Watching Shaun White shred the competition two nights ago was quite enjoyable for me. Judging by the reaction of many friends and co-workers, I was not alone in that enjoyment.
I don't know what it is about a dominating athlete that makes people go "oohh" and "ahhh" but it sure happens.
Watching White do what he did as compared to the rest of the field was amazing.
It was like Barry Bonds, in his prime, battling Omar Vizquel for the Home Run Derby title. Or maybe like Shaq vs. John Stockton in a Free Throw competition.
What I'm saying is, it wasn't even close.
Shaun White had two nearly flawless runs on the half-pipe. The rest of the competition felt the pressure, went for big air, and stumbled.
To be quite honest, it reminded me of a time when another stellar athlete took his sport by storm.
Eldrick "Tiger" Woods had the pedigree.
Tiger won his first Junior Amateur title at the age of 15, the youngest ever to win that tournament. He followed that up by winning it the next year as well.
He went on to win the U.S. Amateur at age 18.
So it should have been no surprise when he took over the PGA just a couple years later, right?
When Tiger won the sports most prestigious tournament, the Masters, by 12 strokes at age 21, there was clearly a reason for young people to start watching an old person's game.
Golf was an established sport. It was a tradition-rich competition between professionals who had played most of their life.
There was it's revered past; the historic courses; the major tournaments; and one guy comes on the scene and introduces the masses to one of the finer sports that has ever been played.
Not to say that no one watched golf, but many young people were simply disinterested.
Now there are people who wont watch unless Tiger is in a tournament.
Tiger Woods transcended his sport. He became an international icon. Some say Nike had a lot to do with that, and yes, I would have to agree. But Tiger's worldwide fame brought many new eyes to the grand old competition of golf.
There was a boom in kids signing up for golf lessons. High Schools added golf teams to their athletic departments. All because of this kid who took the sport to another level.
I was 15 when Tiger won that first Masters in '97. I've been watching golf ever since that display.
Tiger has gone on to become a larger than life figure. He's on the verge of becoming the greatest golfer ever when he breaks Jack Nicklaus's majors record. Personal problems aside, Tiger Woods is simply the best.
Shaun White hit the snowboarding scene in the early 2000s.
Granted snowboarding was no where near the competition that golf had been for so many years, but a relatively unwatched, niche sport was introduced to the masses via the X-Games.
The X-Games were counter-culture when they first began. The games were geared toward my age group at the time and to say it was an acquired taste would be an understatement.
However, as the X-Games grew in popularity and more young people started watching, the ESPN brainchild became a very relevant competition featuring great athletes from across the globe.
When Shaun White hit the Winter X-Games scene in '01, fresh off five national amateur championships, the competition was never the same.
White has an unprecedented 10 gold medals in 10 years of competing.
Of course, snowboarding was not all this kid could do. He took up skateboarding and became the top Action Sports athlete in the world.
Video games and certain fame followed for the young red-head.
Simply put, Shaun White owns his sport. He owns that X-Games/Action Sports competition. And as we saw in the Olympics two nights ago, there's no one even close.
White's worldwide celebrity is growing by leaps and bounds.
A niche sport has become must see TV for the masses when White is competing.
I can't help but believe we've seen all of this before with Tiger.
I know the sports aren't as comparable, but Shaun White's effect on the sport and on those who watch sports are undeniable.
Shaun White is this generation's Tiger Woods. I cannot wait to see it continue.
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