Was that a tear in your eye on Sunday as Tiger Woods hugged his son after he completed his unfathomable comeback effort in the sport of golf?
Or was it an “eye floater?” Or maybe it was just a bee in your eye.
It’s kind of an important question for folks of a certain age who grew up watching Tiger dominate, and then disappear. On Sunday he came all the way back, winning the storied Masters tournament for the first time since 2005. Since that win 14 years ago Tiger has become a different man, a middle-aged man, a balding man whose career was slowed by the types of problems that many grown-up adults can identify with.
A ruptured ACL, suffered whilst jogging. Arthroscopic knee surgery. A stress fracture in the tibia. A torn Achilles tendon. Lower back pain. Upper back pain. Back surgery. Another back surgery. More back surgery. A heart transplant (just kidding – it was another back surgery). For anyone who once led an active life and now must make an unpleasant noise when forced to bend over to tie a shoe, Tiger’s injury troubles were relatable.
There were also some other ... er ... complications in Tiger’s life that sidetracked him from being the most dominant athlete in his sport’s history. And when I use the word “complications,” I mean it in the sense that the Titanic’s maiden voyage across the Atlantic met with some “complications.” Sure, not all of us are elite athletes who also trained with Navy Seals who also got addicted to painkillers who also crashed our SUVs into a fire hydrant trying to escape our enraged Swedish wives who may have found out about our multiple affairs who also got a DUI who also dated Lindsey Vonn who also hit golf balls in front of Bob Hope and Jimmy Stewart on the Mike Douglas Show when we were two years old.
Some of that stuff is a little over the top, but that list of injuries alone – the back pain, the stress fracture, the knee surgery – is enough to elicit a shudder from any middle-aged weekend warrior who comes to the realization that the body no longer does what the mind wants it too. Because weird stuff starts happening to your body when you enter your mid-30s.
Anyone whose odometer has ticked past 35 knows that the body starts to do new disconcerting things around that age. If you’re too young to have experienced this for yourself, a good reference source would be to watch any over-35 standup comedian for just five minutes or so. Ear hair, unexpected discharges, multiple uses of the word “sag” – middle-aged comedians are required by law to mention body parts that no longer function the way they used to once every 65 seconds they are on stage. They are also required by law to go door-to-door to tell every family that they’ve just moved into the neighbourhood (or maybe that’s just Bill Cosby).
My latest reminder of this breaking body phenomenon came when I signed up to play for a co-ed, recreational league soccer team. I haven’t played competitive sports for nearly half a decade – and when I say “competitive” I mean the way that my wife and I are “competitive” over who gets to eat the last Girl Guide cookie.
It’s wonderful to be back on the field with a soccer team, but I quickly learned that at this stage of life, intense sport leads to personal rewards like plantar fasciitis and crippling back pain.
It’s not just sports though. As you hit middle age your body starts doing weird things on its own that you’d never even imagine in your younger days. About a month ago a speck just popped into my field of vision and it has stayed there ever since, a little black smudge that floats around vaguely mirroring my eye movements. Dr. Google tells me that such things are called “eye floaters,” tiny clumps of eye jelly that are typically harmless and that are more frequent in people that are over the age of 50. Good to know that I’m reading at an age-50 level!
Right now as I type this, I am sitting ram-rod straight at my computer so as not to aggravate my sore back. I look like I am either holding in a hilarious unexpected discharge, or I just got hit by a Taser. Periodically I’ll look up at the wall beside me to watch my eye floater float around for a while.
Hey, at least it’s not “sweat bees” living in my eye, which is something that actually happened to someone in Taiwan, according to the internet. If you saw the photo circulating recently of eye bees, I’m sorry you went through that. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m sorry I brought it up.
But through the haze of eye floaters and pain medication, I sat with my whole family on Sunday and marvelled at the comeback of Tiger Woods, an inspiring story for all of us broken oldies. Tiger really has done something miraculous, somehow making golf interesting for people outside of its regular “napping white man” demographic.
Even my wife sat and watched with me and my two boys, disregarding two of her biggest pet peeves: too much screen time for our children, and husbands who do sex with the wrong person.
Tiger did it again though (the golf thing, I mean, not the random blond lady thing), and we aging wonders are here for it. If he can reach the summit again at his age after more than a decade of struggles, maybe there’s hope for all of us.
Just keep an eye out for those bees and floaters.
Andy Prest is the sports editor for the North Shore News and writes a biweekly humour/lifestyle column. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.