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What Do You Do When You Meet Your Hero?

I’ve been largely absent from social media the last two days. Some of that wasn’t by choice, but mostly I’m trying to avoid any and every post about the WGC Dell Matchplay. This is the first time in three years I’m not going. That wouldn’t be a big deal if Big Cat hadn’t announced his entry last week. Here I am, in the same city as Tiger Woods during a golf tournament, and I won’t get within ten miles of seeing him swing a club. Yeah, it sucks, but I don’t work at a golf course anymore so I can’t get free tickets. The cheapest day passes are $130, and that’s just not an expense I can justify right now with my bills so high and my income so low. I got over it though, until my girlfriend’s boss sent her this pic.

That’s Tiger friggin’ Woods, not ten feet away. Fuck. As soon as I opened it I immediately imagined myself the one behind the camera. I thought about me being ten feet from Tiger. What would I do? What do you do when you meet your hero?

I guess it’s not technically meeting him. We wouldn’t introduce ourselves. I wouldn’t be shaking his hand. Or would I? Do I try to shake his hand as he walks by? What’s the protocol for meeting your hero when you’re twenty-eight, when you’re a grown ass man? It’s not like I can act like I would if I were twelve and wave my arms like I’m having a seizure, screaming his name until he cracks a smile and walks over to give me a fist bump. I mean I could, but that’s a real quick way to get clowned on for the rest of your life, to be forever known as the fully grown adult who melted down when the athlete he likes walked past him.

But is the humiliation worth it? I mean it’s Tiger Woods. It’s not like I’d be losing my mind over Jordan Spieth or DJ. This is Eldrick. This is the guy the other guys on tour freak out over. This is someone who’s known for ruining a fellow player’s round because they just can’t handle the pressure that comes with being in his presence for four hours. Maybe no one would judge me if I called his name like I’d just spotted land off the deck of the Mayflower. I certainly wouldn’t begrudge a fellow tax paying adult for losing their shit. Go off man, when else are you going to have the opportunity for the GOAT to acknowledge your existence in the universe.

None of the friends I posed this question to could come to a conclusion. Our reactions ranged from, “standing there and nutting a little,” to, “prolly just give him a thumbs up, prolly wouldn’t say anything.” The variance is understandable. How do you express the emotions you’d feel when you see the legend is actually real. The person you’ve been watching on TV for two decades, the guy whose video game you played religiously, the man whose mannerisms you adopted in your own game, consciously or not, the dude whose damn Gatorade you demanded the fridge be stocked with exclusively, actually fucking exists. I’m overwhelmed just writing about it. I couldn’t imagine what, if anything, I would be able to do in the three seconds I’d have to let him know just how big of an impact he had on the last twenty years of my life.

I think it’s easier to meet your hero when you’re young. Your range of expression and emotion is much smaller, your concept of social behavior and acceptability is largely ignorant, so you just react instinctively. Whatever you feel you go with, with no thought of who might be looking or whether it’s the right thing to do. When you’re an adult and you’re looking your hero in the eyes you’re forced to run through endless possibilities and their various consequences. Should I say this, will I feel like I missed a chance if I don’t try this. You don’t just get to enjoy the moment because a lifetime of admiration is weighing against a lifetime of self-consciousness and insecurity.

Maybe I’m overthinking it. Those of you who’ve met your hero as a contemporary can certainly shed more light. I still don’t know what I’d do. I guess as an adult gratitude is the way to go. I like to think if I looked Tiger in the eyes I’d offer him a thank you. Who knows though, I might try to hug the guy if I’m being honest.

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