Whose Story Counts? Tiger, Rocco and The World

In the aftermath of the US Open, the media has swarmed over Tiger Woods’ left knee.  While waiting for a flight at O’Hare yesterday, I noticed 4 separate stories in USA Today and at least half an hour of debate on ESPN.  There are two things about this brouhaha that get my attention.

One is that commentators and writers all had a strong opinion about what Tiger should have done.  “He won the battle and lost the war.”  “Playing hurt is part of professional athletics.”  “The guy is rich, married to a model and has huge talent.  Why not just take that and call it a life?”  The variations go on.  But how many of these people are Tiger Woods?  I have my own opinion as well, but it is a point of view based on my story of who I am and how the world works- not Tiger’s.

The same competitiveness and talent that makes Tiger number 1 in the world is what made him tell his doctor, “I am playing and I am going to win.”  If Tiger were the reasonable sort, he would never have even faced the situation.  There is no right or wrong decision.  There is only a decision that is authentic to who we are.  So, one useful question we can ask ourselves is, “What does my opinion about what Tiger should have done tell me about my own story- and how do I feel about it?”  Tiger is not consulting us anyway.

But the other story is Rocco Mediate.  In the wake of Tiger’s knee, his performance has gotten little attention.  In fact, the only comment I heard was one sportswriter who opined that there would have been no playoff if Tiger had not been playing hurt.  As exciting, talented and engaging as Tiger is, my own admiration extends to Rocco.  He went toe to toe with the best in the world, kept his composure, had a great time and did not lose his perspective.  Rocco focused on how much fun he was having.  He recognized that he was outgunned but never once surrendered the tournament through reluctance or tentative play.  And he was sincere about it.  He was not playing for the camera.  I know it would have been all the sweeter for Rocco to be hoisting the trophy.  And I am clear, that is what he was there to do.  But for me, there is a victory for the game when we can see two golfers go at it, each using their own best assets to take them as far as they can go.

I admire Tiger’s laser focus and mental toughness.  But given the choice, I would hope to cultivate Rocco’s positive attitude, sense of humor and grace under fire.  Of course, that says more about me than about them.