fallen from grace

We noticed. My kids noticed, too. We have multiple sports fans in the family, so while it wasn’t discussed much at first, we all were paying attention. Once again, for the first time in years, Tiger Woods was relevant. At the lesser-known Valspar Championship — one of manifold Masters warm ups — Woods is again flirting with the leaderboard. He has played some excellent golf this weekend, as once again, in a seemingly instant nostalgic return, the silent gallery swarmed around him, progressing from hole to hole.

“It was his back, right?”

True. Since April of 2015, Woods has undergone three microdiscectomy procedures and a spinal fusion to deal with a disk issue in his lower back. At one point last fall, in fact, there was ample question of whether he would ever golf again. Hence, Woods has been largely AWOL and irrelevant the last four years on the PGA tour.

“But it was more than physical, yes?”

Also true. Tiger was the top-ranked golfer in the world for 264 weeks from August 1999 to September 2004 and again for 281 weeks from June 2005 to October 2010; his dominance was unprecedented. That dominance was then pierced by the sudden, shocking revelation that the world’s most famous golfer — the married father of two — engaged in more than a dozen extramarital affairs. He proceeded to lose millions in endorsements, publicly apologize, reveal a sex addiction, and eventually divorce his wife.

Talk about fallen from grace.

Last week we observed something similar. Here was Kobe Bryant, accepting the Academy Award for the best animated short film, seemingly sincerely moved while publicly lauded. And yet in the current #MeToo environment, it was Bryant who in 2004 publicly acknowledged that he had an adulterous sexual encounter with a 19 year woman who “did not consent.” Kobe, too, fell from grace, also losing significant corporate endorsements and public respect.

So when one falls from grace, what does it take to be relevant and accepted once again?

Is it forgetting?

Do we just allow enough time to pass so we no longer remember the cracks in the character of the adult men and women we used to cheer on?

Do we let time go by, hopefully numbing the emotion we felt when people we loved did such dastardly things? Maybe if we forget, we never have to wrestle with some of the resulting inconvenient truths in our desired, ongoing support.

Or is it, rather, forgiving?

I recognize that forgiveness is not always a popular choice. It isn’t easy. It isn’t fun, and I know we avoid it sometimes because it’s the only thing we can always hold against the person who hurt or disappointed us deeply. As one who bought both #8 and #24 Laker jerseys for one of my sons, for example, I was especially disappointed in Bryant’s behavior; I was angry I then had to have a more sensitive and sad conversation with my too young adolescent.

The key to forgiveness is the profound reality that it doesn’t allow the offender to get off the hook; it allows us to get off the hook — to no longer have to hold onto the anger and bitterness that potentially take root within ‘me.’ Let’s be honest: that looks good on no one.

As for the offender, in addition to understandable consequences for his/her behavior, he/she will still have some work to do… repentance, growth, and making amends. That is his/her responsibility.

Hence, for the person who repents — and for the person who forgives — I will enthusiastically cheer. Grace and forgiveness are always worth cheering for.

Go Tiger, go… hope you do well this weekend. And more.


judgment day

photo-1427348693976-99e4aca06bb9Recently, it seems, I’ve heard an amplified chorus of the call to withhold judgment…

“Do not judge, lest you be judged.”

It also seems such is one of the most repeated biblical truths both Bible students and non-Bible students like to proclaim. No doubt the call to refrain from judgment is a wise practice indeed. The loophole, no less, lies in the meaning of the word, “judgment.” Too often it seems we equate the withholding of “judgment” — the rendering of consequences, a condemnation, or an eternal pronouncement, perhaps — with an absence of right and wrong. Let’s be clear:  some things are right; some things are wrong; the challenge is that we often disagree on “some things.”

For example, I watched the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team, as they struggled emotionally in their post-game press conference, after being heralded all year as “the team to beat”… with so many saying it was impossible for them to lose… with one former professional coach even quipping that UK could be a playoff team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. And then Kentucky did the unthinkable; they lost.

Here then were these 19 & 20 year old men, who are supposed to have something to say, albeit arguably just experiencing one of their greatest emotional letdowns of their young lives. Question: how many of us at 19 & 20 had the maturity to handle all things well? … especially with all the world watching?

