[Amy Bass, Morphizm]
I don’t care what Tiger had to say. Indeed, sitting here in Vancouver at the Winter Olympic Games, I barely listened. I was more concerned about what Bode Miller’s next fantastic move was going to be, partially because I adore Bode Miller and partially because I did not want to hear it. The world’s best golfer – and yes, I do find that to be an indisputed fact, then and now – has erred, but as I’ve written before: Tiger Woods has done nothing to us. Those that he has hurt reside within the four walls of his home. His wife. His children. His mother. Himself.
So I didn’t really listen. But I did watch. And what I saw, stunned me. Sport coat. A podium. Blue curtain. Black man.
Who does this guy think he is, I thought, the president of the United States?
Oh. My. Did I really think that?
Beyond anything that Tiger had to offer about himself, his “indiscretions”, his wife, or his therapy, it was the image of him at this very protected and controlled press conference that perhaps reveals the most about this moment. For a black man to appear presidential means, of course, that a black man has been president. So I wonder: if George W. Bush was still president, would I have had the same reaction to Tiger’s speech? Would I have located his stance in front of the blue velvet curtain in the same way?
We can’t know, of course, because as any well-trained historian should say, the “what ifs” are truly meaningless. But we – and royal we – treated this moment presidentially. Networks interrupted regular programming. Bob Costas deviated from the Olympic schedule. There was analysis on all-sides by the heavy hitters of the business: Matt Lauer, Katie Couric, George Stephanopoulos. Golf commentators were no where to be found. The audience was well-dressed, respectful, and silent per order.
But for a brief moment, Tiger transcended himself – something that is not easy for the world’s most famous athlete to do – and encompassed the highest office in the free world. The image of a black athlete, which arguably has been the most dominant of positive black images in American popular culture, was actually absorbed into a more prestigous and more governing (quite literally) position: the oval office.
The only thing missing was that giant POTUS crest. Maybe next time.