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Some athletic perspective to fill the Bill

August 22, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

Perspective is like having a little sister or brother.

They are all there all the time, but you tend not to notice them. It goes that way for the longest time and then, all of a sudden, someone or something comes along and reminds you of their importance.

I have a sister and she'll probably tell you every word of that is true.

Perspective, though, pops up in some of the least likely places.

I found some long-lost perspective on Sunday. It hit like a lightning strike, and it hit at the oddest of times.

I had just met a man named Bill. After some idle conversation, the topic turned to sports. Bill is a very engaging sort. He is worldly because of all his travels and he has a sharp mind. Both keep him positive as he battles through some health problems.


Listening to Bill, you can tell he has some great things on his mind.

He has perspective.

We were talking about the PGA Championship and how Tiger Woods just ran away from the field in the final round.

Bill was impressed. He turned his head a little and said.

"Tiger has some amazing power. There are 20 million kids interested in golf because of him. No one has had that kind of power since Muhammad Ali and he did so much for boxing and sports and people in his time. He still is."

Bill made me stop and think a little. His perspective was something I needed. For the short term, it gave me a column idea, especially since it was my turn and I had my mind hovering on auto pilot because I had the weekend off.

But Bill hit something on the head. Love him or hate him, Tiger has a huge influence on our society. And like it or not, most athletes do.

That's why so many of them are pitchmen in commercials and spokesmen for certain charities. When they talk, kids - and a number of grownups - listen.

And after watching Woods play this weekend and, maybe more importantly, listening to what he said and watching his actions, there are a lot worse people out there to be cradling and guarding the tarnished image of sports.

Woods is everything that you could hope for an athlete to be. He is a once-in-a-generation type of competitor that makes everyone stop and take notice, not only in the U.S. but around the world.

Woods has worked hard for everything he now enjoys. He's been playing and practicing golf from the age of 3. It shows in his precision.

In listening to him, Woods knows his place in history and that many of the things that he is accomplishing are historic themselves. And yet, he honors golf and is a student of the game's history. He often remembers and speaks of the Jack Nicklauses, Arnold Palmers, Charlie Siffords and other legends who came before him, noting that he would never be where he is today without them.

And finally, Woods admits he's a product of his past.

He told interviewer Tom Rinaldi on SportsCenter that the reason he is so fearless and so driven in his life and profession is his family. He is a product of a mother's love and a father's guidance.

Woods spoke of how winning the British Open and the PGA wasn't the same since he couldn't share them with his father Earl, who died from cancer a few months ago. It was Earl's love and persistence that introduced the character of Woods' ways and the game that is now his profession.

Then, he pointed out that his mother and father taught him losing is a part of life, but play to win. Woods learned to accept losing but not to be satisfied by it. Winning was much better but it wasn't the only thing that drove him in his young life.

He said that his parents only expected him to compete as hard as possible. No matter if he won or he lost, there was one thing to remember.

"No matter what happened and no matter how I did, they let me know they loved me."

It's amazing how that works. There is a place in success for values, other than the numbers on a scorecard or zeros in a bank account.

Another athlete who came across as a positive role model this weekend was New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, a favorite of many Little Leaguers and female baseball fans alike (obviously for different reasons).

Jeter is another "love him or hate him" kind of guy, but his comments on Saturday about playing for the betterment of the team, a championship and the Yankees tradition over MVP votes rang true.

It is also amazing how the grounded athletes are the ones who seem to have the most success. They are also the ones who seem to readily accept it and its responsibilities.

Although they might not be perfect citizens, the persona of star players like Nicklaus and Palmer, Cal Ripken Jr. and Albert Pujols, Peyton Manning and Hines Ward and Michael Jordan and Larry Bird always seem to shine through. All seem to appreciate their status and the travels they have taken to get to where they now stand.

It is even more refreshing, especially now with the disturbing stories of Maurice Clarrett and former Maryland basketball player Lonny Baxter, who sit on the other end of the spectrum.

Now, thinking back, Bill hit all on the head in his unassuming way.

"Sports is in a lot of trouble now," he said. "It is so different. It used to be all about family."

Well, Bill, you're right. It is a dying breed, but it is still breathing as long as guys like Tiger are around to act as an ambassador.

In sports, Tiger Woods is the little brother growing up to keep everything in perspective.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at

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