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Published:April 17th, 2009 20:07 EST
Tiger Not Out of the Woods

Tiger Not Out of the Woods

By George Curry (Former Featured Editor)

I saw very little of Tiger Woods playing at the Masters tournament and that was enough to know that he was not out of the woods. Literally. A couple of his shots landed in the trees as he and arch-rival Phil Mickelson, the two favorites, finished fifth and sixth.  Of course, thousands of African-Americans were deeply disappointed that Woods did not collect his fifth green jacket in Augusta.

The problem with placing so much faith in someone, even an athlete as great as Tiger Woods, is that it places unrealistic expectations on the athlete and while simultaneously setting us up for certain heartbreak

In 1977, we saw Tiger easily win the Masters. His embrace of his father was an emotional one. Tiger Mania exploded and we saw repeated replays of grainy video footage of Tiger playing golf at the age of 2. Moreover, there were predictions that thousands of Black kids would follow suit, dominating golf in the same way African-Americans dominate the National Basketball Association (NBA).

A recent Associated Press reminds us that change that has taken place in professional golf since Tiger`s victory 12 years ago has not been for the better.

  There were eight black players on tour in 1975, the year Lee Elder was the first black golfer in the Masters and the year Woods was born, " the article stated. Now there is only Tiger. "


The AP story, written by Paul Newberry and Doug Ferguson, states: "`Tiger was the greatest gift ever for the PGA Tour,` said Orin Starn, who heads the cultural anthropology program at Duke University. "With him as its face, the PGA Tour didn`t have to deal with issues of diversity, or worrying about the tour looking like the rest of America. They could say, "See, the problem is fixed. We have an African-American who is No. 1 in the world.`  But the intractable problem still exists, " he said. "If anything, it`s gotten worse.` "


Almost identical language is par for the course when discussing President Obama.  Now that we`ve elected a Black president, the argument goes, there is no need to worry about affirmative action or any other race- or gender-sensitive programs designed to take into consideration centuries of blatant discrimination. 


Let`s set the record straight.  The majority of Whites voted against Obama. It was people of color " along with a White minority " that provided the crucial votes that allowed him to occupy the White House.  Second, the election of a Black president does not signal any wholesale changes in political power. There is still only one African-American in the Senate, and he barely made it.  Of the 535 members of the U.S. House and Senate, only 41 are Black, including non-voting delegates from Washington, D.C. and the Virgin Islands.


There are only two Black governors, one of whom ascended to office as a result of a scandal involving his predecessor. Only two Blacks have been elected governor in history, Doug Wilder in Virginia and Deval Patrick, the sitting governor of Massachusetts. So, we should be careful not to read too much into Obama`s victory. We should celebrate it, but not take a flight of fantasy.


Obama and Tiger Woods provide us with a teaching moment. Instead of risking a broken heart when Tiger Woods or any other African-American loses a major competition, we should calmly keep our eyes on the larger picture.


As I have reported here before, theNational Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium has produced research that shows that although White men make up only 48 percent of the college-educated workforce, they hold 85 percent of the tenured college faculty positions, 86 percent of law firm partnerships, more than 90 percent of the top jobs in the news media, and 96 percent of CEO positions.


Obviously, the most important playing field is not the golf course.


Even on the golf course, there is the issue of Tiger Woods` commitment to developing another generation of Tiger Woods.


The Associated Press story noted, Woods started his own foundation in 1996. At first, he focused on junior golf to teach character development. It then evolved toward education, and he opened the Tiger Woods Learning Center in 2006. It has never been his goal to find the next Tiger. "You either want it or you don`t. You can`t teach that "` Woods said. " His own experience with his father seems to suggest otherwise.


I don`t care if we never develop another Tiger Woods. We need to stop getting caught up in the accomplishments of a single African-American and see what we can do for our entire community.


 George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site,