Tiger Woods is the end of 9/11. For weeks now, all anyone wants to talk about is Tiger. I go to dinner with friends: Tiger talk. I go to the Vegas Strip and all I hear from strangers: Tiger. I go to New Orleans for the holidays: Tiger.
And the thing that's most noticeable is everybody's smiling. They're giddy, talking about Tiger. The mood of America seems not just suddenly lighter. It's pure lightness. It feels like the Clinton years, minus the political division over Clinton and his ladies.
Tiger is the great national unifier. When you're talking to somebody about Tiger, you don't care where they stand on health care, or heaven and hell, or gay marriage, or Brangelina.
This happy unification is different from the result of all the other big, strange news stories of the decade. Lots of Americans talked about Natalee Holloway, and Michael Jackson, and Janet Jackson's nipple. But those were yucky stories with awful consequences, and people sneered when they said the words, "balloon boy dad."
No one sneers about Tiger! It's fun to talk about Tiger! Our glee is not just schadenfreude. It's not mere distraction. It's just an awwwesome story, and we can all share in the joy of talking about it. (Except for Tiger's wife and their kids, and possibly Tiger, which is too bad for them.)
Even people I know who've been cheated on seem to get a charge out of following Tiger affairs. How crazy is that?
It's as if someone flipped a switch, and a great weight has lifted off America -- a sucky albatross made of a wet blanket that's hung around our necks for EIGHT YEARS. Our long national nightmare is finally over. 9/11 is over. All because of Tiger Woods' shafts.
I could introduce all sorts of direct evidence to demonstrate Tiger ended 9/11, like: The New York post ran more consecutive front page stories about Tiger recently than the Post did about 9/11, back when 9/11 happened.
But a more on-point example came this weekend. I went to the New Orleans airport Saturday to fly home from a holiday vacation. All through the airport were newspaper headlines about the latest terrorist-wannabe who tried to blow up a plane the previous day, on Christmas, in Detroit.
At the New Orleans airport, I didn't hear anyone talking about the terrorist attempt. No one looked nervous. Moms kept playing with their kids. No one's eyes shifted around, looking suspiciously at other passengers. When I arrived at the Vegas airport: same thing.
That return of American steadiness is not all due to Tiger, of course. It's due to we steady Americans getting our bearings back. Think of Tiger as our exclamation mark, as we declare, "We have overcome!"
Some politically minded people have been complaining that the media and Americans are focusing on Tiger to the detriment of Serious Problems. Unemployment's still high. Homeowners are upside-down on mortgages. Global warming's gonna kill us all! There's a WAR ON, for God's sake. TWO wars. Why aren't we talking more about those Important Matters?
Well, we are talking about them. I am writing in a newspaper that chronicles those stories. But as President Barack Obama said during his campaign, we humans can multitask. We can read about death and destruction while almost simultaneously Twittering about Tiger.
I keep thinking of the Green Day hit, "Wake Me Up When September Ends." Singer Billie Joe Armstrong has claimed the song is about his mourning his dad. But for the rest of us, the song's resonance has always been that every morning in America was clouded by 9/11.
It was natural 9/11 overwhelmed us. It was horrific. We'll never forget. But in life, you have to move on. We've had our unfulfilled dreams of ending 9/11. There was a moment when a lot of liberals, at least, thought Obama might end 9/11 with his "hope" for "change" thing.
But Obama didn't end 9/11. Neither did earnest songs, TV shows, movies or books. Tiger Woods ended 9/11 (with his Tiger wood). And so, the first decade of the 21st century came in like a lion and went out with a Tiger. At last, not only is 2010 coming. So is 9/12. Hallelujah.
Doug Elfman's column appears on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 383-0391 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.