsement blood money while stating, with a straight face, "This is the most racist society in the world--I know that."
After Woods won the 1997 Masters in mind-boggling fashion (at 20, he was the youngest ever to do so, shooting a course record 270 and winning by 12 strokes, the largest margin of victory at a Major tournament this century), he slipped to 19th at the U.S. Open, 24th at the British Open, and 29th at the PGA Championship. So much for becoming the first man in history to sweep all four in a single year.
Yet, at these and other tournaments, Woods--followed from hole to hole by a boisterous gallery whose rambunctious antics often disturb the other golfers--is always the headliner in print and electronic coverage. …