Tiger Woods And Michael Jordan Compete For Documentary Gold – – Who Won?
When Tiger Woods was still climbing the ranks of golf’s food chain as an amateur player, sports writers and cultural pundits had already begun to predict Woods’ making as big of an impact on golf, as Michael Jordan had on basketball.
Indeed, Jordan himself can be seen giving a salutary wave to Woods in footage from HBO’s ‘Tiger’, the first half of which aired this past Sunday, with the concluding two hours wrapping up this coming Sunday, January 17th.
Jordan’s status as the NBA’s GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) seemed even more firmly cemented after ‘The Last Dance’ finished its run. Greater players may already be amongst us (LeBron James and Steph Curry quickly come to mind), but for the moment at least, Michael Jordan remains King of the NBA mountain.
For most of his professional life, Woods seemed destined for a similar fate, shattering amateur and professional golfing records at breakneck speed, while demonstrating a grace and gravitas with golf rarely, if ever, witnessed. When Woods played in his prime, just as Jordan had, TV ratings soared and the imagery, excellence and “wow” factor was simply unparalleled.
Woods and Jordan were both what we call “good TV.”
Unlike Jordan, Woods hasn’t yet retired and his relationship with professional golf is active, although not nearly as dominating and awe-inspiring as it once was.
After an embarrassing scandal involving a car accident, drugs and alcohol and severe marriage-ending issues, Woods has never recovered the towering prominence in professional golf that he once held.
Beating Jack Nicklaus’ record of winning 18 major titles seemed a sure thing before Woods faced his myriad number of personal setbacks. Now Nicklaus’ legacy appears as impossible to overcome as ever, and Woods’ breaking it barely within reach (Woods currently holds 15 major titles.)
Although still a ratings draw when he’s winning, Woods’ play is inconsistent, yet normal for a man his age, battling for championship wins against men nearly 20 years younger than him.
The word “normal” is never something one would’ve employed when describing Woods in his prime.
“Normal” is a term utterly foreign to those bringing Michael Jordan’s stature into focus.
As a player who seemed to be rewriting how the game was played, and as an African-American man from modest means, it was natural, easy and obvious to draw comparisons between Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan – – especially as both men came to dominate sports in the late 1990s (although Woods’ greatest moments would occur in the early 2000s.)
Both relied heavily on their fathers, and after each lost their most influential parent, they suffered openly and their games deteriorated as well.
Jordan bounced back; Woods did too, for a time, but other demons then took center stage and his career has never rebounded to its former glory.
As the first part of the ‘Tiger’ documentary unfolded, it was immediately apparent how differently the two documentaries would play and therefore, likely perform.
In what was originally viewed as a controversial move, the filmmakers behind ‘The Last Dance’ chose to include commentary from Jordan himself, as his own story played out on-screen. Some questioned how valid the documentary could actually be, if the subject was given a chance to weigh in and therefore potentially influence the narrative.
No less than Ken Burns himself, the Grand Man of TV Documentary, said it was an unquestionably biased move.
Despite those criticisms, the TV Academy still awarded ‘The Last Dance’ with its top honor.
Most now agree that ‘The Last Dance’ played in a fair and even-handed manner, and the decision to include Jordan within it was well worth the risk.
Jordan’s interviews made the entire enterprise more relevant, more timely, more current and much more revealing and personal.
‘Tiger’ takes the more traditional approach, interviewing everyone but Tiger Woods.
Again, some would say this story-telling style guarantees a more revealing and honest look at the man, and therefore might somehow be more elevated and “bulletproof” from criticism about objectivity.
Regardless, after experiencing ‘The Last Dance’ and scores of other classic ESPN ’30 for 30’ documentaries over the years that also include interviews with the subjects themselves, one can only wonder whether ‘Tiger’ actually suffered from Tiger’s absence.
The premiere scored unremarkably for HBO, drawing nearly 700,000 viewers its first night.
It’s tough to draw a true side by side comparison to the two projects.
‘Tiger’ is a two-parter, running four hours, that’s premiering both on the new streaming service HBO Max and the premium cable channel HBO. On the other hand, ‘The Last Dance’ spanned 10 episodes and ran exclusively on Netflix.
Another writer may be tempted to play on the title ‘Tiger’ and ‘King’ after last year’s ‘Tiger King’ documentary series ran on Netflix. But you won’t see such an attempt here – – maybe it’s because ‘Tiger’ simply wasn’t king in ratings or by any other metric.
Part two of ‘Tiger’ is bound to be more salacious and will likely draw higher numbers .
The “femme fatale” in Tiger’s downfall, his mistress Rachel Uchitel, is interviewed for the first time ever, in this second and final installment.
Jordan’s documentary was framed by an incredible championship run that ended in unimaginable success for him and his Chicago Bulls.
‘Tiger’ appears to be more a story of tragedy and to a certain extent, a cautionary tale.
One might feel more compelled to compare ‘Tiger’ to the Lance Armstrong documentary that ran on Netflix, also a two-parter. That depressing tale didn’t capture the country’s imagination either, scoring 875,000 viewers in its premiere.
Fallen sports stars simply aren’t as popular as great comebacks. There’s something terribly familiar and yes, ‘normal’ about seeing how so many of our heroes fall.
Jordan was never normal. That’s why he wins the gold.
Published at Wed, 13 Jan 2021 01:59:57 +0000