The Tiger Woods Doc

I’m in the middle of this.

Been a strange day. First and foremost it was raining, which means snow in the mountains, Mammoth got over a hundred inches, not something you can fathom if you live on the east coast, if you live anywhere but California, where it doesn’t snow often, but when it does it dumps, unlike in Colorado, where you get constant dustings, 2″ here, 3 or 4″ there.

And when it rains in L.A., the whole city shuts down. Well, it’s kinda shut down anyway, traffic is lighter than it normally is. Normally rush hour is a drag that must be factored into potential trips. But there are no traffic jams these days. And this was important because I had to go to Ralphs to get my Covid vaccine.

I got three opinions. My hematologist said to get it as soon as possible, that even though my B cells would be nonexistent, the vaccine might work on my T or NK cells. My psychiatrist said to get it immediately because the future was unclear. And that we all might need a booster anyway. My internist said to wait a month, wait for my body to generate some B cells after the Rituxan infusion, so I could get a proper immune response, form some antibodies, however low in number.

I went with the majority, somewhat reluctantly, but then Ralphs canceled my appointment and it was moot.

Scrambling for an appointment is a thing. You hear from a friend or a relative, in this case my sister Jill, you go to the site and the time slots are gone and then it’s a matter of how fast you can type, how fast you can fill in the boxes, to see if now you can get an appointment. And I was a pro, they were evaporating fast, but I got ’em for me and Felice.

But before that I also got them at a different Ralphs for a much later date, for January 29th instead of the 17th. Thank god I did, because I didn’t heed Jill’s warning the next time around, to ignore what the site said, that it was health care workers only, and not over 65, but she was right, the reservations were valid, but I only realized this after the fact, when nothing was available. Thank god I had the prior reservations, because nothing continued to be available.

But last night there was a big story in the L.A. “Times’ that Ralphs was canceling appointments…and I got nervous. But I called Ralphs and they said I was still on the schedule, not that I wholly believed it, especially after all the stories of unavailability in this morning’s news.

Oh, if you’re playing outside L.A., let me make this clear. California said anybody over 65, which I am, could get the shot, but it didn’t apply in L.A. County, and then it did.

So I went to Ralphs today…where nothing was happening. I expected a line, some commotion, but it turns out they only vaccinate 15-20 people a day. So the process proceeded leisurely, and I had time to talk to the injector, a pharmacy student, who told me Ralphs was only canceling appointments after February 7th, you see the store had to kick back 10,000 shots to the city, and that I would get a second shot, they would call me…he convinced me, but now that I think about it I’m not so sure.

And when Felice returned from getting her shot ninety minutes later, we fired up Bill Maher. Normally I’d go hiking, but tonight it would be way too muddy. And the show was disappointing. They didn’t touch on GameStop, and Bill wasn’t familiar with the Jewish Space Lasers Van Jones was talking about, a story which broke Thursday, but I guess it’s hard for everybody to keep up these days, to know everything.

And when Bill was done, we fired up “Deutschland ’89” on Hulu. It’s the version with subtitles.

Now the problem with these shows is you can’t remember what happened in the previous seasons, in this case “Deutschland ’83” and “’86.” So it’s confusing. Just as bad is “Spiral,” they’re dripping out two episodes a week. And it’s hard to remember from one week to the next. I hate these companies, let me binge. The same way I hate the “Billboard” album chart. Huh? Just add up the streams, please, instead of coming up with complex formulas to service the record labels who rarely advertise in the magazine anyway. 80% of revenue comes from streams, which are all individual tracks, but the chart? The chart references albums, ridiculous.

And after watching two “Deutschlands,” Felice was taking a break so I started surfing the services. I do this on a regular basis, to see what is new, which is how I found “Deutschland ’89.” And after coursing through Hulu and Netflix, Felice still hadn’t returned, so I decided to check out HBO Max, it’s now on the Roku.

And that’s when I saw the Tiger doc. I walked in on Felice watching it earlier in the week and Tiger’s caddie was talking and it was fascinating, I decided to start from the beginning.

