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Again with the history thing

Posted by Charles P. Pierce  March 4, 2010 02:37 PM

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Readers of this blog may recall that, a few days ago, we were all saddened by the misadventures of Clio, Muse Of History. Remarkably, Clio survived but, alas, after recovering at home, Clio yesterday found herself compelled to down 32 Xanax with a fifth of gin before stepping into the path of a heavily laden goat cart. She did leave a note this time, though. It read, "Being in a hurry is no excuse."

Being wrong upon further reflection is still being wrong. I won't be going shot-by shot through the full nine here. (I am reminded of the great Dan Jenkins's squelch of someone who was boring them with an account of that day's round -- "Stud, if I'm goin' all 18, I'm gonna need caddy fees.") Holes 1-7, which deal with the specific physical and psychological problems that Tiger Woods will face coming back, aren't wrong per se. It is going to be a bizarre and difficult time for the golfer. However, the discussion here is about whose comeback was -- or, in the case of Woods, will be -- harder.

If you're going to make the undeniable points that an athlete's physical skills erode after 30, and that out-of-competition stress and pressure can exacerbate that deterioration, then I would argue that getting knocked around the ring by the likes of Joe Frazier, George Foreman, and Earnie (The Acorn) Shavers not long after the combined powers of the U.S. government worked to destroy you is demonstrably "harder" than choosing which club to hit onto the green at Doral several months after you turned your life into a circus, no matter how many blogs there are out there laughing at you.

Holes 8-9 continue to be the real problem. Hole 8 once again argues that, because of his burgeoning popularity within the black community, and with the antiwar community, Ali somehow was uniquely cosseted in his comeback. (And let's leave aside all the problems inherent in confusing the general antiwar sentiment of the time with  "the antiwar movement," which always was smaller. Anyone who disputes this latter point should take it up with former President McGovern.)  I'm sure this was a comfort to him, but is the argument seriously being made here that Tiger Woods -- e.g. "Tiger isn't part of anything." --is not going to have anything like this when he finally returns to golf? That he's coming back friendless, and utterly without emotional support? At the very least, Nike will still be there, and that's a more powerful ally than Ali ever had. I'm also willing to go way out on a limb and predict that a substantial portion of the golf punditocracy will be in his corner, especially if and when he wins again.  If he needs a support system to help him past the ridicule of the blogosphere, then I'm fairly sure he'll find it. "A considerable number of Americans" will be rooting for him, too, and, while I'm just spitballing here, some of them might even work on the air at a certain cable-television sports network.

Hole 9 is where everything goes to the zoo. We're back to that period in which, not only did the black community and the antiwar movement ease Ali's way back into boxing, but also in which America generally came to the conclusion that Muhammad Ali was an iconic prisoner of conscience and clasped him to its bosom. (That DefCon One security was needed in Atlanta for the Ali-Quarry fight because of the anger that still existed in the country over what Ali had done is dismissed here on the grounds that nobody actually took a shot at him. Oh, OK.) Events are telescoped, meanings elided. The serious threat posed to Ali by factionalism within the Nation Of Islam is sloughed off by defining the NOI simply as Herbert Muhammad. The phrases "Federal Bureau Of Investigation" and "Department of Justice" do not appear here at all. Yes, Ali had a fan base on the fashionable Left. So did the Berrigans. How'd that work out for them?

 Gradually, we are asked to believe that, while the pressures on Tiger will not be as "meaningful as the ones that surrounded Ali" (?), they are nonetheless greater, and that, by comparison, what Ali faced in 1970 was a "cakewalk." The entire sum total of the argument in favor of that proposition comes down to "24-7 news cycle" and "blogs." That's pretty much it. That's nowhere near enough.


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