Two Peas in a Pod: Tiger & Obama

by Norman Berdichevsky (May 2010)

The two most imposing figures in American professional sports and politics over the past few years have many characteristics in common, so much so, they could be called two peas in a pod. Each capitalized on good looks, youth, a multi-racial heritage, undeniable talent, record breaking ability in their careers, and a manufactured IMAGE that has succeeded in duping millions of Americans into believing that they were worthy individuals who deserved unlimited trust and affection. Each has been revealed as scheming, fraudulent, and narcissistic, totally hypocritical in adopting a feigned religiosity and ready to abandon all pretence at high ideals in order to pursue an agenda that would assure their place in history and the record books.   

As young men, Barak Obama and Tiger Woods were driven by the enormous desire to overcome what was generally regarded as their “handicap”; a multiracial background that made of each an “outsider” competing in two of the most competitive fields of endeavor of professional life in America – politics and championship golf. Their reach for the stars was rewarded beyond the wildest dreams of those who deeply endorse the most optimistic and enthusiastic view of American society, the crucial ingredient of which, is MERIT. It certainly was not a case of success being forecast by birth, social status, money, connections, or “affirmative action”, and yet both have, with their own shortsighted, intensely arrogant overconfidence, paved the way for their inevitable downfall. 

The feigned humility of Obama and Woods stands in blinding contrast to the true modesty of Hank Aaron following his lifetime achievement of surpassing Babe Ruth’s homerun record. Aaron, like other Black stars – Jackie Robinson, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billy Holiday, Joe Louis, Sammy Davis Junior and Louis Armstrong, all deserve to be recalled by their elevation of American culture to world-wide prominence, the simple pleasure and inspiration they provided to millions here and abroad, their generosity, integrity, yes – even the nobility of their character, and the dedicated service they paid to their homeland beyond sports and entertainment in refuting the ugly lies hurled at the United States by proponents of Soviet style communism. They were entitled to more than a Noble Prize for the elimination of the vestiges of real racism in our country and a major contribution by their art and personal example to a more peaceful world. Each was celebrated and then mourned in the minds and hearts of tens of millions of fans all over the world without the idolatrous hype-glitz demonstrated by the mass media for Tiger, Obama and Michael Jackson.

Without these early pioneers in the areas of sports and entertainment, a Martin Luther King Junior would not have so successfully been able to shame many white Americans for betrayal of the promises of the Constitution and the vision of a multiracial society where people would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character and by their abilities and talents. King’s rhetoric came directly from our Judeo-Christian heritage with quotes that 95% of the American public knew from their childhood whether or not they were members of a church or synagogue.

King spoke to all of us in terms that were intimately and immediately familiar from the Bible, both the Old and New Testament. We all strongly believed that the civil rights cause would not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”(Amos 5:24).He had a dream that “One day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” Isaiah 40: 4-5. Of course, these same Hebrew prophets envisioned the Return of the People of Israel to their land (2,500 years before the Holocaust and 1,300 years before the birth of Muhammad and start of Islam), and must therefore be regarded by the President as an “impediment to peace”.  

Were he alive today, Martin Luther King would instantly recognize the deep spiritual malaise and betrayal of the nation he loved so dearly. What could be more reprehensible to the values he preached than the disgraceful image of the deep bowing of a Black American President to a Saudi King, representing the culture and the religion that did more to spread slavery than any other, and the Emperor of Japan, his connections with mentors, close associates and supporters like the Reverend Wright, Father Pfleger, Louis Farrakhan, Bil Ayers, Tony Rezko, Rashid Khalidi, Rod Blagoyevich and the President’s persistent apathy, passivity, or fear of appearing in a church next to a cross?

Dr. Martin Luther King for all his virtues, had his weaknesses and was not a saint but he was both an idealist and a realist. Whatever his faults, he never lost sight of the goal for his people and not a primary concern for his own fame and elevation. Like Moses, he was only permitted to view the Promised Land from afar (“I have been to the mountain top”). For Obama and Tiger their accomplishments are cast primarily in their own personal quest for “history” and “records.”

Before his election, Obama sought inspiration in the messages of the most deviant,  bombastic, and most divisive congregations in the land that glorify Black separatism and hatred for American society as cruel and unjust. Now the President avoids invoking God altogether but he has won the ignoble Noble Prize, a golden calf replica of the 21st century.

In contrast to Obama, Tiger has, emphasized the different ethnic and racial strains of his mixed ancestry although the media and Black organizations and media have frequently emphasied only the Black part of his heritage to cast him as a “role model”. From childhood, Tiger was raised as a Buddhist and “practiced” this faith until well into his adult career. Since the revelations of his many infidelities, he has publicly attributed his deviations from the narrow path of his childhood faith to “losing track of Buddhism”. He said that “Buddhism teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously I lost track of what I was taught.” Obviously; obvious only after he was caught. What evidence have we seen of Tiger’s return to the old values he learned as a child?; nothing as yet.

