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Why America admires Tiger: a sports star without the attitude

While surfing through television channels the other day, I found myself watching a clip of Tiger Woods on the evening news. With trophy in hand and his emblematic spacious smile, he posed for cameras after claiming the 2000 British Open Championship. "Truly amazing, isn't he?" the reporter commented. "Quite a remarkable young man," another added.

Yes, it's obvious - Tiger Woods is good. Phenomenally, record breakingly good. And at 24, he's also golf's youngest superstar ever.

So when I watched him show his broad, white teeth and display the silver-sparkling Claret Jug high in the air, I couldn't help but agree with the world. Yes, he's amazing; yes, he's remarkable; yes, I know he's something special. But, unlike most everyone else, I wasn't thinking of Tiger Woods the famed golfer or Tiger Woods the record-smasher. I'm not speaking of Tiger Woods the young champion or Tiger Woods the phenom.

Related Links
  • Official Tiger Woods site
  • Yahoo!'s Tiger Woods profile

    I'm talking about Tiger Woods the role model.

    In an era of trash-talking and in-your-face sports stars, it's no wonder that society is starting to look outside of sports for ideal precedents.

    After all, this is the age of the athlete with attitude. Boisterous Deion Sanders, anarchistic Dennis Rodmans or bad-boy Maurice Greens just don't cut it.

    Enter Tiger Woods, our national obsession. And it's not just because of his excellence and his youth. There have been plenty of young, extraordinary athletic talents who have hardly captivated the nation quite so. But Tiger is more than just young and good. He is refined.

    Each time I catch a glimpse of Tiger on TV, I can't help but feel relief. Finally, here is an athlete that has risen out of the swamp of rotten behavior, someone who blends great athleticism with graciousness and righteousness. He is a sports paragon society would be pleased to have its children emulate.

    And here is an athlete that even I look up to.

    I see the respect he has - not only for his parents, his seniors and his opponents, but also for the challenge and intricacy of his craft. And I see the dedication and diligence he has - not only for refining his already almost-perfect game, but also for improving his whole essence and person.

    And Tiger's sophistication shows through the unassailable character and dutiful manner he displays to the world time and time again. These are attributes any college student - or anyone, for that matter - would want to have.

    But Tiger is not only someone I can revere as a role model; he is someone with whom I can identify. No, I don't play golf, but I am a young Asian-American trying to reach success in today's fast-paced world. And Tiger - with his youth, his ethnicity and his belief in Buddhism - has excelled in it. He is someone I understand, someone I accept and someone I can learn from.

    So forget the championships he's won. Omit the records he's broken. Ignore the flawlessness of his golf game.

    Instead, notice the focus in his eyes, the warmth of his smile and the charisma that radiates from him. What you find still is a remarkable young man that you would take as a role model over anyone else, especially the handful of louts that run the sports world today.

    Let's hope this is the end to the bad-mannered nitwits and quick-tempered braggarts. This is the start of what a sports idol should be. Tiger is not only a model for the community; he is also the standard for fellow and future athletes.

    And as Tiger continues his dominance and excellence through golf history, television ratings will climb higher and higher. And I will continue to tune in to witness this new-sprung hero.

    But I watch Tiger not because he's a great athlete or because he's possibly the best golfer ever. I watch because he is a dream and a rarity: a gentleman athlete, a charismatic youth and a true paragon for me, you and the rest of the world.


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