Chicago Tribune Editorial " can make a difference"
Editorial: Woods Hits Hole In One But Few See It

I was recently reading the book authored by Earl Woods, Tiger’s father.  The title is what caught my attention when I heard it casually mentioned during the telecast of a tournament Tiger played while in the so –called “slump” weeks prior to the Masters.  Start Something You Can Make A Difference, is a thoughtfully written book offering wonderful information and direction to youngsters on how to identify and achieve their ambitions, accomplish “what they care about” and even further, how they can make a difference in the world. 

By the time I reached the mid-point of the book, I was filled with emotion as I wished that such a book would be widely read by youngsters and parents all over the United States.  Some of what Earl Woods has to say I’m sure, many of us pass on to our children. However, there is that old axiom that children listen and follow advice from friends, relatives and other adults more readily than from their parents.  There is also plenty of information in the book that might be new for children and parents so I thought of the many children and parents who could use this book to augment their child development efforts. 

The book presents a variety of easy to understand principles or ideas on how kids can be winners with friends, family and their teams.  In many ways these ideas are lessons about dreaming big, striving for one’s goals and making the world a better place in the process.  While these themes may not at first glance seem unique, many of the ideas are unique, challenging, and they are creatively phrased.  One of my favorite ideas was actually presented as a question, “should you cover up for a friend who breaks the rules?”  Part of Woods’s discursive response to the question states, “the definition of friendship does not include an obligation to make it easy for your friends to do something wrong.”  Consequently, the latter and other ideas caused me to conclude the book could be quite empowering and at the same time it offers some ethics, including that, “nice guys” and therefore nice people don’t ever really finish last.

It is an enigma for me to understand, however, why this book is not being touted for reading across the country.  We know how kids seem to identify with athletic role models and this could be a powerful way to reinforce and in some cases introduce important life core values to kids in preparation for adulthood.  And given Earl Woods’s success in raising such a fine young man, might not adults gain parenting direction from this book.  By now you must be wondering what financial or personal relationship I have with the Woodses or the book.  The answer is none.

Oddly there seems to be more interest in Puff Daddy than Tiger’s daddy.  What strikes me is that there is constant media coverage on whether Timothy Mcveigh should be executed for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing as well as numerous other negative, sleaze type, Jerry Springer, Jenny Jones subjects.  What is it with this preoccupation with the negatives and hard sides of life?  We have still more rough edged television shows being created, Survivors, The Weakest Link and others I just can’t get my brain to recall.  Yet we have the father of arguably the most prominent and accomplished athlete of the 21st century and Tiger himself collaborating on an enormously positive book written to assist our youth through their sometimes painful periods and the press and public seem all too quiet for my understanding.  It’s as though the father of Babe Ruth and the Babe himself wrote a book listing inoculations against tuberculosis or polio and the country just yawned at them for the effort and simply said, “play ball.”

Had it not been for the casual mention by the golf announcer during the tournament I happened to watch I would not have even heard of the book.  When I visited my local prominent bookstore chain and was advised that their computerized database showed 12 copies on the shelf and I felt as though I was late in joining the party.  However, when the salesman waiting on me later advised that locating a copy “has turned into a storewide search” I began to wonder.  Finally, I was given the explanation that none of the 12 books could be located and that they had probably been returned to the distributor or wherever books go when they don’t sell well enough in the store.  My other informal survey efforts with friends, acquaintances and booksellers shows that between the efforts of the book promoters and the negative influences, the public is loosing again.

So it seems that in today’s quest to gain insights about high school shootings, we continue to somehow value highlighting the Jeffrey Dalhmers, wayword wrappers, random acts of violence and shock television over highlighting positive messages.  One should not have to hunt for knowledge of this book which presents principles like, “hitting the ball doesn’t make someone a hero”,”you are a leader”, “you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your brothers and sisters”, “parents are people too”, “should you cover up for a friend who breaks the rules” and “notice the kid everyone ignores”.  Imagine the last topic, that suggesting that popular athletes and others pay attention to the kids that are ignored in school.  This latter point could have been a deterrent in a few high school shootings if heeded by a teenager that read this book.  Most youngsters could complete the read in two to three hours.

We parents, teachers, clergy, news people, and others should be shouting praise for such a positive book associated with such visible people as the Woods’.  This could be a chance to cover the land with a strong positive message that it seems to me has remarkably been ignored or undervalued to date.  Are people worried about giving Earl and Tiger Woods free advertising for the book?  It is true that a portion of the proceeds does go to the Tiger Woods Foundation.  However In the words of Martha Stewart, it seems to me that, “this is a good thing.”  The Foundation exists to adopt, “…courage, creativity, work ethic, tenacity, integrity, heart, self-esteem, and drive for excellence” as a mantra for our youth. 

The book expresses that the “Foundation will actively encourage and promote parental responsibility and involvement in the lives of children and celebrate the spirit of inclusion in all aspects of human existence.”  Could support for such positive endeavors be the reason for a muted public response and promotion of the book?  Could it be some of the overzealous or egotistical sounding things that Earl said through his excitement when Tiger first turned professional?  If so we need to get over that one because of the value of the book’s message.  Or, is it because of a seldom spoken about form of diversity – understanding different perspectives and ways of thinking.  Try imagining how you would think and behave if your son was super incredibly talented and remarkably caring.  I might go through a bout of egoism but I am not sure.  I do know, however, that we all would not behave the same.  Could it be envy or skepticism?  I have heard both expressed toward Tiger and Earl such as the case when Woods first turned professional and the father claimed that Tiger was going to significantly impact the world, not only golf.  I recall two of the most popular talking heads on a very popular sport’s radio show commenting on Earl and that “he should shut up” because his son has not even won a tournament yet.  They screamed on air that the father has no right to speak his opinion because no one cares since the kid hasn’t won anything.

Well Tiger has won something now and even those two sportscasters acknowledge his greatness but they don’t even speak of the entire Tiger Woods and Earl Woods show.  If they along with the rest of us read and spoke of the book it could go a lot farther for our kids, families and country than just watching a 350 yard drive by the two time Masters Champion.  If we don’t recognize this and use it, then we are missing part of this most incredible and unique sports story and how this family (including mom) has connected it to the bigger game – the game of life.

So that this letter follows my encouragement to highlight more of that which is positive, I will leave a few positive actions that we all might take.  The next time you need to find a gift for a youngster, along with the music compact disk or sports gift considerations, include a copy of Start Something You Can Make A Difference.  Next, for those working in education, social services, the clergy and others that strive to support and develop youth; figure out ways to introduce the book to supplement your message.  I encourage you and all of our editorial readers to start something because through positive actions, we can make a difference.

Norman M. Davis, Ph.D
New Haven, CT
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