Tiger’s father is waxing rhapsodic, how his son is going to change the world, not only in golf, he’s going to be a great humanitarian.

And after Earl drones on…they show Tiger in a jail cell. Quite a juxtaposition.

And when Felice returned to the living room, we decided to stay with the phenom as opposed to going back to Germany.

Come on, when you were a kid didn’t you want to be famous? Didn’t you look up to the stars? Didn’t you think if you were on TV your life would work?

Well, this is how boomers felt before all the child actors got arrested, before today, when everybody is trying to gain a following online.

You grow up in the suburbs and…you dream of something more. I’m envious of those who grew up in L.A., it was all at their fingertips, they could gain knowledge of the game, which took me years to figure out in my twenties.

Then again, there are people who grow up in the suburbs and stay in the suburbs. But that was never me, I wanted to get out, I needed to get out, California was always my dream and I was going. Staying in town sounded like death, get a job and…repeat what your parents did, their lives? No way.

But it wasn’t until I was almost thirty that I realized for most people the dream died, they were happy going along and getting along. Not me, I wanted more, much more.

And it turned out there was so much I couldn’t do. Practicing law? I’m too much of a perfectionist for that. If I made a mistake, I’d affect someone’s life and be horrified. And the truth is the only people who can get thorough legal service are those who can pay, for the work of the large firms or the specialty firms. In L.A. there are scores of firms for every specialty. Law was not for me. Nor was regular business. I’m not cut out for that either. It’s all about getting along, being jive, playing the mental game, the work is secondary. I learned this the hard way. To me, the record had to be its very best. But to my superiors? Everybody had to be happy, you didn’t want to ruffle feathers, I didn’t understand that whatsoever.

So I’ve got to work for myself, I’ve got to be a lone wolf. Because if you work for anybody else inherently there are limits. Unless you’re top dog. But how many people did you have to kill to get there? Most people have no idea how business really works, how people end up at the top.

Tiger ended up at the top.

And he sacrificed his complete life for it. He played no other sports, he had no friends, and when he finally had a girlfriend, his parents made him break up with her, cut off all contact in a letter after three years. You see they were afraid the girlfriend was going to impede Tiger’s progress, that he wouldn’t get to the destination.

Now I never envisioned having a wife, kids and a house. But I certainly never wanted to be so focused that there was no room for anything else.

And Tiger’s father is training him. Pushing him. It’s relentless.

But it was his mother who carried the big stick. She set the limits, and if you crossed her, there was going to be trouble.

Now one thing that has always bugged me about Tiger is if he hits a bad shot, he can get angry, he can throw down his club. I was taught etiquette in golf was key, by my mother, at the public course, she loved to play golf. But Tiger lived in his own bubble where winning was everything, he was Vince Lombardi on steroids.

And he and his mother made fun of Phil Mickelson. That he was twenty pounds overweight and didn’t practice as hard as Tiger.

Now the truth is I know a lot of famous people. And fame comes with a lot of perks. Old school fame, based on talent, comes with a lot of money, and if you don’t blow it…and if you’re a musician you can continue to tour and you get your ASCAP/BMI and…

But fame won’t make you happy, no way. And if you lose too much of it, people make fun of you, call you a has-been. It’s a tough row to hoe and very few people know the inside game. Instead you’ve got fans who support you, but irritate you. Sometimes you don’t want to hang out and sign autographs. Tiger plays and he’s endlessly signing autographs, it’s a burden, and anybody who’s famous will tell you…one false move, give one fan a bad look, don’t pay fealty to them, and they’ll hate you and talk about you whenever your name comes up for the rest of their lives, it’s their brush with fame, and you didn’t come through. Talk about the pressure…but it’s nothing like playing sports, certainly golf, which no one plays perfectly.

But few athletes are well-rounded people. They do something physical, whereas…artists have to experience life to express themselves, it’s part of the process, and how you express yourself is important, which is why when you’re just the face of a committee production…it’s hard to have faith, it’s hard to believe, unless you’re a mindless fan entranced by the fame, just like Tiger’s army, some of whom hated blacks, but Tiger wasn’t seen as black.

