I can’t remember who it was exactly, or what he said exactly. It was after Kurt Cobain died, and I want to say it was the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson. I know it was one of those AOL Q&As, which immediately makes me feel 138 years old. Considering what else Chris Robinson has gone on to say about Cobain, I can’t be sure it was him. I want it to be Tom Petty, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. There’s no finding it in the archives.
Anyway, it was right after Cobain had been found. Maybe a few days, maybe a week. And someone asked Robinson (or someone) what he thought of it. “It’s just sad. It’s not mad, it’s not bad, it’s just sad.”
Maybe that isn’t the exact quote. It was a long time ago. But I know that was the gist of it. And that’s how I feel when any news comes out about Tiger Woods these days.
We’ll find out much more about his car accident in the coming days. Probably in the coming hours. And I know I’ll find it just sad. And many others will try to attach some meaning to it. Some will try to attach blame, either to Woods or someone or something else. Some will get angry. Some will laugh. It will all be a spectacle. Everything with him has been...well, for his entire life. There’ll be a lot of adjectives, and almost all of them will be misplaced or simply wrong. It’s just sad.
It could be Woods has fallen victim to his past addictions again. We don’t know. And that would be sad. It could be he was just driving dangerously, and never considered the consequences. Thankfully, no one else was involved, which leaves me free to just find it sad. We do know he’s got serious injuries, and it’ll probably end his golf career. And that’s sad. As much of a struggle as it’s been for Woods for the past decade, there was always hope that we would see it one more time. And we got that just about two years ago. The loss of that hope will be sad. It felt like a culmination at the time, and everyone just about suspected it could be the last time, but no one wanted to give into that completely. The 2019 Masters win, his 15th major title, itself also spurred more hope.
Some of the misplaced anger or derision of Tiger, and not all of it is misplaced of course, is that he promised something we’d never seen. And he did provide some things we’d never seen, the way he blew away the field at Augusta in 1997 or the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach a few years later when he lapped the field, or the stretches of golf only he could produce. But we were all sure he’d win more majors than anyone, and he won’t now. It’s sad we likely won’t see that.
It’s part of the reason Roger Federer fans, like myself, can get a little defensive (I have a close friend who’s a straight Nadal guy and it’s led to some of the nerdiest drunken bar discussions you’ve ever seen). Federer did produce tennis like no one had ever seen, which is where the comparisons and connections to Tiger came from back in the day. And he did put up records that no one had seen...and then we saw it again not much later with Nadal. And now Djokovic. So it doesn’t feel as special as it actually is. With Tiger we never even really got that much.
It’s sad that Tiger’s body couldn’t handle the levels of training and fitness he thought was required to maintain that greatness. Or couldn’t handle it for that long. There are players on the PGA Tour who have been around for 20-30 years who couldn’t bench a donut. It doesn’t seem like it adds up.
Yeah, Tiger’s personal life plays a role. If you’ve seen the HBO documentary, you know it’s a complicated story going all the way back to his childhood. It’s easy to conclude that he lied to everyone. But really, part of his problem was he was too honest with everyone. Except himself, likely. That’s what got him into trouble. Whatever drove him to that, that’s sad, too. Whatever drove him to try and find something he felt like he’d never experienced, that’s sad.
Sure, it’s easy to mock, and sympathy for a man who’ll have more money than generations of your or my family will ever have can be hard to locate. But temptation and weakness can find anyone, and usually does. It’s just on a greater scale for people like Woods.
It’s sad because the perfect storm of someone with Woods’ talent, drive, and opportunity to make history only happens once a generation, if that. Feels like something was missed, for a variety of reasons, both through the responsibility of Woods and some shitty luck thrown in, too. And it doesn’t feel like any of it brought him happiness. The fear is what we’ll go on to find out about this accident will be more evidence of that. That’s just sad. It’s all just sad.