Okay, I am not a fan of golf. In fact, I am working on a theory that God punished Man with the sport as part of the whole Fall episode. But yesterday as I exercised my right as a dad during Father's Day weekend, I found myself (with my sons eventually joining me) mesmerized by Tiger Woods' feat during the U.S. Open, and cheering and high-fiving when he made both of his incredible eagle putts, one from about 70 ft and another from 20 ft. It was amazing, and inspiring, in a sports world sort of way.
What's this got to do with a Catholic blog? Well, we here in the United States have heard a lot lately from the U.S. Bishops and the Holy Father about social justice, especially when it comes to immigrants. Well enough.
But, as I consider why I don't get tired of hearing about Woods' success and domination of the sport, it strikes me that he represents this justice as well.
The sport of golf, at least in America, has a reputation of being, um, elitist. That's a generous term. After all, Woods won his first major in 1997, at the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, an organization that did not allow black members in until 1990, and mandated black-only caddies until 1982 (NOT 1890 and 1882!) Oh yeah, and don't forget the subsequent remarks of fellow golfer Fuzzy Zoeller, who said of Woods (who as defending champ would select the next year's Champions Dinner menu):
"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. Got it." Zoeller then smiled, snapped his fingers, and walked away before turning and adding, "or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve." Nice.
It must really gall Zoeller and the other historic racist dignitaries of golf, that Woods is only one quarter African-American. Both of Tiger's parents are racially mixed, so he is actually also one quarter Chinese, one quarter Thai, and an eighth each Native American and Dutch. Bobby Jones must be turning over in his grave watching the devolution of the old social order.
There are other examples, but you get the point. Now, Tiger Woods is not a paragon, and there are grave risks to idealizing or idolizing a sports figure. Woods has done very well for himself and I certainly don't pity him. Nevertheless, I do believe he can be considered a positive influence on tearing down the old barriers that, unfortunately, still exist in some parts of our society.
That's my kind of justice: social and poetic.