Likewise, Obama’s attempt to mollify public opinion following the decreasing support for the Health Care Bill and the enormous reactions generated by the Tea Party Movement was no less hypocritical than Tiger’s return to the Buddhist fold. His public hearing to “work out a compromise” and obviously phony “reach out across the aisle” just prior to the final House vote did nothing to accept any Republican input to take on board proposals that would take away any “credit” from his “historical” (i.e. hysterical) achievement.  A large part of the public including many of Tiger’s former fans have grown tired of the repeated apologies after at first stonewalling all inquiries about the accident with the fire hydrant.  His circular way of dodging issues is put in the shade by Obama, who petulantly belittles, demeans and ridicules his opponents, expecting them to be grateful for all he believes he has done for them. 

Woods was born in Cypress, California to Earl (1940-2006) and Kultida (Tida) Woods (born 1944). He is the only child of their marriage but has two half-brothers. His father was a United States Army Lieutenant Colonel and Vietnam War veteran, of mixed African-American, Chinese and Native American ancestry. His mother Kultida (
née Punsawad), originally from Thailand, is of mixed Thai, Chinese, and Dutch ancestry. This makes Woods himself only one-quarter African American, one-eighth Native American, and one-eighth Dutch yet he is universally regarded as a “Black” golf star. He refers to his own ethnic make-up as “Cablinasian, i.e. half Asian (one-quarter Chinese and one-quarter Thai). The term is his own invention, (Caucasian, Black, Indian and Asian). At birth, Woods was given ‘Eldrick’ and ‘Tont’ as first and middle names. His middle name, Tont is a traditional Thai name. He got the nickname from a Vietnamese soldier friend of his father, Vuong Dang Phong. He became generally known by that name and by the time he had achieved national prominence in junior and amateur golf, he was simply known as ‘Tiger’ Woods.

During the campaign, Obama in the Iowa caucus primary emphasized his mother’s Mid-American background, her work in a defense plant and the white side of his family. Since his ascension to the presidency, I cannot recall them being mentioned once. In Dreams from My Father (p.101), Barack Obama writes about his time at Occidental College in Los Angeles and brings up the subject on Joyce, a girl like him and Tiger, with a multiracial background yet castigates her pride in equally celebrating all racial and ethnic strains in her heritage.


She was a good-looking woman, Joyce was with her green eyes and honey skin and pouty lips. We lived in the same dorm my freshman year, and all the brothers were after her. One day I asked her if she was going to the Black Students’ Association meeting. She looked at me funny, then started shaking her head like a baby who doesn’t want what it sees on the spoon.

“I’m not black,” Joyce said. “I’m multiracial.” Then she started telling me about her father, who happened to be Italian and was the sweetest man in the world; and her mother, who happened to be part African and part French and part Native American and part something else. “Why should I have to choose between them?” she asked me. Her voice cracked, and I thought she was going to cry. “It’s not white people who are making me choose. Maybe it used to be that way, but now they’re willing to treat me like a person. No — it’s black people who always have to make everything racial. They’re the ones making me choose. They’re the ones who are telling me that I can’t be who I am …”
Is this amazing revelation in his own hand, not an incriminating self-analysis that Obama indeed rejected that part of his family which did not serve his political ambitions? In his books, he characterizes even his white grandmother as guilty of racial prejudices in spite of her being a “decent person”. His explanation about Joyce’s preference for all parts of her multi-ethnic, multi-racial identity is indeed revealing. He could have just as well used Tiger Woods as an example. He refers to “people like Joyce” as follows…..

“They, they, they. That was the problem with people like Joyce. They talked about the richness of their multicultural heritage and it sounded real good, until you noticed that they avoided black people; To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets. We smoked cigarettes and wore leather jackets. At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism, and patriarchy. When we ground out our cigarettes in the hallway carpet or set our stereos so loud that the walls began to shake, we were resisting bourgeois society’s stifling conventions. We weren’t indifferent or careless or insecure. We were alienated.

But this strategy alone couldn’t provide the distance I wanted, from Joyce or my past. After all, there were thousands of so-called campus radicals, most of them white and tenured and happily tolerant. No, it remained necessary to prove which side you were on, to show your loyalty to the black masses, to strike out and name names.”

