Some things I care about …
▪ The version of Tiger Woods who re-emerged for public interviews this week appeared healthy and happy, conditions that are equally important for a man who nearly lost his life, never mind a limb, in a horrific February car crash.
Appearing in the Bahamas as the host of his Hero World Golf Challenge, Woods was predictably obtuse about the details of his crash, brushing aside the one question he got by saying it’s all in the police report. Of course, that’s not really accurate, with a conclusion in the report that the accident was a result of high speed shedding no light on Woods’s condition while driving.
Frustrating, but maybe it doesn’t matter, given Woods’s admission that he doesn’t remember much anyway, calling himself “lucky” for not suffering flashbacks.
What he is lucky to be is alive, and in a conversation clearly infused with that perspective, the 45-year-old father of two seemed content to accept wherever this latest comeback delivers him, be it a part-time return to the PGA Tour, cart life on the Champions Tour, or a future of what he called “hit and giggle” golf with his children.
For an athlete who once pegged career success on surpassing Jack Nicklaus’s all-time major mark of 18, I thought his description of No. 15, which he won at the Masters in 2019, was most remarkable.
He was asked if it’s tough to have his career ended by an injury and not on his own terms.
“No, it’s very easy, given the fact that I was able to come back after the [spinal] fusion surgery and do what I did,” he said. “I got that last major and I ticked off two more events along the way.”
That last major. Good name for a future documentary.
▪ The loudest local voice against the ongoing human rights violations in China is the Celtics’ Enes Kanter Freedom, and kudos to him for standing his ground on an issue too easily overlooked by worldwide sports leagues and companies desperate for the economic benefits of working in China.
But credit to the Women’s Tennis Association as well, for continuing to stand by Peng Shuai, the 35-year-old former major doubleschampion who remains silenced and hidden by the Chinese government.
For all the hand-wringing about cancel culture in American political discourse, Shuai’s story is a reminder of what it truly means to live with no freedom of speech, to be punished and held captive for what you say.
Shuai’s crime? A blog post describing the long, tortured, and inappropriate sexual relationship she had with a leading Chinese Communist Party official. The post, as translated by the site chinachange.org —which describes its mission as helping Westerners “understand aspects of China’s political landscape that are the most censored and least understood” — is a heartbreaking mix of shame, anger, denial, and fear.
It also was taken down within 30 minutes of its posting, and when Shuai subsequently disappeared from public view, the tennis world began to react. Yet while the notoriously corrupt International Olympic Committee played right into China’s hands by conducting a private video chat and claiming it as evidence all is right with her, its motives in advance of the Winter Olympics are dubious. Senior IOC member Dick Pound told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour he was “really puzzled” by our skepticism and actually expected us to believe him.
Credit WTA chair Steve Simon for seeing through the charade, and for his willingness to put economics aside and pull events from China without a satisfactory resolution. As he said, “I remain concerned about Peng Shuai’s health and safety and that the allegation of sexual assault is being censored and swept under the rug. I have been clear about what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads.”
▪ The college coaching carousel spun off its axis this week and who knows how, or if, it ever gets righted. First, it was Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley getting a deal from USC so egregiously lucrative it’s almost impossible to believe, coming as it does with 24/7 access to private jets, above-price sale of existing homes, and full purchase of a million-dollar relocation home, all while the athletes who play the actual games that foot those bills had to wage years-long legal battles just to profit off their own names, images, and likenesses.
But then it was Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly leaving in the dead of night for LSU, walking away from his team while it remains in the mix for a national championship.
If you ever took a shot at an NFL-bound player choosing to skip a bowl game for fear of injury, it’s time to reevaluate your thinking. And if you have issues with the crowded transfer portal turning into some type of free agency for the players, remember they are NOT paid. It’s the coaches who are, and they are the ones free to leave whenever they want, no matter what is at stake for their teams.
The NCAA system is broken.
▪ Have to wonder what Bruce Arena will do now, after his Revolution lost their opening playoff game Tuesday night. The penalty-kick loss to New York City FC was a gut-punch finish to an incredible season, one in which the veteran coach pushed his team above any conceivable expectations and took the franchise’s first Supporters’ Shield.
But at 70, with a lot of soccer at his back and plenty of family by his side, Arena, not surprisingly, hasn’t committed to coaching a fourth season in New England. Next season won’t be easy, not with young star Tajon Buchanan finally off to join Club Brugge, but here’s hoping the Krafts not only sign some new talent, but convince Arena to return as well.
Arena’s turn in the spotlight did lead to this great tweet, with credit to Chris Ballard: “When the Revs finally get around to building a new stadium (circa 2079), they should call it The Bruce Arena.”
▪ The most impressive golf feat of the year comes from the LPGA’s Jin Young Ko (with credit to colleague James Hoban for pointing it out). Ko hit 63 consecutive greens in the CME Group Championship, the LPGA’s version of the Tour Championship.
With so much at stake — Ko needed to finish second behind anyone other than Olympic gold medalist Nelly Korda to win Player of the Year — and without any practice because of a sore wrist, Ko shot 23 under. She won by a shot.
Korda was the year’s breakthrough star, with her first major to go along with gold in Japan, but credit to Ko, whose ability to chip and putt with such accuracy more than makes up for her lack of driving distance. In 17 events this season, she notched 13 top 10s. It’s Tigeresque.
▪ Yet another story about hazing and bullying in high school sports, this time at national powerhouse Mater Dei in California. Much like the work done by the Globe in uncovering the corrupted culture of Danvers hockey, the Orange County Register obtained video of a brutal initiation practice at Mater Dei, which included bare-knuckle fights in the locker room and resulted in a young player suffering a traumatic brain injury.
The school finally commissioned an independent investigation Tuesday, only after the details of the February incident went public.