I like movies and, in particular, movies that have a sense of reality to them. When it comes to sports movies, I have two movies that trump all others and, ironically, both are movies where the sport involved is golf. They are Dead Solid Perfect and The Legend of Bagger Vance. Both movies are about golfers who have inner turmoil in their lives and both overcome these demons in the movies.
In Dead Solid Perfect, Randy Quaid plays a golfer who just can’t get his game together enough to stay on the tour. He is off and on the tour and he makes a living playing money games with rich men and uses the money to support his dream. He is married to a woman in the movie played by Kathryn Harrold whose character could really give a flip about her husband’s career. They separate and Quaid shacks up with a waitress, who he thinks cares about him, and his golf game improves until he sees one of his friends putting the moves on his “girlfriend” from inside a TV trailer. He kicks her out and then learns his wife might have cancer. He breaks down and his game breaks down with him during the US Open. His inner demons boil out when he admits to her over the phone that he is scared that he will screw things up like he has his marriage and his life. It is a powerful moment that demonstrates that successful men are empowered by their wives if they know that their wife is there for him no matter what. Without that support, the hunt for success becomes the search for happiness in a hollow existence.
Bagger Vance is about a legendary young southern golfer who goes to war and is the sole survivor of his unit in WWI. All the people he leads into battle die except for him and the blame he puts on himself destroys his soul and destroys his faith. After the war, he just disappears. But during the Depression, he resurfaces as a lone drunk who the locals now cast off as a wartime casualty. When his old flame, arranges a tournament with Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen, the town nominates him to play and the tournament forces Junah to face his demons.
The character spends then next third of the movie trying to run from himself but his caddie, Bagger Vance, is determined to try to rebuild this fragile man. The metaphor that runs through this movie is one of redemption as Bagger Vance, played by Will Smith, is really God who has come to help Junah, Matt Damon, find his faith in himself again during this tournament. The struggle is intense because Junah’s soul has been shattered by an experience so intense and burned into his mind that he cannot escape it. The life he once had is gone and he cannot see away through it.
But after embarrassing himself for the first 18 holes, an interjection from God inspires Junah and he comes to life and his golf game is the beneficiary.
I think Tiger needs the same intervention. When his ex-wife shattered his rear windshield, she destroyed both the car and she shattered a built up wall of ego within him that he has not been able to rebuild. The life he had came down like the walls of Jericho and there was no one to blame but himself.
I can only imagine the intensity of the loneliness that hits at that moment.
It is not something I ever care to feel, but as he has come back on the golf scene, for the past year, he has been unable to put any kind of Tiger like run together and I think it is because he has not been able to rebuild his confidence to the level it was before the meltdown. Maybe it will come at the Masters this week, but I am not holding my breath. I hope for him it does some day happen and he can turn the corner, but it will only happen when he can come to terms with the train that he derailed all by himself and all the carnage that it did to people’s lives.
That is easier said than done. Tiger took the podium in February of 2010 and stated that he will again lean on the Buddhist teachings of his mother, but an examination of the teachings of Buddhism shows that although it may be a great way for him to invoke some self-discipline back into his life, there is no offer of redemption. That is what is needed most for Tiger-redemption.
Like Rannulph Junah, Tiger has to find a way to forgive himself for the pain and suffering he caused. I think that is what is holding his game back. People who have the Go button on constantly walk a fine line when managing their intensity, but there has to be an outlet for them to dump their issues and this is where Christianity comes to the fore. Its tenets allow him to lay down his burdens forever. Junah’s character in the movie comes to a point on the last nine holes where his new-found confidence has caused him to become cavalier about his golf game again. When he hits an errant shot into the woods, his fears come back and he relives the battle that has scarred him.
In that scene Bagger tells him that it is time to lay it down. Junah replies that he can’t and that he doesn’t know how. Bagger tells him that he has been with him all along and has brought him to this point. It is at this point that Junah realizes that God is there no matter what, and that God wants Junah to let him in so he can heal his pain. Junah accepts and he is redeemed. Buddhism cannot offer this to Tiger.
Tiger’s admitted quest of trying to beat Jack Nicklaus’ record for major championship is indirect violation of both the Second and Third Noble Truth of Buddhism. According to the Buddha, suffering is brought about by the craving for success (Second) and the Third Noble Truth claims that suffering will end when desires are eliminated. The desire to win a golf tournament as a golfer cannot be eliminated. If it does, there is no competitive fire.
Brit Hume, long time Fox News anchor, spoke to Tiger’s need to embrace Christ and Christianity to find the forgiveness within himself. I agree. Allowing Christ into your life allows an individual to separate himself from the sins he has committed. Christianity is based on God allowing his Son to suffer on the Cross for the sins of the world. Because of this sacrifice, we are redeemed and we can achieve salvation through the acceptance of Christ as our Lord and Savior.
I believe, like Brit Hume, that Christ is the only one who can calm the inner turmoil that lives inside Tiger Woods and I believe that if he would seek him, and achieve peace through him, both he and his golf game will be redeemed. Just like Rannulph Junah.