In one of the most amazing comebacks in sports — or any other kind of — history, Tiger Woods won his fifth green jacket at the Masters tournament and 15th major championship on Sunday after finishing 12 under par at Augusta National. However, one bettor that placed an $85,000 wager on the 14-to-1 shot at a Las Vegas sports book got back a cool million.
Woods’ fall from grace over a decade ago was as public as it was dramatic and painful to watch. An addiction to sex caused his wife to drive him out of their mansion supposedly while wielding a nine iron that bore his name. Years of medical problems and surgeries followed. At one point it seemed doubtful if he would ever walk well again without pain, let alone play golf in a tournament. Truly, his comeback, tenacity and grit are nothing short of astounding.
However, there were many blacks that had moments of schadenfreude — if not outright glee — when Woods took his long tumble from the lofty perch he had occupied all of his charmed life, and I have to admit that I never was too fond of someone who looks a lot like me but made great effort to not be identified as a member of my tribe.
Woods racial confusion was — and is — a testament to how powerful a pigmentocracy we have created in America. At the lowest point of his life, when Woods was arrested while asleep, sitting behind the wheel of his Mercedes in the middle of the roadway in Juniper, FL, he was listed on the police report as being black. The thing is, in America, if the general consensus is that you are black, then that indeed is what you are. You don’t get to determine your race; society does that for you, like it or not.
However, Woods had created his own word, indeed, his own race: Cablinasian. He said that it paid homage to the various strains of his ancestral heritage, and stood for Caucasian, Black, Indian, and Asian. The mistake he made was listing Caucasian first; that was a dead giveaway in regards to how he wanted to be seen and how he saw himself.
Now it could have been a business ploy, seeing that he was playing in the whitest and most elite sport in the world. His logic very well could have been that he would gain more sponsors by shying away from his blackness. If that’s the case, it certainly worked. At one point he was, along with Michael Jordan, probably the most popular athlete in the world — the man who singlehandedly saved golf.
Woods once said, “Hockey is a sport for white men. Basketball is a sport for black men. Golf is a sport for white men dressed like black pimps,” and he got away with it.
Now that he’s got his mojo (and his swing) back, Woods will probably go on to win a number of additional titles, and I take my hat off to him for toughing it out and wish him great success and nothing but the best in the future, and I genuinely mean that. But I’m no longer upset with him since I really don’t see him as my brother, just as he obviously doesn’t want to see me as his.
If he truly wants to be white that badly, I can give him the phone number to Michael Jackson’s plastic surgeon. Otherwise he’ll remain a true anomaly: A man without a race.
It’s certainly true that great athleticism can confer a provisional “white pass” on black performers. Even rabid racists will cheer LeBron and place him above the color line in their tiny little minds. The same could have been true for Tiger Woods. He could have claimed his blackness and he still would have been able to marry a white model and exclusively tryst with white groupies. Hell, O.J. did it for decades.
But here’s hoping Tiger wins his next five tournaments in a row since, in my mind at least, I firmly believe that — in spite of the other ethnicities he claims — it was his blackness that brought him back from the brink, because in the end, black don’t crack. Just living in America has made us some tough motherfuckers.
From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.