So it's been a Tiger Woods weekend, and rightfully so with his performance at the US Open, but it got me thinking about another (potential) phenom.
At the start of his career, people would deem Tiger the Michael Jordan of golf, so who is the Tiger Woods of what? A good candidate I believe is Barack Obama. Can he be the Tiger Woods of politics?
Let's start with the most obvious: they both come from multi-ethnic backgrounds, and they've both tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to deflct the attention from their race. That's probably because they're both in fields that have been dominated by white men. They've both been touted as great long before they took center stage: Tiger with his six combined US amateur and US junior amateur titles, while Barack was an up and comer in the Illinois Legislature and US Senate.
Now onto the main stage. Tiger took the world by storm with his record setting victory at the '97 Masters, and Barack's comparable break out moment would be the '04 DNC convention when he stole everyone's thunder with an inspirational speech. Still, after both these events everyone wasn't convinced. Tiger for his part reworked his swing which led to him being in transition during his 1998 season where he won only one tournament. For Barack, after announcing himself as a presidential candidate, he quickly learned that an audacious story full of hope and a positive message wasn't enough to withstand the survival of the fittest world of politics, nor was it enough to fight off one of the strongest democratic families. Additionally, both these phenomenal men have been met with some institutional, or at least old boys club, resistance: for Tiger it was Fuzzy Zoeller quipping about whether he would serve fried chicken at his Masters champion's dinner, while Barack's case is Fox news' depiction of his wife as his "baby mama."
What else ties these young men is that they both entered their fields at a young age when the next saviour was needed. For golf, Jack Nicklaus was now a senior citizen, Faldo and Norman's best days were behind them and fresh blood was needed. For Barack, it was 8 years of right wing government that destroyed their country's international reputation and the people's collective psyche. So golf needed a new Nicklaus, and Politics needed a new Kennedy.
For golf, Tiger has lived up to his field's elder statesman's credentials after rebounding late in the '99 season to win his second major, and going on a tear in 2000. He capped it off with a Tiger slam, winning four majors in a row from 2000 to 2001.
Barack hasn't yet had the full opportunity to prove himself Kennedy-esque, but he has been endorsed by the family. After a lesson learning primary season, it can be said that he's gone through his rebuilding stage that Tiger went through in '98. Also, his winning the DNC nomination is like Tiger winning his second major in '99 showing the first breakout moment was not just fleeting. So Barack has shown that he's able to adapt and produce winning circumstances, but what lies ahead of him is more challenging than whatever he's faced before. What he has, though, is an audience as large if not larger than ever for his type of message, just like how golf was ready for Tiger to rebrand it. The question is whether Barack will show the intestinal fortitude as Tiger did and bring home his own Barack slam? If he does, it could culminate in, hmm I dunno, November 08'?