Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tiger Woods: Where is the (word) Love?

Driving to Capitol Hill, I did a double take. Out of the corner of my eye I saw “The Catch,” an iconic image—for Bay Area sports fans in particular—towering above the entrance to the Newseum. Underscored by the word “ATHLETE,” I deduced they must be running an exhibit. Indeed, Athlete: Sports Illustrated Photography of Walter Iooss was running through December 31—that very day. What luck!

The work of Walter Iooss has graced the cover of SI more than any other photographer. “Athlete” promised to display familiar images such as "Air" Jordan dunking or Joe Namath in a poolside lounge chair “holding court” with reporters, beside some unfamiliar ones—children playing bĂ©isbol in Cuba, or champion surfer Kelly Slater, his board and those...Hawaiian waves. “Every picture tells a story, yes, but for certain photos in this collection Iooss has chosen to tell the story behind the picture.”

About three images into the exhibit, a breath-taking print of Tiger Woods at the tee caught my attention. I stood gazing at its distinctive lighting while my mom read the “back story.” In light of recent events, it was impossible not to gaze and stand in wonder. The silence around me was deafening, until my mom leaned over to me and said sardonically, “Don’t get too close to Tiger.” I had nothing to say. Silence resumed as my mom shifted her gaze to the image and I read the description:

The first time I followed Tiger Woods I wanted to recreate a picture Hy Peskin once took of Ben Hogan. I wanted to do it with an old-fashioned 4-by-5 Crown Graphic camera, which meant I had to get close. And getting close to Tiger is a problem. I was really on the edge of the rules. At one point, his caddie Steve Williams, came over and said “Excuse me, mate, have you covered a golf tournament before?” I’d covered about 15 majors, but I just said “Yes, sir.” From that point on, he and Tiger kept looking at because I was still too close.

About six months later, I shot Tiger for the cover of Sports Illustrated and finally met him. I mentioned how I’d covered him that day and said, “Did you notice me?” He said, “Every hole.”

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Iooss (pronounced Yose) said those words “…getting close to Tiger is a problem” in 2007. For those of us who did, his “transgressions” were disappointing. Although my friend Kevin thinks it comes down to two words: Who cares? I do. Golf does. Perhaps you disagree.

And from the other perspective, in no way was I surprised to read that Tiger saw Iooss at “every hole.” Tiger is renowned for his extreme attention to detail. He is the master of discipline. So when Tiger made his first public statement on Friday, February 19
I was surprised not by what I heard--no doubt it was scripted,rehearsed, even choreographed, but rather by what I did not hear. Woods assumed full responsibility for his selfish actions. He acknowledged the many people he has hurt, even his foundation. He apologized and articulated how much work he has to do. Yet, he never once said the word “love.” This man— driven by discipline, who notices everything from an unknown photographer to the tiniest undulation on the course, did not say “I love my wife” or “I love my children,” or even “I love golf.” I think that says a lot.

I believe however, there is hope for Tiger. If the sum of his other words are true, and if he chooses to channel his level of discipline to his personal life, my recommendation is that he read the words of M. Scott Peck, MD from “The Road Less Traveled.” In it, Peck defines "Love," and what it asks of us. It is an act of the will, it is not effortless, it leads to spiritual growth. Perhaps Tiger lost sight of this along the way.

Tiger, read on. Perhaps this will serve as your new "back story." I look forward to corresponding image.

Love Defined
Discipline, it has been suggested, is the means of human spiritual evolution. The force that provides the motive, the energy for this discipline, is Love.

In attempting to examine love one must be conscious that one is trying to define the mysterious and the inexplicable. In the face of the mystery of love misconception about it abound. Love is too large, too deep ever to be truly understood or measured or limited within the framework of words.

Nonetheless, the broad definition is thus: The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.

This is a teleological definition; the behavior is defined in terms of the goal it seems to serve – in this case, spiritual growth.

Often, what seems to be love is not love at all. One of the major distinguishing features seems to be the conscious or unconscious purpose in the mind of the lover or non-lover.

It may be noticed that, as defined, love is a strangely circular process. For the process of extending one’s self is an evolutionary process. When one has successfully extended one’s limits, one has then grown into a larger state of being. Thus the act of loving is an act of self-evolution even when the purpose of the act is someone else’s growth. It is through reaching through toward evolution that we evolve.

The unitary definition of love includes self-love with love for the other. Since I am human and you are human, to love humans means to love myself as well as you. To be dedicated to human spiritual development is to be dedicated to the race of which we are part, and this therefore means dedication to our own development as well as “theirs”.

Ultimately, self-love and love for others are indistinguishable, yet it is impossible to forsake our own spiritual development in favour of someone else’s.
The act of extending one’s limits implies effort. When we love someone, our love becomes demonstrable or real only through our exertion – through the fact that for that someone (or oneself) we take an extra step, or walk an extra mile. Love is not effortless. To the contrary, it is effortful.

By the use of the word “will” an attempt is made to transcend the distinction between desire and action. Desire is not necessarily translated into action. Will is desire of sufficient intensity that it is translated into action. The difference between the two is like the difference between “I would like to do it” and “I will do it." Everyone in our culture desires to some extent to be loving, yet many do not in fact love. Thus the desire to love is not itself love. Love is as love does. Love is an act of will – both an intention and an action. We choose to love. When we actually exert ourselves in the cause of spiritual growth, it is because we have chosen to do so. Then the choice to love has been made.

