Tiger Woods still stands and plays, but Kobe Bryant fell.
The crash and convergence of those two events hit this weekend like double-thunder—and will have ramifications for weeks, months and maybe the entire careers of these two historic and historically controversial figures.
Woods was found, in retrospect, to have taken an illegal drop during second-round play at the Masters on Friday (apparently after TWO phone calls from TV viewers alerting Augusta National officials to the possible violation), and was given a two-shot penalty this morning, hours before he's set to tee off among the leaders.
He easily could've been disqualified, but Augusta National officials decided to stay with the two-shot penalty, dropping him to five shots behind the leader...
And which conveniently keeps him on TV for the duration of this weird event.
I agree that Woods violated the rule, I do not know if he KNEW he was violating it, which is probably the logical line for automatic disqualification.
By the way, if Woods did not know he was breaking a rule, I agree that disqualification for signing an incorrect scorecard (before the penalty was assessed) would've been too harsh, but I also completely understand that Woods' result in this tournament is now tarnished.
I understand why so many major figures in golf are saying Woods should withdraw, to meet the standards of integrity that are traditional in this sport. Woods did not withdraw. That's his choice; and it's others' choice to judge him for that.
It's bizarre, it's just bizarre. Woods tees off in a few minutes, this is going to be another wild Masters round.
My take: This is going to be Tiger vs. the World for at least a few days, and if he happens to win this tournament to get his first major since 2008... and get closer to Jack Nicklaus' record of 18... this is going to be an all-timer.
I think Woods is going to want to make it an all-timer. Does he get embarrassed about stuff like this? He's proven: No, he doesn't really.
And to the other event...
Bryant, playing against the Warriors, suffered what is presumed to be an Achilles tear late in the fourth quarter, and that means he's out for the rest of this season and for many months afterwards.
At 34, ending his 17th season, it's hard to say when Bryant will be back at full strength, or if full strength will ever be possible for him again.
What's not hard to say: If anything, this will drive Bryant (who has one year left on his contract, at $30M) to push even harder to extend his career and to be great again because so many of us are wondering whether that's possible.
He's different than almost everybody else: If anything, I think this devastating injury makes it LESS likely that Kobe will retire in a year.
Meanwhile, the Lakers continue to battle for a playoff spot; they were pushing Bryant to play almost every second, and while a torn Achilles is not usually a direct result fatigue, you have to believe that Bryant's body was under so much stress in every way that a calamitous injury was not a shocking result.
Desperate times produce dangerous decisions which often blow up athletes' body parts.
He wanted to play 48 minutes; coach Mike D'Antoni let him; now the entire Lakers franchise is topsy-turvy... maybe the last time it was this topsy-turvy was when Magic Johnson abruptly retired in 1991.
This is what happens when epic figures go through crisis. Today, we've got two of them.
By the way, just to get a feel for Bryant's huge presence on all NBA thought, here's a list of the highest single-game point totals since 2000 (I looked this up last night as Steph Curry was going nuts in the first half, but there's a theme here):
Most points in an NBA game since 2000: