Tiger Woods the personification of dislocation

Tiger, eh? I have to confess I didn’t echo the calls for his canonisation last weekend. I’m not a golf man, for one thing, and I find Tiger Woods a fair turn-off, to put it mildly. 

A couple of pals were in touch when I articulated my distaste, launching ready-made arguments about his infidelities, pointing out that other sportspeople had done the same and if you were to apply the same standards, etc, etc.

My issue doesn’t relate to what is, ultimately, a private matter, even though some of the reported details would make you swallow hard if Woods walked up the driveway with one of your female relatives.

I’d be more bothered about the fact that Woods was caught by Florida police driving under the influence a couple of years ago with five drugs in his system, two of which are banned by the PGA. To me that undermines his sporting achievements significantly.

There was something about the outpouring from Irish fans of Woods which caught my eye, however, and from his male fans in particular.

It’s hardly a surprise that most of the background noise as he collected the title in Augusta came from middle-aged men: you don’t need me to tell you golf skews heavily in that direction, from its professionals on down.

Middle-aged, middle-class, and middle-of-the-road in political outlook, golf fans with grey in their hair and an extra couple of inches around the middle were bound to warm to a narrative of another middle-aged man — losing his hair, a couple of years past a mortifying midlife crisis, estranged from his wife — turning back the clock for a sunlit round in beautiful surroundings, the ball doing exactly what he wanted.

That’s what interested me: the cohort of Irish men cheering for Woods either literally or virtually, and whether the golfer — a billionaire Californian — personifies the modern Irish male’s sense of dislocation.

More specifically, does he personify the modern divorced Irish male’s sense of dislocation?

When I lived in California I remember meeting someone in McDonald’s one Sunday — for the coffee, obviously — and they remarked on how lucky we were to get a seat. 

Because, the cliche went, every divorced father in America brought his kids to McDonald’s on a Sunday.

Divorce isn’t at those levels here yet — a couple of years ago the census revealed Ireland has one of the lowest rates of divorce in Europe, but over 70,000 people still described themselves in the census as divorced, and that figure doesn’t include non-divorced separated people.

It was only in 1995, of course, that divorce became legal in Ireland and in almost quarter of a century since then divorce has become more engrained in Irish life — but always seemed to lack the high-profile, easily identifiable individual who encapsulates the experience.

Until now.

Woods’ fame — growing steadily upwards, even as divorce rolled steadily outwards over Ireland — means his victories and travails operate on a parallel track for most people, who are dimly aware of the rise and fall of his career: the early dominance, the full flush of success, the embarrassing fall from grace . . . and the Indian summer seen last weekend.

Is it a stretch to suggest that a lot of Irishmen in a similar age cohort see their own recent years map out similar terrain? When Woods embraced his kids at the end of the tournament last weekend (I nearly said ‘the final whistle’), was that encounter, rather than his putting, what tipped his male Irish fans over the edge? That even if your marriage is gone, in the parlance, there’s still hope?

I think it might be, and that that’s what makes Tiger Woods the first Irish sports divorce role model. It doesn’t fit on a T-shirt, but I don’t doubt the man himself was the cause of plenty of chat in McDonald’s restaurants yesterday afternoon around Ireland.

Time for Semple to march to Bey’s tune

Because I am down with the kids I picked up on the latest from Queen Bey, the Homecoming documentary.

Beyonce lives forever in this corner of the paper because of her minor role in an interview I did years ago with an inter-county manager in Q&A style.

Asked to select between Beyonce and Jennifer Aniston he said, “Beyonce by a mile”

The documentary provides plenty of entertainment, focused on a live performance at Coachella festival.

It was interesting to see the intricate marching-band work by her supporting musicians — reminiscent of US college marching bands at big games.

If you haven’t seen these check them out — dozens of musicians in choreographed lines, blasting out standards and contemporary hits . Even the achingly on-trend college students in the stadia join in and sing along with gusto.

Any chance of something similar in Semple Stadium, Croke Park and other venues this summer?

Gap in female data

I usually leave it to just the one book recommendation in this part of the paper, but this volume demands inclusion.  

Invisible Women:Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez informs readers about the dangers of data bias — which are very real, considering, for example, the perils inherent in basing crash-test dummies on the male body (and basing car safety measures on male body dimensions as a result).

That data bias also applies to sports science. In a recent piece for the Telegraph Criado-Perez exposed a shocking gulf in sports science data for women.

“A random sampling of things we do not know,” she wrote, “Includes sex differences in how muscles tire; if women’s muscles respond to protein in the same way as men’s; if women’s metabolisms respond to exercise in the same way; how women respond to concussions (‘even though women suffer concussions at higher rates than men and take longer to recover in comparable sports’); if women regulate their body temperature differently; the female ventilatory response to exercise.”

Clearly there’s a link between this and the Shoshana Zuboff book mentioned elsewhere when it comes to data, but that’s overshadowed by the sheer absence of information in women’s sports science.

Criado-Perez says in 2014 the European Journal of Sport Science

featured a paper with the title: “Where are all the female participants in Sports and Exercise Medicine research?”, adding that matters have not improved since.

A long way to go yet for equality, then.

Searching for answers

I caught up with a copy of Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power thanks, Valentina at Profile Books — and you need to read it to understand how we live thanks to surveillance capitalist monsters like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Here’s a taster: “...in 2009 the public first became aware that Google maintains our search histories indefinitely... When questioned about these practices, the corporation’s former CEO Eric Schmidt mused: ‘The reality is that search engines including Google do retain this information for some time.’

“Search engines do not retain, but surveillance capitalism does. Schmidt’s statement is a classic of misdirection that bewilders the public by conflating commercial imperatives and technological necessity.

“It camouflages the concrete practices of surveillance capitalism and the specific choices that impel Google’s brand of search into action.”

Read it and learn.

michael.moynihan@examiner.ie.

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