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Beating the Odds

What the Tiger Woods Story Teaches

If nothing else, the Tiger Woods sage proves one thing: No one has it all.

Tiger certainly seemed to. He had money, fame and a new family. But now his image is in shambles, and who knows how he will move on from here?

Whatever happens, the story brings to mind the two biggest mistakes that competitors can make: First, they give their opponents too much credit; second, they don’t give themselves enough.

Great champions like Woods always carry a mystique. They seem other-worldly. But these troubles show just the opposite: Woods is very human. And that should help those who go up against him on Sunday afternoon. Why give him too much credit?

On the other hand, some people give themselves too little credit. They see only their flaws and not their strengths. They defeat themselves before others even have a chance to do so.

Herb Brooks understood these two mistakes when coached the United States hockey team to the Olympic gold medal in 1980. Going up against a Soviet team that seemed unbeatable, Brooks tried to humanize the foe. He noticed that Soviet star Boris Mikhailov resembled comedian Stan Laurel and used the comparison to make fun of him. At the same time, Brooks constantly suggested that SOMEONE was going to beat the Soviets. Why not his own team?

Like Brooks, Joe Namath never accepted the role of underdog. He guaranteed a Super Bowl victory — and delivered it — by refusing to give too much credit to the Baltimore Colts. When asked later how he could have been so sure the Jets could compete with a team that was favored by 18 points, Namath simply said, “I knew we were as good as they were.” How did he know it? From his college career.

Josh Beckett also refused to buy into mystique. In fact, he pushed back against it. When the Marlin were debating who should pitch in Game 6 of the 2003 World Series, Beckett supposedly said, “Gimme the ball. I’m tired of this Yankee stuff.” Whether or not the story is true, Beckett pitched a shutout and the Marlins won the Series.

So Woods now has less of a mystique. He may still be a great golfer, but perhaps people won’t give him more credit than he deserves.


2 comments for “What the Tiger Woods Story Teaches”

  1. Great thought, Mike, and I am fascinated to see whether this does dent Tiger’s extraordinary ability to win tournaments. One would think so, except that I’m reminded of the superhuman efforts of Ben Hogan and Franz Klammer (downhill racer)to come back to world champion level after almost fatal car accidents. Maybe, Tiger will pull off an emotional equivalent.

    Posted by Peter Hirsch | December 10, 2009, 9:15 am
  2. Ain’t that the truth Coach Tully

    The sooner kids know their strengths and weaknesses the better off they will be.

    We all have gifts which we need to be thankful for and use to the best of our ability.

    Posted by kevin reilly | December 10, 2009, 12:26 pm

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