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July 4, 2012

Down the Glory Path to Intense Scrutiny

Derek Shackelford

Everybody loves a winner. It is true that there are some valuable lessons in losing, but the fact remains that everybody wants to be associated with a winner.


No matter what endeavor it is in life, winning may not be everything, but it sure comes close. We can look at our body politic, and the goal in the end is to ultimately win. Losing causes scrutiny and the hindsight of the Monday morning quarterbacking, if you will.


The proverbial questions of “what one should do,” “what is wrong with so and so,” and “if they would just do it a certain way” are most prevalent after losses. This is most consistent in the athletic arena.


Everybody thinks they can do it better than the ones who may actually be participating. Two athletes in this generation who have come under the most scrutiny when it comes to the chronicles of winning are LeBron James and Tiger Woods. There is a strong argument that both are the best in their respective fields. Their accomplishments bare much of this out; and, due to their skill, we may have become spoiled to the point where criticism comes far too easy because their talent is on public display.


We live in a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” kind of world. Both of these individuals have experienced this scrutiny. Until you win a championship, then “there must be something wrong” syndrome. Granted that they have been at different levels of the championship winning spectrum, but they both have felt the heat of how much winning is really not enough.


Currently Tiger Woods has the most wins (3) on the PGA Tour this year and leads in the FedEx point standings. Not to mention that Mr. Woods has won 14 major golf championships in his career. The majors include the British Open, PGA Championship, Masters and U.S. Open.


Jack Nicklaus is the all-time leader in golf major championships with 18. Does Tiger Woods have a chance to break this record? Considering that he is only 36 and can play into his 50’s, the probability is highly likely. Yet, with these impressive credentials, Mr. Woods still feels the heat of setting the bar so high that his game is often questioned when he does not win the tournaments in which he participates.


He has also faced some personal dilemmas. Due to his very public divorce, some of his product endorsements disappeared, and the public scrutinized his image as a role model. You know you are great when you are the leader in point standings, have the most wins of any golfer on tour, and people still discuss whether or not you are back on track after a slip for awhile. If only some golfer on tour would be so lucky!


LeBron James is a three time National Basketball Association most valuable player, an Olympic gold medalist, an NBA finals most valuable player, and will soon wear a championship ring for the just completed 2011-2012 season with the Miami Heat.


Yet, Mr. James still endured the heat (no pun intended) because he had not won a championship earlier. This is due in part because he was the league’s MVP three times, which placed him in so very select company.


There are eight current NBA players who have won this award and all of them have won a championship. This will add pressure on any player to lead his team to a championship. Mr. James faced this criticism due to his decision to leave Cleveland as a free agent after seven seasons. His announcement was made during an hour long special on ESPN.


This left a sour taste with Cleveland Cavalier and basketball fans everywhere, causing many to publicly root against him for the way this decision was announced. There is no doubt that Mr. James is the best basketball player in the league now. There has been no one up to this point who is 6’8” and 260 lbs. who can move with the fluidity that he does. He is an incredible talent on the basketball court. Again, like Mr. Woods, and because of his excellent skill, the criticism is high due to our expectations.


Sports are so unique. Everything a person holds dear may be on display within the sports arena. Pride, passion, self-worth and ability are parlayed often times in front of an audience of thousands and sometimes millions of people. This can lead to every move that is made being a public success or a public spectacle.


An athlete wins and loses before fans and foes. There is no hiding in sports. This is why LeBron James and Tiger Woods are two of the most scrutinized athletes of our time. They can’t hide; when they are on display, we watch.


Millions of dollars are at stake as well when these two are performing. Why? Because we watch. It is so easy to criticize no matter the profession; but sports, for some reason, give us the false reality that everyone can. The truth is everyone can’t.


So, let us appreciate these athletes for what they simply do – entertain us, nothing more or nothing less. Let’s not take their winning so seriously.


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