I like Tiger Woods, I really do but the on-air fawning for the guy over the weekend at the U.S. Open was unbearable. In case you weren't paying attention Tiger had arthroscopic knee surgery two months ago and looked like he was in some pain while playing well enough to force an 18-hole playoff with Rocco Mediate (which will take place today at noon). Unfortunately the NBC announcing crew took exaggeration and hyperbole to a new level, with Johnny Miller declaring that what Tiger was doing was more impressive than what Willis Reed and Kirk Gibson did. Umm, did I miss something here? Are we now saying that golfers are as tough as athletes who play actual sports? Here are the reasons why I think Tiger's knee injury have been blown way, way out of proportion:
-Firstly, Stuart Appleby had a similar procedure at about the same time as Tiger but no one is talking about it.
-Secondly golf is probably the least strenuous sport that receives major coverage in the USA (I'm not counting the racing car pageants). When 80 year-olds can do the same thing as the world's best in a sport (albeit on a much lower level) then that sport isn't that physically demanding. This isn't to take away from the skill and preparation involved with golf just that the strain it puts on one's body is considerably less than every other major sport. (Yes, even baseball and even fat pitchers. Could you imagine if an 80 year-old tried to throw a pitch, I mean really tried to throw one, he'd probably tweak/strain/break every ligament/muscle/bone in his body).
-Thirdly athletes in other sports have arthroscopic knee surgery all the time and get much less time than two months to recover. Here is an excerpt from an article from Suns.com about Amare Stoudemire and his arthroscopic knee surgery: “It was a routine procedure," General Manager Steve Kerr said. "Everything that the doctor expected to see is exactly what he saw. Amaré is coming down Thursday and starting rehab immediately. We expect to see him back on the court in two and a half to three weeks. There is no reason for concern.” TWO AND A HALF TO THREE WEEKS, and that's not just walking and swinging a club, that's running and jumping on a hard wood floor. Now sometimes normal athletes who have their knee scoped take about two months to return but when they do return they have to do things that are much more physically demanding than what Tiger is doing. From an Orlando Sentinel article: "If he does win after coming back from injury, that's an admirable thing," said Randy Roberts, a history professor at Purdue University who specializes in sports history. "But I don't think the injury is such a big deal. There have been some phenomenal comebacks in sports, but almost every football player probably has similar surgery that Tiger is having. They might be out six-to-eight weeks and come back." There, a historian puts it in it's proper context, it's not that big a deal.
-Lastly the major difference between Woods and Reed and Gibson is the way their respective sports are set up. When it's all said and done Tiger will have competed in the U.S. Open for about 30 straight years. That means he got a chance to play for his sports championship 30 times. Reed and Gibson had much, much fewer opportunities to try to win the title. What I'm saying is that it's a lot more difficult to win a championship in a sport where there is a long, grueling season and then playoffs. That's not Tiger's fault, it's just the way that his sport is.
Let me reiterate that I think Tiger is a hell of a golfer who played very, very well while dealing with some pain. However everyone seems to be acting like this is the most impressive thing to ever happen in the history of sport and conveniently forgetting that hockey players take pucks to the face, get stitched up on the bench, and then go back out on the ice. So let's all take it easy with the Tiger is gutting it out hyperbole and just appreciate the golf he is playing.
As a bonus here are some real injury-related anecdotes that make you, me, and Tiger look like 7 year-old girls at a Hello Kitty birthday party by comparison:
-Jack Youngblood, a linebacker for the Rams in the 1970s, played most of the NFC Championship game on a broken leg.
-Ronnie Lott broke his left pinky finger during the 1985 season and instead of opting for surgery that would've made him miss time he had part of his finger amputated. Let me say that again: instead of surgery Lott had part of his finger cut off so he could keep playing.
-Every professional hockey player, ever (except Jaromir Jagr). These guys are as badass as they come, they don't take crap from anyone, even fans:
-Chuck Bednarik, a two-way player for the Eagles in the 1950s and1960s, broke his ankle in the first half of the second to last game of the 1956 season. Instead of going to the trainer/doctor, Bednarik went to the equipment manager who rigged him a splint made of old shoulder pads and duct tape. Bednarik wore the contraption for the rest of the game and next two weeks without ever telling anyone with medical training about his injury until the season was over. By the way, the Eagles were something like 3-8 at the time of the injury and had no shot at the playoffs. When he finally had doctors look at his ankle it turns out it was a compound fracture and had gotten very badly infected. Now that is one badass motherfucker.
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