So it was of little surprise that one player would do something wrong when asked about a member of the team to which they lost. Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison used a crude, racial term to describe Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, likely believing the microphone would fail to pick up the slur muddled slightly under his breath. Harrison’s behavior was wrong. There is no arrogance in that assessment; there is no condemnation nor feeling that any other is better than Harrison. It is still true that Harrison’s behavior was wrong.

After the conclusion on the NCAA championship, much of the sports world will turn their attention to the infamous tournament this weekend at Augusta National, The Masters. Earlier I witnessed an ESPN commentator talk about the return of Tiger Woods. Woods is returning to the professional golf circuit after a two month hiatus. The question of the commentator was, “Which Tiger will show up?” … the one that dominated the sport for so many years, winning his first major at age 21? … or the one that has never been the same since his four month leave of absence in 2009-2010?

Woods sadly left the sport after very public revelations regarding his multiple, extra-marital affairs while married to Elin Nordegren. Please let no one pounce upon Tiger or rant about his obvious error. But also let no one act as if his error was not obvious. Tiger’s infidelity was wrong.

I found this particular commentator’s comments fascinating because in his posing of the question — as to “which Woods” it would be — the commentator never acknowledged that Woods dominance dissipated when his personal, moral image was pierced.

Granted, none of us need our moral failings repeatedly or disrespectfully rehashed by another — especially publicly — but it’s also ok to  acknowledge the existence of moral failings; it’s ok to acknowledge right and wrong.

There’s no automatic arrogance in that acknowledgement. It’s not condemnation. It’s not compassion-less. It’s also not judgmental.



ESPN news

To hear the sportswriters tell it, it was “the best round of his life”… “a most improbable win”… “completed in stunning, awe-inspiring fashion”…


On Sunday, golf’s most popular lefty, Phil Mickelson, captured the coveted Claret Jug, as the winner of this year’s British Open.  He was 5 strokes behind the leader when the day began, and as one writer penned, “Mickelson barely got a mention on the broadcast.”


Before we continue, friends, let me offer an initial, concise caveat.  While the Intramuralist is without question a lover of sports, this is not a sports post.  Not at all.  In fact, with all due respect to the male members of my extended family, I’m actually not incredibly passionate about watching that little white, dented ball be smacked around on the grass all day.  Play and partake?  Gladly.  Watch 4 hours on TV on a regular, weekend basis?  No way.  It’s just a little (ok, maybe a lot) too slow a sport for me.


Being that sports lover, however — and living in a household uniquely dominated by testosterone — it’s rather important that I am “up on” and equally knowledgeable regarding all that occurs in the athletic world; we have some great conversations around our house.  Hence, I subscribe to regular sports updates from ESPN, the unquestionably successful Entertainment and Sports Programming Network.  Throughout the British Open, they sent me multiple daily texts, alerting me to the Open’s current status.


Here’s the non-sport-aspect challenge…


All 4 days of the British Open, ESPN sent me updates about Tiger Woods.  Tiger was never in the lead.  He spent most days somewhere around 6th place.  But every text from the sporting news network — save for when Mickelson finally seized the lead — included information about Tiger Woods.  In fact, going into Sunday’s final round, when Tiger had crept to a then current second place tie, the person with whom Woods was actually tied with was omitted from ESPN’s tweets.  ESPN’s British Open tweets were always focused on Tiger Woods, regardless of who was performing better.


My “a-ha” moment came somewhere between rounds 3 and 4…


Does ESPN think I only care about Tiger Woods?

Why are they so seemingly fascinated with him?

Who then is deciding what is “news”?

Is the network deciding for me what’s newsworthy — even if it’s not?


I wonder.


I wonder how often media outlets dictate our news.


Are there times the media omits relevant information because of what they feel will gain greater ratings?  … a larger audience?  … and increased revenue?  Are they, then, actually dictating what is “news”?


For the record, the answer is Hunter Mahan.  Hunter Mahan was the professional golfer tied with Tiger heading into the fourth and final round of this year’s British Open.


Note:  the Intramuralist will never intentionally omit a relevant detail in order to sway your response.  We will not be the decider — nor, uh, the manipulator — of what is actually news.