After some early embarrassments upon turning pro, Tiger Woods has been one of the most reserved sports celebrities in the world. Every answer is noncommittal, every statement closely guarded, every word, well… boring. This has frustrated some who have looked for Tiger to use his supermegaultracelebrity status as a more political force, a role model off the course as well as on (Of course, you know who’s not frustrated? Nike. Just sayin’).
And while Tiger hasn’t gone all militant and started hoisting a black glove or anything (yet), the first sign that he’s throwing his weight around in the public sphere (to do more than sell Buicks and watches, anyway) is coming at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, when Tiger joins a bevy of A-listers to speak at an inauguration celebration, “We Are One.” The event, which features Beyonce, U2, and Denzel Washington among others, will be broadcast live on HBO.
ESPN.COM’s Jason Sobel hails the move as and sets expectations at a level that, well, only Tiger could fulfill:
When Woods takes the podium at the Lincoln Memorial for President-elect Barack Obama’s pre-inauguration festivities Sunday, expect nothing less than perfection from a man who always expects it of himself. Consider it only a matter of minor inconvenience that his speech will transcend explaining away a rare bogey to discussing the nation’s new leader and what the next four years might bring. It will be eloquent, elegant and, yes, perfect.
Well, way to keep things reasonable, Jason, thanks.
What we’re driving at is this: Tiger’s never done anything like this–speaking and expressing his emotions in a highly public forum–before. And although there’s really no reason at all to suggest that Tiger’s just another dumb jock (come on, he went to Stanford, after all), there are just some people that aren’t, for whatever reason, great public speakers. And if Tiger doesn’t knock any socks off at the celebration tomorrow, does it tarnish his legacy (or worse, his selling power)?
Oh, hell. That’s not what the audacity of hope is all about, is it? Take that next step, Tiger. It begins tomorrow.