Tiger Woods has won another tournament and the golf world is ecstatic. When Woods wins, people watch golf on television, and when people watch golf on television, golfers get rich.
He was the top player in The Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, on Sunday, taking home about $1 million. Which is not too shabby for a weekend's work. Madison pro Steve Stricker won about $15,000, which puts him ahead of me in weekend wages.
There was a time when it would not be remarkable to see Woods winning a golf tournament. He won every thing, year after year after year.
Then things sort of fell apart. His various and many lovers went public. His beautiful wife went private. His athletic body started breaking and, for a couple of years, at least, the guy who couldn't lose suddenly couldn't win.
Actually, this is his second win this year. It's not that Woods can no longer play golf, it's just that he no longer dominates the game.
He still does dominate the public imagination, however. We couldn't get enough of him when he was winning and we couldn't get enough of him when he was losing. He's the only golfer anyone in the general public gives a damn about.
And I've got to say my admiration for him keeps growing, mostly because he won't give up.
Week after humiliating week, Tiger Woods has been returning to golf tournaments, sometimes coming close to the top, sometimes having to drop out in the middle. He has thrown embarrassing temper tantrums. He has endured the scorn of pundits who would have paid to lick his shoes back in the old days.
He has more money than God (though, I guess, that's not saying much because God doesn't care about money). He could retire and watch soaps. He could go into full-time philanthropy work and be lionized as a reformed sinner. He could even capitalize on being a reformed sinner and go into religious work.
He could do any of those things, but what he does do is return to the golf course, week after week, tournament after tournament, watching people delight in his humiliation.
And for that, far more than for his former days of success and grandiosity, Tiger Woods has become an inspiration.
Because, what he does is what most of us do (though without the big bucks). We just keep slogging along, trying hard, falling down, picking ourselves up, and starting anew.
I keep seeing middle-aged and older men and women who once were at the top of their vocational games taking whatever jobs they can find, piecing together work in the way they once did as teenagers, facing the humiliation of losing their homes, disappointing their children, wondering what went wrong.
They watch the Ayn Rand disciples in public life disparage them as lazy losers – industrious people always win, you know – and they watch those of us who haven't been caught up in the economic recession avert our eyes for fear that what happened to them might be catching.
But they keep going, keep hoping, keep practicing, keep showing up.
Good work, Tiger. I hope you win another one soon.