By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) I was wrong.
I told myself that I was enough of a fan of PGA golf that the absence of one of the best athletes of my lifetime would not affect my enjoyment of the sport. Some part of me actually believed that I would be equally thrilled and entertained by the rest of the best in the world, after Tiger Woods was forced into exile and mediocrity by an ugly combination of tabloid hell and leg injuries.
Seriously, I’m an idiot. I probably would have been the guy in 1946 saying “Yeah, Curly’s real funny and everything, but it’s not really about him. I’ll be lining up for this Shemp guy.”
True greatness is rare enough. What almost never happens, though, is potential greatness becoming real faster than we ever imagined, and then transcending what seemed like impossibly high expectations.
Some of us enjoy sports for this phenomenon in particular, as we want historic talent to fulfill itself before our eyes, regardless of geography or team affiliation. We can look back on Ruth, Gretzky and Jordan and recognize what they were, with many able to appreciate their significance in real time as their careers established.
But Woods was (is?) unique. He was supposed to be great, was great immediately, and rocketed higher still on a trajectory alongside the best ever. We knew what we were seeing from the moment it began, understanding how extraordinary it was. And then it was over.
Today, he is ranked as the world’s 28th-best golfer.
Woods returns to action at this weekend’s Bridgestone Invitational, his knee and Achilles’ tendon declared healed, a new caddy in tow, and I’m rooting like hell for him.
I want my electric Sunday afternoons again. Nothing against affable Northern Irishmen of recent variety — be they sweet-swinging moppets, steely competitors or gray-haired blokes – but they don’t have me checking leaderboards on my phone at a tee-ball game, or glued to the HD action later as the shadows lengthen.
We have not replaced those galvanizing moments during majors when strangers cluster around screens to follow the roars and fist-pumps, watching with jaws agape as another approach backspin-zips to a spot three feet from the pin, or a wayward drive is saved by an intentionally-hooked seven iron from an impossible angle.
Here’s the simple image of the golf I now know I need. It’s a brown man in a red shirt and a black hat, hitting a white ball on green grass. I admire the talent of everybody else, but nothing replaces the great and important.
Woods is back, as we are reconciling the possibility that he may never be what he was. His window for prime-career play is closing, with the field more skilled than ever. He may never be…Back.
These stories don’t usually have movie-ready endings, but there is one that comes to mind when I think about this weekend and the 2011 PGA Championship next week:
Peter Parker, torn between fixing his messy personal life and living up to the responsibility thrust upon him by his super powers, sits in his apartment high above the city, when a siren wails in the distance. The question must be confronted – does he respond to the crisis, embracing his identity as someone compelled by his special abilities to do what others cannot?
His girlfriend, newly resolved in her commitment to him, provides the answer.
“Go get ‘em, Tiger.”
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s blogs here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
Listen to The Boers and Bernstein Show podcasts >>