Tiger’s Ad; Myth, Truth And Butler

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - April 14, 2010
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One quick note before we get started on the main topic.

I find it hard to understand why some people are “outraged” by the Nike ad that shows a tired and somewhat bloated-looking Tiger Woods and features a voice over by his dead father. I also don’t understand those who see the ad as Woods being chastised by his father. What is most difficult to fathom is why we, the media, have made Earl Woods into some Yoda-like figure who hands out advanced words of wisdom. It’s as if Earl suggested the former Siddhartha Gautama not limit his plan to an easier-to-digest six-fold path.

Earl Woods became famous because we kept running to him for insight into his son years after the younger Woods was well able to not answer the questions himself. We should have stopped when he compared his son to Gandhi. But we didn’t and now he has been virtually canonized.

Everyone of late has asked Tiger what the sage would have said about his son’s transgressions. Depending on whom you believe, he may either lay the healing hands of forgiveness on his son or false crack him for not providing Daddy with some sugar.


 

Now we can begin.

The greatest thing about the beginning of the third month is the start of the biggest annual tournament on U.S. soil. The greatest thing about the beginning of the fourth month is the end of the biggest annual tournament on U.S. soil.

With the continuous oral stimulation concerning underdogs, overdogs, traditional powers and surprising upstarts, each visit to Sportscenter felt more like a trip to Tiger’s playpen than a simple news search. Suffice to say, the coverage went a bit overboard. Which makes March Madness, well, maddening.

The star of this invented docu-drama was, of course, Butler University - the microbial liberal arts college tucked among the corn and sorghum of bucolic Indiana. While enrollment at the school would fit inside most university baseball stadiums, not much else about the school some five miles from the epicenter of the nation’s 13th largest city fits into the neatly wrapped and totally bogus caricature fed to us.

ESPN tried to convince us the Bulldogs were the second coming of the Hickory High Huskers - an unproven squad of nobodies who defied convention to win the big game - even though Butler was hardly an unknown quantity as it entered the season ranked No. 10 by the very same network’s coaches poll. APhad them at 11. But why let facts get in the way of a good invented story. First Take even rolled out Bobby Plump for gosh sakes.

Plump played for Milan High School - the school that inspired the movie - and was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball circa 1954. Plump, aka Jimmy Chitwood, went on to become an All-American at Butler before moving on to the National Industrial Basketball League which paid better than the NBA. And while Plump played true to his annual role as the delightful historian of small-school basketball, he strayed off script declaring his alma mater was no underdog. After 25 consecutive wins, his argument had merit.

Perhaps it was fitting that Butler was cast in the role of the updated Huskers. Just as Hickory had little in common with the real-life Milan Indians, Butler was nothing like their overblown image.


Hickory was a tiny team from nowhere that had one magic season. Milan was small, but surprised no one after losing in the state semi-finals the year before. The Huskers barely squeaked by their post season opponents whereas the Indians thumped the competition by an average of 15.8 points before defeating Muncie Central 32-30 in the most boring game in basketball history.

Though we were led to believe otherwise, Butler didn’t need the blessings of imaginary brothers in arms or any other trickery to advance to the final game. They were just a good team. Throughout the season, the Bulldogs bested their counterparts in every positive statistical category except one - blocked shots. In the tournament they played defense, rebounded as a team and protected the ball. And to be accurate, their dream didn’t die at the hands of Goliath - at least in relation to campus size or closeness to metropolitan areas. In fact, the sporting media needs to look further than Duke for its next small-town-team-does-good story. The private research university is home to 6,247 students and is located in Durham, N.C. By comparison, Michigan State, which Butler defeated to advance to the final game, enrolls more than 47,000 students; West Virginia, the other Final Four team, nearly 29,000.

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