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Athlete of the Decade? Really?

December 17, 2009

Athlete of the Decade.
Tiger Woods.
We can banter about the definition of “sport” until the cows come home and while we’ll have fun doing it, we’ll never come up with a definitive answer, but “athtlete” is pretty easy to define. By strict definition, Tiger Woods is an athlete. From “a person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill.”

There’s no question that golf is a game and that for the players who walk the courses and don’t ride in carts, physical skill and conditioning (not to mention a good pair of shoes) is required. Having played golf a number of times, I admit that physical agility is also required. So Tiger Woods is an athlete. However, when comparing athletes, which is what determining an athlete of the decade is about, isn’t the level of athleticism required to excel consistently something that should be a determining factor in deciding an athlete of the decade and if so, I’m curious where that variable is factored into the naming of Tiger Woods as Athlete of the Decade because I don’t see the demands of the sport of golf being equal to the demands of baseball, football, hockey, tennis, boxing.

Tiger’s the best of the golfers, I won’t question that, but the best of every athlete of the last decade, that’s where I’m not so certain. When I hold the game of golf up against the sometimes extreme physical and mental demands of other games like baseball, football, boxing, tennis, it fails. Not the game itself, but the physical and mental demands of the game. Likewise Tiger Woods, to me, fails  in comparison to other athletes when I factor in the level of performance excellence required to succeed in those various games. In other words, while I recognize Tiger Woods’ athleticism, I think it takes more athletic ability to succeed at other sports than it does to succeed at golf. I don’t deny Woods’ skills and athleticism, but I question how the determination of something like an athlete of the decade can be made without factoring in those types of physical demands. I wonder how one matches someone like Tiger Woods, and by extension the game of golf, up against someone who plays a physically demanding game or competes in a physical contest that requires them to obtain, and more importantly maintain over a lengthy period of time, not only a physical skill, but an enhanced level of that physical skill? Not to take anything away from Tiger, but how does his level of athleticism measure up to a boxer, a MMA fighter, an NFL running back, receiver or linebacker, a gymnast, a major league baseball pitcher, a soccer player?

I won’t deny the huge impact Tiger Woods has made on the golf world, but I don’t know if impact on the sport, or the ability to generate revenue, is reason enough to be named Athlete of the Decade. I think the only reason Tiger Woods wins the honor is because the physical demands of his game allow him to complete for years and years and years at the same level he’s always competed at which is something other athletes can’t do. In other highly competitive and physically demanding sports, careers are limited and shortened through age, injury and simple wear and tear stresses to the body, so the fact is an athlete simply isn’t around for ten years and if s/he is around for that length of time, s/he’s not completing at the same superior level consistently. That’s not the case in golf. At 34, Tiger Woods, even after taking a year off to deal with his personal life and eventual recovery from whatever issues he discloses, will be able to continue to walk the course and play golf at a superior level for another 30 years. Albert Pujols, Johann Santana, Mariano Rivera, Ray Lewis, Peyton Manning, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather, Serena Williams, Erin Popovich, Nastia Liukin, none of those athletes can hope to have the same career expectation and I’d give any of those athletes the vote for Athlete of the Decade over Tiger Woods.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 17, 2009 1:22 pm

    There is nobody that can even come close to competing with Tiger for this honor.




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