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A Review On: The Passion of Tiger Woods: An Anthropologist Reports on Golf, Race, and Celebrity Scandal by Orin Starn

The Passion of Tiger Woods: An Anthropologist Reports on Golf, Race, and Celebrity Scandal by Orin Starn

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Pros: Informative, easy and humorous, not expensive. Even the wife will read it.

Cons: Too few photos.



The Passion of Tiger Woods

An Anthropologist Reports on Golf, Race, and Celebrity Scandal

By Orin Starn

Duke University Press, Durham



The book title is word play on the old Christ Crucified story (a good man wronged) and this distinguished academic and popular author tells us all there is to know about Mr. Woods, or at least all he can find to read.  Of course, Mr. Woods is not the common man and we may think that there is little ordinary about him, except during his sordid moments, which made him the laughing stock of the celebrity and media world.


Starn, in this short, 140 page, book investigates and covers the subject as a competent Cultural Anthropologist who would cover any group phenomenon in the primitive jungle. As he says; ‘this book is an anatomy of Tigergate’ and an anthropologist’s study of human life, USA 2011. But this is no scholarly, dry tome but rather an insightful, often humorous, glance, by a skilled, former collegiate golfer, into the life and times of our contemporary hero. Starn considers Tiger’s genetic background and family history which covers Tigers mixed race heritage and self- identity as a Cablinasian person; not a black nor a white and lots of Asian. All this serves to confound the Census Bureau, and the rest of us who prefer to pigeon-hole our neighbors.


There is some good golf history here. Did you know that in 1952 Joe Lewis, the great heavyweight boxing champion was the first black man to play in a professional USA golf tournament?  And incredibly a few weeks later, while he and few other black men were playing a pro tourney in Phoenix they found the hole of the first green packed with human feces?   And did you also know the Rush Limbaugh is a lousy, but avid, golfer?  Plenty of good golf stories and personalities here and laughs too. The author can really reach out to the common golfer and even tell him why he likes the sport, invoking proposing genetic theories, as supported by biologists, which relate our genes back to our caveman days of sticks and stones and wide open vistas under the clear summer sky. Starn asks why Woods, who only slightly qualifies as a black man, is the only African-American man playing top-flight golf, but in nearly all other sports just the opposite is true?  Golf remains out of reach for folks without money and maybe too difficult to master unless started very young. Baby Tiger sat in his high chair while his dad hit golf balls into the net; now that is early uptake.      


But Woods, in the eyes of most of us is ‘black’, not Cablinasian but all the women he played around with were white, so there is also grist for the rumor and hate mill. Woods, as a massive sports celebrity earning huge sums endorsing trinket watches and accounting firms, draws everyone attention in the modern Twitter world and as such cannot escape from the pedestal he helped erect. Tigergate is all about the ‘sin’, the renunciation of the sin and the climb back to wholesomeness via the public apology and rehabilitation. It’s all here. I love the photos drawn from the anonymous photo-world depicting Woods as he advises us, as a parody of the Nike ads, to ‘Just do Her’ while wearing a cap with the Whoosh doctored to include a sperm-like tail. And a similar pimped-out Woods, with a contorted smile looking like a Nike Whoosh. Anything for a buck (endorsement)!  Great fun. But what about Tiger’s intimate life?


Oh yes, Tiger’s penis is explored, covered (?) in Chapter 6 because as a ‘ black’ guy hanging around the white girls he draws on a long American history which does not especially condone such unions, whether in marriage or outside. Not condone? Man, many of us Hate That. And Tiger gets lots of hate via the internet, where all can read the caustic comments, unvarnished. The anthropologist Starn recognizes all this and informs us of our history, our current condition and ourselves.


The only update on this story I can add is that since this book was published the Wonderful World of Pompous Augusta has indeed added two women golfers to the ranks of mighty men. This slim non-fiction book is truly informative and a compelling read for a few hours but has the substance of a reference book as the world of golf never dies and the folks from the past continue to speak to each man’s unique track along the fairways. I found the book in the local library but I see that both Amazon and ABE books (my favorite) sell it for under $20.  Could this be the Christmas gift you were seeking to get or to give?   




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