Where Are Tiger's 'Cablinasian' Backers?
The revelations went from every day to every hour after Eldrick Tont Woods slammed his Escalade into that fire hydrant and tree during Thanksgiving Weekend. Now there isn't a nanosecond that passes without something else happening in the suddenly endless soap opera called As The Tiger Goes From Roaring to Purring.
This feels like that O.J. thing.
Not only that, the coverage of Michael Vick's dogfighting issues was in the vicinity of white Broncos, bloody gloves and Johnny Cochran.
To a lesser extent, there were those controversies for the Keeping It Real King named Allen Iverson, otherwise known as A.I., or The Answer, or just plain trouble, especially since he wasn't practicing. There also was that other initials guy, T.O., and his messes, combined with those of other NFL knuckleheads of yore, ranging from Randy Moss to Chad Whatever He Wishes To Be Called These Days.
Oh, and Barry Bonds was heavily scrutinized after word surfaced that he ripped home runs by doing more than just eating all of his vegetables.
Here's my point: During the early and intense stretches when the media continued to spend every news cycle exposing the personal flaws of O.J., Vick, Iverson and the rest, there was a different response inside the African-American community to those athletes who happen to be black compared to its response to Woods who happens to be, well, I'll get to that in a moment.
Those other athletes had one of the world's most supportive casts. They had an overwhelming number of folks in the African-American community standing firmly and loudly behind them -- no matter what. They had Jesse and Al waiting to pounce in the background, if they hadn't done so already. They had black ministers across the country asking for special prayers in their name. They had folks in barbershops throughout African-American communities talking about conspiracies.
Mostly, despite everything those in black America had seen or heard about the events surrounding O.J., Vick, Iverson and the rest, they had unconditional love.
For Woods, not so much.
Actually, not at all, and Woods has nobody to blame but Woods.
It goes back to April 1997 when he famously took a nine-iron to the face of blacks by telling Oprah Winfrey on her couch that he wasn't black. He said he wasn't white, either. He said, given that his father is black and that his mother is Asian, he spent his youth inventing a word for himself called "Cablinasian."
Just like that, in the hearts of many African-Americans, Woods was on his own. They still cherished his splendid journey in search of becoming more prolific than Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. That's because they still viewed Tiger as black, whether he liked it or not. It's just that, despite O.J. and Bonds, for instance, who joined Woods in having mixed marriages to the chagrin of some, and despite O.J. and Bonds going to extremes to project colorless images throughout their careers, they never pushed away their African-American heritage in a dramatic way.
Tiger did. In fact, he did so by mentioning that Cablinasian silliness with his black father smiling by his side on national television.
I was among a slew of African-Americans who weren't amused back then, and I wrote as much as a sports columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Journal Constitution. The headline said everything you need to know about the tone of my column: "Wake up, Tiger. This is America and that means you're black."
Needless to say, television and radio airways sizzled over my Tiger comments deep in the heart of Dixie. This was before e-mail became popular, so the newspaper was flooded with phone messages, letters and faxes.
In the midst of it all, I got a call at home from Chicago.
Somebody named "Oprah" was on the other line.
"Yes, this really is Oprah," said THAT Oprah, adding that she was a frequent reader of my column. She wanted me to appear on her show the following week to discuss, not only what I wrote about Tiger's "Cablinasian" statement, but about Fuzzy Zoeller's remarks after Woods won the first of his four Masters that spring. Let's just say that Zoeller wasn't exactly gracious after he bombed in Augusta, Ga., back then while the upstart Woods crushed his competition.
As Zoeller headed for the clubhouse, somebody asked his opinion of Tiger's rout. "He's doing quite well, pretty impressive," Zoeller said. "That little boy is driving well, and he's putting well. He's doing everything it takes to win."
Then Zoeller thought about the Master's Club Championship Dinner that features the previous year's winner selecting the menu. Zoeller said, "So you know what you guys do when (Woods) gets in here? You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it?"
Afterward, Zoeller smirked, snapped his fingers and added while walking away from the cameras, "Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve."
To translate: Zoeller thought Woods was black -- you know, whether Woods liked it or not, and that's what I said on Oprah's show. In addition, I repeated what I wrote for the Atlanta newspaper, "Tiger Woods is fooling himself to think that just because he's Tiger Woods, he has transcended everything else in society. This is the real world, and in the real world of America, the one-drop rule still applies.
"Tiger, you're not green. You're not yellow. You're not purple. You're not Asian. You're not Cablinasian. You're black."
Now, 12 years after I delivered those remarks to Tiger, Oprah and the nation, Tiger still is black. That said, whether he views himself as black, Asian, Cablinasian or Martian, it doesn't matter. He is in trouble. He is getting pounded by legitimate and illegitimate reports about everything you can imagine. His slew of mistresses (almost exclusively blondes, just like his wife). The possibility that he was under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs when he crashed his SUV near his home nearly two weeks ago and several non-Tiger news conferences ago. The fact that the image that he carefully nurtured as Wally Cleaver was a fraud.
He really was Eddie Haskell.
It's all a shame, really. So is the fact that most of black America couldn't care less, because that's the way Woods wanted it.