The recent developments involving Tiger Woods are important insofar as the American public’s notions of sexual morality are concerned, but perhaps more important for Belizeans is what we can learn about how money works in America.
Tiger Woods was the son of an African American, Earl Woods, who had fought as a Green Beret in the Vietnam War. I think Tiger’s mother is Thai. For sure she is an Asian. Tiger is their only child, and how it came about that golf became his sport, from childhood, I’m not sure. In the United States of America, and indeed the world, golf was a white man’s sport. The reason is that it is an expensive sport, requiring costly equipment, and is heavily influenced by the country club culture of America, which is absolutely ruled by rich white men.
There had been one or two black golfers before Tiger, but he represented a massive breakthrough, because he was a champion, the best player in, to repeat, a white man’s sport. So the story of how his parents planned his golfing career, and how Tiger executed their plan to perfection, is a fabulous one indeed.
Tiger Wood’s story, where the role of the parents is concerned, is similar to that of Venus and Serena Williams, whose parents took them all the way from the Compton, California ghetto to the greatest tennis championships of the world. The prize money for winning in golf and tennis (and tennis was also a white people’s sport), was always in the several hundreds of thousands, and often millions.
The American press has barked at Venus’ and Serena’s dad, Richard Williams, over the years, because he is not an Uncle Tom. He is unorthodox in his coaching approach, and is not a socializer or a social climber. You can still see the roots aspects of Richard Williams. During Earl Woods’ lifetime (he died a few years ago), on the other hand, I never heard a word of criticism of him from the American media.
Tiger had a more bourgeois, more corporate upbringing than Venus and Serena. He attended Stanford University, perhaps the most prestigious university on the American West Coast (Palo Alto, California). And after he turned professional and began winning a lot of tournaments and money about 12 or so years ago, the news emerged that Tiger did not consider himself black, that he wished to be thought of as “cablinasian,” which is to say, a mixture of Caucasian, Indian, Negro and Asian.
Not only that, Tiger didn’t mingle with the soul. He was the product of a plan, and he was surrounded by legal, financial, corporate and public relations experts/advisors who were steering him to the really big money which comes in America when you are a sports superstar and you have the right “image.”
Before Tiger, Michael Jordan had blazed a basketball superstar trail ten, fifteen years before. Michael Jordan had attended the University of North Carolina, another very prestigious school, and there he had begun to benefit from the advice of all the attorneys, accountants, MBAs and public relations consultants who can make a sports star rich beyond his dreams. The really big money does not come from the annual salaries. The really big money comes from the endorsement deals with the giant corporate sponsors who rule America and the world.
In order to get into that really big money, there is a point at which you have to separate yourself from your roots, from your people, and from socio-political issues of any kind whatever. You have to develop a Wall Street mentality if you want to be a crony of the really big money. You have to become cold and heartless and selfish.
Some of Tiger’s corporate “friends” have abandoned him in the last couple weeks after the scandals broke with respect to his marriage and his serial infidelities. As time goes by, Tiger will return to golf and the good times will resume. But for now, these are lonely times for Woods. American blacks have not rallied to his defence. In the land of Cablinasia, you know, the population is very small.
In my book, Sports, sin and subversion, I have explained why Roberto Clemente and Muhammad Ali are two of my sports heroes, above and beyond their athletic exploits. I also think highly of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the basketball legend, because he is one of the most spiritual and least materialistic of my lifetime’s superstars. Kareem is the son of a New York City policeman. He attended Boys High in Brooklyn, a high school almost next to where Bill Lindo’s mother lives. I think Kareem’s father is of West Indian ancestry. But Kareem, even though he became an orthodox Muslim, and though I honor him, has never been as brave as Clemente or Ali.
Kareem attended UCLA, another high class university in California. Almost twenty years later, a Belizean by the name of Nigel Miguel went to UCLA on a basketball scholarship. Nigel’s father was Edward Miguel, a four-time Crosscountry champion, and his mother is a sister of Odinga Lumumba, one of Belize’s most famous revolutionaries. Nigel is a very, very nice guy, but Nigel, like Tiger, was taught not to rock the boat.
It is hard to condemn a child of the oppressed classes who sacrifices and compromises in order to achieve the greatest successes possible. Would we wish for such a person to give up his dreams and abandon his potential in order to fight for the masses of his people? Few of us would so wish. And yet, there are men who have done just that – sacrificed for their people. Paul Robeson did it. Nelson Mandela did it. Walter Rodney did it. Robeson’s career was ruined. Mandela spent 27 years in prison. Rodney was murdered.
There are very few people who have the talent to be a superstar. And remember, you need more than talent. It requires years and years of the hardest of work. To repeat, we cannot be angry at those of our brethren and sistren who find themselves unable to give up any of their success in order to live the truth. We cannot be angry with the Michaels and the Tigers who have refused to speak truth to power. At the very least, however, we can remember Paul and Nelson and Walter when we spend all these days and weeks worrying about how many blonde whores Tiger was running around with here, there and maybe La Isla Bonita.
If we are to believe the Holy Bible, God Almighty sent His Only Begotten Son to earth to suffer and die for our sins. Christmas is about the birth of the Christ Child in a manger in a stable. Think about that. To hell with the Tiger stories. Look past the money, Jack. Live for the people. Love the people. Power to the people.