Not even to himself.

But there are some other athletes who set the record straight. That Tiger can call himself a Cablinasian, but no matter what he says, most people see him as black. There are immutable truths, but somehow Tiger felt they didn’t apply to him.

And then there were the enablers, first and foremost Nike. To Nike you’re a product, and the only reason they’re interested is to sell stuff. You’re fungible, there’s always another athlete coming down the pike. And Nike presses the button and…whew, suddenly you’re everywhere!

It used to be this way in the music business, back before the internet and the fracturing of society. Actually, Tiger would never be as big if he started today. Then again, everybody’s interested in a phenom, remember when Steph Curry started hitting all those three-pointers? People who had no idea where the Warriors played were now following the story, just like non-golfers followed Tiger Woods.

So… They’re setting up Tiger’s infidelities. Turns out his father and his friend the golf pro were horndogs, married, but playing the field. And it’s not like Tiger had any other role models, these were almost the only people he had contact with!

But Tiger was made to self-destruct. It always happens. You can only stay that focused for a while, then the world creeps in and you re-evaluate and…

They reference how much bodily effort Tiger puts into his swing, they ask the question of whether it would hurt his back. Tiger just had his fifth back surgery and…once you go down the back surgery road, you never get completely better, surgeons never really tell you this, they live to cut, and they’ll cut again if you want them to. But, the truth is the body breaks down, and injuries come primarily from overuse. You can’t really overuse your mind. Which is why my father always focused on it, whenever I spoke of being an athlete he’d go berserk, and discount any time spent pursuing my goal, he considered my two years in Utah a waste. I don’t agree, if anything I learned I didn’t want to live that life. But this was long before the rich got richer, when you could work at a bank or become an entrepreneur and pull away from the rest of society, and the truth is today’s smart kids know this, they don’t want to start at the bottom, they want insurance, they want a job, they’ll put their dreams aside because they don’t want to be broke. And never forget, for every Tiger Woods, of which there is one, there are thousands of wannabes that you’ve never heard the name of.

So this documentary is riveting. I didn’t watch the Michael Jordan doc because I lived through it, I watched way too much basketball in the nineties. I felt the same way about Tiger. None of the reviews of the Tiger doc conveyed the experience of watching it. The talking heads talk and…it’s like listening to audio Dead Sea Scrolls. And you see everybody’s job, and wonder where they fit in, and where you fit in. Years have gone by, people look old. Happens to the best of us, unless you check out early, O.D. And you can get plastic surgery, but like Lowell George sang, you’re just fooling yourself. Your interior doesn’t care about your exterior work, and to young people you’re a joke. It’s extremely rare that you don’t look done, that you look natural, and people know and make fun of you behind your back. That’s the truth.

So, the golf pro at the Naval course… He just lived a life. He’s not famous. And there are a bunch of writers, some very articulate, but unless you read the sports pages back then, most specifically “Sports Illustrated,” you don’t know their names. And sports writing, like music criticism, has fallen on hard times. “Sports Illustrated” was sold, it’s not the same magazine, and who wants week old sports news these days? Today it’s just the facts, no one is paying big bucks for sports writing like they used to. Same deal with “Vanity Fair,” the new editor produces a lame magazine. But the truth is… Condé Nast cut her budget severely, so the best writers have gone elsewhere.

So you watch this documentary and your whole life flashes in front of your eyes. Tiger started almost at birth, but it’s too late for the rest of us, that ship has sailed. So you evaluate your choices, try to feel good about them, but… This Tiger documentary also disincentivizes you to achieve goals you wanted to. Rich, famous, the best? People pay attention to you for a minute, and then they move on. And when your time is done, and it’s done for almost everybody, you’re forgotten. And the biggest of stars can soon be nonentities. Ask a kid about Johnny Carson. Who?

So the Tiger documentary is quite an achievement. It’s anything but a rote telling of the events of his life. And it’s much more than a melodrama. It’s about life itself. And you only get one. What do you want to do with it?

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