*Special thanks to Allison Howard for encouraging me to write about Tiger

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Mike Singletary: Man on a Mission
The Singletarys: Family With a Mission Statement

It might seem odd to post a story about Mike Singletary on the evening before the Super Bowl. Besides, after last year's half time show what's left to say?
Undoubtedly, the Saints are a compelling story, as they represent a city that knows all that the spiritual life entails--"aching pain & delicious hope." Their opponent, led by the goodness that is Peyton Manning is as "controversial as a turkey sandwich from the gas station". No evil enemy, no proverbial axe to grind. Perhaps this is why the only controversy I have heard around the championship game of the NFL (apart from the fact Jeremy Shockey's voice in no way matches his physique) pertains to an ad that holds a pro-life message that will run. Although it is about Tim Tebow, Singletary & he share a common history. Today, it is widely recognized that they are both men on a mission, with a mission. I have wanted to write about Singletary ever since Ted Robinson told me about a compelling story in the San Jose Mercury News. Upon completion of his career as a football player, Singletary did the dishes, a whole lot of housework and drafted a mission statement for this family. A mission statement for his family? Who does that?! Mike Singletary, that's who. Read on.

It is impossible to look at Forty Niner head coach, Mike Singletary and not recognize there is something different about him. You need not know anything about football or what makes an athlete a Hall of Fame linebacker to understand he is a man of purpose, he settles for nothing but the best. Truly, he is a man on a mission.

A firm presence both on and off the field, to say Singletary is “a man of good moral fiber” is a near insult. Let’s not mince words, he is a virtual moral “tower of power.” He addresses men as “Sir,” he wears a wooden cross, and speaks slowly, passionately and thoughtfully. And, he is one tough interview.

Brian Murphy co-host of the “Murph and Mac” radio show speaks on the air with Coach Singletary the morning after every Niner game. Singletary says what he means and means what he says. His remarks although candid, deliberate and important are often stoic, even terse. If you make an attempt to probe deeper, he will say “I don’t want to talk about that anymore;” stalemate. I can recall several times whereby upon completion of an interview, all Murph was able to say was simply—nothing. Rather, at long last he would—exhale. And I so did I, a humble listener, the bipartisan fan.
Perhaps this is why Murph and I were so drawn to the December 2009 interview by Santa Rosa Press Democrat sports writer Lowell Cohn. The 4000 word transcript (!) is deeply personal. How Cohn was able to engage Singletary in this way is beyond me ( and I’ll speak for both Murph and Mac on this one, for them too). Although I do not have the answer, I am glad he did, and that "The Cohn Zone" posted the interview in 4 parts.

Cohn wrote: Some have complained Singletary may be interesting but that doesn't make him a good coach. Fair enough. This interview does not address his coaching abilities. I simply am trying to reveal the fascinating personality of the man who coaches the 49ers. To me that's worthwhile in itself. I hope you feel that way too.

Most surprising to me is that Singletary and Tim Tebow share a similar story, one that will be revealed during Super Bowl XLIV in an ad that has garnered much controversy. Tebow’s mother, Pam got sick while on a mission trip to the Philippines. Already the mother of four, she ignored a recommendation by her doctor to abort the child.

Cohn's interview revealed that Singletary's mother faced a similar predicament.
Before I was born the doctors really told my mom she should strongly consider having an abortion because Mom was a little older. I think she was close to 40 and had had several miscarriages and they just felt I would have a really tough time being a normal child and having a normal birth. So that was not an option for my mom or my dad and they just prayed and trusted God. It worked out that when I was born I did have some issues, bronchitis and had trouble breathing, pneumonia, in and out of the hospital for maybe the first six, seven years of my life. I remember sleeping in a tent, bubble kind of thing as a kid.

It’s as if the circumstances that surrounded their decisions not to abort have colored Tebow and Singletary’s worlds. Tebow continues to go on mission trips to the Philippines where he tends to the sick.
And the truth of the matter is all these years later, Mike Singletary is not normal. He is the only player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame to have his wife introduce him at the induction ceremony. Furthermore, he is the only father I know who has drafted a mission statement for his family that hangs in the home.

“The Home of Champions” chronicles how the Singletarys are a model of support and how “one night at the dinner table, Mike came up with the idea of creating a family mission statement. The statement still hands in their kitchen. It reads.

This is the home of champions. As Singletarys we will always strive to do our very best in all we do. We will strive to be honest and respect each other’s feelings, property and time. We will always pray for one another, fight for one another and encourage one another. For our trust be not in our home, nor our money or status or knowledge, but in each other, and above all, in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

”That was one of those moments when it hit me that, ‘Wow, this is so different from other people’s families," Kristen Singletary said.

Forty-Niner faithful know of this man’s mission. His m.o. “We want winners” has become the unofficial anthem of a team who longs for another Super Bowl title. But, you can’t look at this man on the field and believe it ends there. Without a doubt, Mike Singletary is different; he is not normal. Yet when Mike Singletary speaks to his players, the fans, and his family, you can’t help but believe he "wants winners" because he is one. Seeing IS believing.

*I would like to thank my student Kelli for passing along the article from the SF Chronicle about Tebow's Pro-Life message.
**I would also like to thank Ted Robinson, ND Grad and now voice of the Niners for sharing the San Jose Mercury News article about the Singletary Family with me