|Why I'm hooked on Tiger's
HEARING ANDY RODDICK’S pithy kitchen-sink summary after the men’s Wimbledon final last weekend, I felt an atavistic urge. I wrote it down. Since listening to sportsmen is no longer my job, there was no practical reason for me to make a note, but I don’t know, it was a remark of such excellence that it just demanded to be recorded. “I threw the kitchen sink at him (Roger Federer),” Roddick quipped, “but he went to the bathroom and got the bath tub.”
“A spot-on metaphor,” I sighed. “Delivered with wit and originality,” I added. “And pith,” I appended as a dreamy afterthought. The first thing you notice as a sportswriter, you see, is that sportsmen don’t come up with sparkling gold-dust very often. And although a tendency towards heavy linguistic river-sludge shouldn’t really be held against people who speak so eloquently with foot, club or bat, I must admit that I grew to hate Alan Shearer over a four-year period as much for his staunch refusal to say anything remotely noteworthy as for his strange idea that you should walk, not run, at key England striker moments in international football tournaments.
But there was one person it was always worth
listening to, and that was Tiger Woods — despite all his conspicuous efforts
to be the blandest interviewee in the history of the world. “I played pretty
good out there,” may be the smilingly, shruggingly upbeat Tiger response at
the end of each day, regardless of whether he’s gone round in 66 or 82. But
when he is pressed to describe his bogey on the 12th, he just can’t help
himself. Weird descriptive gifts kick in, willy-nilly.
Now there are two ways of looking at this. First, just as furry-hooded
polar dwellers are supposed to develop specialist vocabulary for the
varieties of frozen precipitation, so a golfer of brilliance surely starts
to become dissatisfied with words such as “hook” and “fade”. Ultimately he
will reach for metaphor and onomatopoeia. When Tiger says he “rips” his
shots, nobody struggles with the meaning, after all. “Fat” may not usually
be taken for a transitive verb, but — as people have often pointed out to me
recently — language is dynamic and must always be allowed to move on.
How will Tiger fare this week? Having failed to win each of the past eight major tournaments, he has not adapted his demeanour noticeably. He still puts a positive gloss on things. And so long as he continues to shave his shots, or chunk-and-run, the golf correspondents will write it down.
Whether he will ever come up with something to match the brilliance of Roddick’s kitchen-sink analogy remains to be seen. But it’s comforting to know that, even if he doesn’t, the cool exterior of Tiger hides some sort of struggle within.