but Pat, I'm calling you out on the blog. Hopefully this won't lead to another shitstorm. I was just reading your otherwise lovely article on Tiger coming to Tucson, and my eyes seemed to be sticking on the first line:
The biggest sports star in the world was annoyed.
For a few seconds, I couldn't figure out why. And then I thought, "Oh, I know what it is. It sounds weird because there's no fucking way Tiger Woods is the biggest sports star in the world."
Now, I know hyperbole is a time-honored staple of sportswriting, and I don't blame you for using it in that context. Tiger's unquestionably the biggest sports star ever to come to Tucson for an event. I'm not saying you even actually believe he's the biggest sports star in the world.
However, just in case you do believe that, allow me to summarily disagree.
A few reasons he's not:
1. He's a fucking golfer, for chrissakes. He plays golf. No golfer will ever be the world's biggest sports star for a very simple reason: nobody outside of the UK and the US really gives a rat's ass about golf (and even in those countries, it's a low sporting priority).
2. While US pop culture and its attendant branding unquestionably dominates world culture -- whoever the biggest pop star/let is at the moment is also probably the biggest pop star in the world -- not even mighty Nike can make Tiger Woods the biggest sports star. Not when they already burned Michael Jordan's silhouette into every young retina from Siberia to Sierra Leone. Not when Yao Ming is from China. Not when soccer exists.
3. Race. I know you brothers Finley are probably throwing things at my lawn-jockey effigy right now, yelling "this has nothing to do with race!" But I'm not talking about racism here -- at least not in the usual sense. I'm just pointing out that Tiger's mixed heritage makes it hard for any ethnic group to really embrace him. For all the Nike-propagated ballyhoo about Tiger bringing golf to the diverse masses, you don't see a whole lot of black people really pulling for Tiger. There's a reason Nas mentioned him specifically in that song where he calls everybody Uncle Toms. I'm not sure exactly what that reason is -- maybe he's not "street" enough (there, now you can call me a racist, too) -- but it's true and it's obvious. Maybe Filipinos love him, but how big can the Filipino golf-fan base really be? In other words, while his mixed race makes whites embrace him like perhaps no black athlete ever (an interesting phenomenon in itself), he's doesn't have all of Africa rooting for him -- not like Yao does with China. And even if he did, China has a billion people and change.
I'd be willing to bet that this topic has already generated some discussion in the Finley household, and I'd further be willing to bet that you, Pat -- you crafty bastard -- chose the phrasing of your lead carefully, more carefully even than you normally do (and to your credit, your stuff seems to me carefully written -- I'm actually serious about that, and mean it as a compliment -- much more so than most writing I read, sports or otherwise). "Biggest" is vague and hard to argue against. But, judging by the overall focus of the story, it seems like you mean it in terms of star power (rather than ability, which is an impossible argument to have): name recognition, image recognition, and just all-around famousness and pull.
Still, though, I disagree. I don't know enough about soccer to say who the biggest star in international soccer is at the moment. As a reprehensible racist, hegemonist, Westernist, mutist, etc. (saved you the trouble, Seth), I'd guess that in terms of international star power, the biggest soccer star is David Beckham. But if B or some other soccerite wants to suggest other options, particularly nonwhite stars who might appeal to the non-whites who comprise the majority of the world, I'm listening. In any event, I'd be willing to bet that soccer, being unquestionably the world's most popular sport, has at least three stars bigger than Tiger (on the world stage -- and really, as my boy Billy once said, all the world's a stage).
I also think Yao Ming is bigger than Tiger. He's the first major American sports star from the most populous nation and continent on earth. He's also pretty popular among Americans.
I'm not sure which of them is necessarily the world's biggest sports star. And maybe I'm forgetting somebody, in which case I hope Doyle or some of our readers will stridently rebuke me.
But it sure ain't Tiger.