In the August 14th New York Times, there’s an article by Karen Crouse, a sports reporter for the paper, entitled “Tiger and Serena Confront Twilight and Aching Backs.” Crouse clearly admires both stellar athletes, even saying they achieved unique status in their respective sports of golf and tennis, winning trophies by the handsful and avid fans by the tens of thousands. She goes on to point to the reality of their ages and to the fact that both have had to withdraw from recent tournaments due to back problems that aren’t getting better.
I’m delighted to have learned from Crouse that Serena and Tiger have become good friends in recent years, living quite close to each other in Florida, and following each other’s amazing stamina in the face of being “older” in terms of each sport’s definition of who might rise to stardom. This pleases me because it tells me they understand something key about each other: Not only is each perhaps one of the finest players ever to grace a tennis court or a golf course, but they do that as black players in two sports still heavily dominated by white athletes. Yet Crouse, a white reporter who began her work as a sports writer for the Savannah News-Press, never mentions this germinal fact. This seems to me a serious omission of something that has surely shadowed both of these amazing players from early stages of their development, adding stress elements absent for people like Ernie Els or Steffi Graff.
As I finished the article, grateful to Ms. Crouse for highlighting Williams and. Woods as the giants they so clearly are, I heard in the back of my mind voices currently arguing about just how engrained racism continues to be in our culture. Regardless of their slant on this vexing and vexed subject, most such thinkers insist on a cardinal truth they voice this way: “If you don’t see race, you don’t see me.” So let’s keep their awards lists in full context of who they are and what that has meant as they have fought to achieve and maintain their positions at the very apex of their sports.
And, let’s not be too quick to place them in any “twilight” zone, please, even if they do now perform certain PT exercises in their “new normal” routines.