Tiger Woods Enhances Legend with Presidential Medal of Freedom
With the well-earned hysteria over the 2019 Masters beginning to subside at last, the celebrations keep coming for Tiger Woods. One in particular caught my attention, not so surprising since the American president is an avid golfer. According to the White House, Tiger is to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor available in the states. It can go to a military figure or a foreigner as well, which also made me wonder as to its broadness. The Medal of Freedom, translated into kitchen table English, is given for protecting or enhancing the country in its world setting, breakthroughs in various sorts of medical or technological achievement, political and diplomatic wizardry, or to just about anyone who did their job insanely well. In terms of golf, few will argue that Woods has “done his job” insanely well, surmounting seemingly insurmountable barriers along the way. However, it still seems to me as though that Medal of Freedom should be divided into categories to distinguish in some way the type of performance that is being hailed.
The American president is not so out-of-bounds on this one in terms of precedent. On the “protection and national interest” side of things, individuals such as Margaret Thatcher, two presidents, two Supreme Court justices, Joe Biden and Mother Theresa stand among the noted recipients. However, other winners include Elvis Presley, Bear Bryant, Babe Ruth, Roger Staubach, Tom Hanks, Barbara Streisand and Aretha Franklin. Martyrs, explorers, and scientists stand next to baseball players, golfers, and actors. And by the way, where is Jack Nicklaus in all of this? As I said before, none of these people are unworthy, and their achievements are not trivial. Translate Tiger’s story into other professions, and we might be fooling around with time travel and intergalactic contact by now. There’s no arguing with what he’s done. It’s just – where do we put it?
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Other nations follow a similar format in awarding their national honors. The Order of Canada has been offered to those of varying professions. i assume that if Brooke Henderson hasn’t yet received hers, she soon will. Canada’s medal is based on “desiderantes meliorem patriam,” or “they desire a better country.” That has a nice ring to it. The Czech Republic offers the Order of the White Lion. If that doesn’t make one feel like a superhero, nothing will. The point, though, still sticks for me. Someone who cured a lethal disease and saved a nation should be honored with a different set of semantics than a man who played some of the best golf ever played, and for a long time. I will applaud Tiger all day for his victory, but he didn’t make me more free, nor did he set my mind at rest on national security. The Apollo Crew’s perilous journey to the moon needs to be addressed differently than a perilous round at Augusta fending off Francesco Molinari and Matt Kuchar. Tiger enhanced our lives with a game that enhances our lives. Should we call it the Presidential Medal of Incredible, Unmatched, Far-Out, Unthinkable Athletic Accomplishments or some such thing, and save the other for someone who turns back a Martian invasion?
Make no mistake, I am not taking on the accomplishments of either Tiger or previous recipients. I’m just talking about categories. Whether future national awards go to hockey or curling teams, golfers or beach volleyball greats, or to the world’s greatest caber tosser, that man or woman might still stand next to the first person to go through a black hole and survive. Of course, if Tiger Woods wins another major or two this year, the black hole survivor might need to step aside. We golfers have our priorities, after all.