So Tiger Woods fails for the first time to win a major championship when holding the lead after 54 holes. And I was disappointed to watch it happen. Part of me feels like all Minnesotans should apologize to Tiger, for creating a course that had greens that were so difficult for him to read the last two days. It wasn't you Tiger, it was us. It'd be the Minnesota Nice thing to do.
I'm not really sure why I enjoy watching golf a lot more when Tiger wins. An old CBS sports producer once said that golf is the only sport where you cheer for the favorite and root against the underdog. Except I sort of go against that as well.
Even when I don't have any rooting interest in an event, I usually cheer for the favorite. If I think back to the great sports upsets, I was often pulling against the underdog. Villanova-Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA Finals. Wanted the Hoyas. Miami vs. Nebraska in the 1984 Orange Bowl, I wanted the powerhouse farmboys to win. Douglas vs. Tyson, I wanted Iron Mike and his sociopathic tendencies. I was not that upset when Tom Watson lost the British Open.
If I'd have been older, I probably would have pulled for the Soviets against the Americans in the 1980 Olympic hockey game and again been cursing Minnesotans for contributing to a historic moment. Fortunately, I never had to choose between pulling for David or Goliath because I'd have probably wanted the big guy to win.
Why is this? I love uplifting, heartwarming underdog stories as much as the next person. When it comes to writing, they're almost always more interesting to write about, and favorites are much more interesting to write about when they lose. For example, the stories about Tiger's loss will be more compelling than the same old ones we read after his victories. And it's not like I pull for the bully in literature or after-school specials.
So why do I usually pull for the favorite? There's probably some psychological reason that has nothing to do with sports, but I have no idea.
With Tiger, especially, I love the dominance. I loved the 14-14 record when leading after three rounds of a major. I love that he'd only lost three times in his entire career from that position. When Tiger's not in a tournament I don't really care much about golf. When he's in it - and in contention - I'll watch every hole and listen to every Jim Nantz pun. So while I appreciate how cool a story Y.E. Yang is, I was disappointed when he drilled the eagle chip today and nailed the approach shot on 18. As I told someone else, if I had been around in 1941, I wouldn't have been pulling for the pitcher in DiMaggio's 57th game, so I don't feel too guilty about pulling against an underdog such as Yang.
I'm sure I'll eventually pull against Tiger. When he's 53, and hasn't won in six years, and no one thinks he can win, and he's about to pull off the greatest upset in golf history by winning the Masters against overwhelming odds, and even those people who hated how much he won in his prime are cheering for him...yeah, I'll probably root against him then.
Until then, I want him winning every event. And crushing all underdogs.