Glorifying his own alienation and using every ploy to distance himself from Joyce on the verge of tears; this was the road Obama chose. Would he advise Tiger to fill out the new census form as only “Afro-American” or allow him the choice of “mixed racial ancestry”, given what we know he wrote about “people like Joyce”? I don’t know and don’t care. Both Joyce and Tiger as well as any of us have the right to define ourselves. Where this right is honored, no collective right can be dishonored or privileged above others. What useful information does the Census gain by its listing of racial categories except to provide fodder for those who claim to speak for “communities” and for ambitious politicians ready to lead them?

Two minor but revealing incidents involving a brush with the police demonstrate the fundamental similarity of the exalted status both Obama and Tiger regard as their prerogative. In July, 2009, without waiting to hear any of the substantive information from the Cambridge Police Department and acting on the complaint of a close personal friend and Harvard University “academic expert” on race, Professor Henry Louis Gates Junior, who had been arrested for disorderly conduct, the President labeled action by Sergeant Crowley as “stupid”. The subsequent facts and knowledge of the Sergeant’s outstanding record for integrity and reputation in racial matters including having taught a course on racial profiling, as well as the full endorsement of Chief of the Cambridge Chief of Police, forced official Whitehouse spokesman, the notoriously inept Robert Gibbs, to backtrack and employ a Newspeak interpretation of the President’s words, stating, Let me be clear; he was not calling the officer stupid. I think that the circumstances are so egregious that it was the adjective that … logically popped into his head.” (sic ! ? ?) 

In late November 2009, the Florida Highway Patrol records also show that troopers ran into resistance following the citation issued to Tiger Woods for “reckless driving” when they tried to investigate whether Woods was under the influence of alcohol or drugs while behind the wheel of his car in the wee hours of the morning.

When troopers went to the hospital, Health Central in Ocoee, where Woods was being treated, they were told the records department was closed. When they returned, they were told that the computer system wasn’t working. When they attempted to subpoena Woods’ medical records, Assistant State Attorney Steve Foster said there was insufficient evidence. Woods’ story about how his wife “rescued him” by using a golf club to smash car windows to extricate him was pathetically transparent. It was only after all this that the Highway Patrol declared its investigation over and gave Woods nothing beyond a $164 ticket for careless driving. His initial refusal to provide additional comment only fueled speculation that led to the subsequent findings of his scandalous extra-marital behavior on an unprecedented scale (even for jaded celebrities). At least Tiger had the good sense to consult former (Republican) Whitehouse spoksman Ari Fleischer to try and repair some of the damage.

The rush to judgment by President Obama to vindicate his Harvard Professor friend and the avoidance of all police attempts to probe further into the affair of Tiger’s collision with the fire hydrant are two sides of the same coin. Neither “celebrity” had any patience for the police to follow an investigation and trace where it led because they each believed they could exercise an entitlement to special privilege due to who they are.  

In Tiger’s case, this loss of popularity was only among those who had chosen to view him as a role model beyond golf but for the President it has meant a steady loss of affection and support across the board since his 2008 electoral victory. The reasons are amazingly similar. They spring from their unbridled arrogance and innate confidence that past success and public adulation, cultivated by a thoroughly sympathetic media, unequalled in politics or sports, enables them to do anything and get away with it. It matters little whether the issue is multiple infidelities, posing as a role model or defying public sentiment in ramming through the Health Care Bill, eliminating all references to Islamic extremism by a President who wishes to see, hear and smell no evil and a dozen other issues, both foreign and domestic. Both Obama and Tiger believed and behaved according to the dictate “Yes, we can.”

On his second appearance in active competition at the end of April after his self-imposed exile, Tiger did not make the cut at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, finishing nine above par. He had to walk off the course with his head bowed amidst jeering, boos and more than a few “thumbs down” from the “fans.” Never before in competition, had he been so humiliated. He then withdrew from competition in the next event, complaining of a “pain in the neck”. The media love nothing more than building up a hero and icon in order to tear him/her down and what a fall awaits Obama! Whether it comes from the exasperation of voters convinced they were bamboozled by his promises or a combination of the hidden details of his real birth certificate, dual citizenship, his unreleased college records, previous passports, involvement in Kenyan politics or simply the fall out from the Chicago Democratic state machine, hoodlums/media sharks/religious charlatans/Acorn connections/PLO apologists who were his close associates and allies, the die is waiting to be cast.

There is one significant difference between the two “Yes, we can men.” Tiger has honed his golfing skills to an unprecedented level and it is likely that he will be able to maintain that ability for championship play for many years, if not decades to come. It took Obama less than a year to demonstrate he WAS NEVER FIT for the job. 


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Norman Berdichevsky contributes regularly to The Iconoclast, our Community Blog. Click here to see all his contributions, on which comments are welcome. 



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