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Declan Lynch: The world just does not care too much for true greatness


There used to be one or two things in this world that were decided. You wouldn't find much debate about Tiger Woods's innate superiority in the game of golf or even in the game of life.

And no-one was in any doubt that Wayne Rooney would be the best player in Britain more or less indefinitely -- it is what he does. These things were settled.

When every other blue-chip investment was going down the toilet, you could at least rely on Tiger to keep holing putts for which no other man had the stomach, and you could rely on Wazza to put Wigan and Blackburn Rovers to the sword, every time.

Alas, these great men are now much diminished. Some will say that they have diminished themselves with their ungovernable lusts. But I believe there is more to it than that.

The world, I believe, does not care much for greatness.

The world does not like great music, for example. Or great books. In fact, the world has a clear preference for bad music and bad books. I fear there is something similar going on, with Tiger and now with Rooney.

Alex Ferguson in his PR statement did not go into much detail about the tabloid monstering of Rooney, despite the fact that Rooney's form disappeared around the time that the hounds of Wapping started closing in on him.

Ferguson "reminded him of his responsibilities" . . . indeed. So we don't know if there's any truth in the tabloid story that he didn't speak to the player for a month, or if perhaps Ferguson said some things about Rooney's lifestyle which were not entirely sensitive to all the nuances of the situation.

No, whatever happened, it was all Wayne's fault, just as the disintegration of Tiger is all Tiger's fault.

But it is not all their fault, by any means. It is not their fault, for example, that other people's priorities are all wrong.

It is not their fault that other people attach more importance to what Alfred Doolittle called "bourgeois

morality" than to the genuinely admirable qualities which these men have so frequently shown -- prodigious talent, of course, but also a kind of moral superiority, the courage to take more responsibility than their colleagues and rivals, the ability to hold it together when everyone else is folding like a cheap deckchair.

These are the things that matter, not that creepy morality which will condemn a man for his questionable choices in the area of sexuality.

Ignorance is the key here. Anyone who understands the achievements of a Tiger or a Rooney, who appreciates the honesty of their efforts and their strength of character at the height of battle, could never be judgemental about their leisure pursuits.

Only those who know nothing of these things would want to drag such men down into the dirt because they have occasionally stepped outside the boundaries of holy matrimony. Yet, due to the weight of numbers, that is what has happened.

Two people -- Elin Nordegren and Colleen Rooney -- on a superficial reading of the two cases, may have legitimate grounds for grievance here. Unfortunately, about 2,000 million punters out there feel perfectly entitled to make their judgements too.

And I guess it must get too much in the end, even for Wayne Rooney, arguably the best footballer of his time, and for Tiger Woods, the best golfer of all time. Even the great ones eventually begin to crack under the monstrous pressure of all that vulgarity and stupidity and sheer bad-mindedness out there.

They have shown millions of people these wonderful things, perhaps sacrificing their own youth in the process, and most are too dumb to see it.

Tiger Woods won the 2008 US Open on one leg, an achievement so remarkable it should have inspired the whole human race.

At a time when everything was going wrong, when the Western world was sinking under the waves of corporate bullshit, here was something astonishing, something that wasn't bullshit. But the folks didn't really pay too much attention to that. They saved their most raucous celebrations for the night he drove his car into a tree.

Again we are seeing why the majority prefer to surround themselves with rubbish of every kind. Excellence is a dangerous thing in a culture which tries to pound everything into the same pulp.

Tiger got there, and Wazza got there, but ultimately the general public will always exchange a vision of excellence for visions of Woods and Rooney consorting with lowlifes and hookers.

Not that these two men of genius haven't made some elementary errors of judgement.

Tiger should never have gone to rehab, for example. Since they tried to convince him that he has an addiction, the man has lost his mojo in every sense. Which is probably what they wanted anyway, to bring down the ultimate symbol of male accomplishment -- hopefully Rooney will learn from that, and will not go there.

And obviously it wasn't a great idea for these guys to get married in the first place. Maybe they believed the old line that getting married would bring some "balance" into their lives, forgetting the fact that "balance" never had much part to play at any level in the constitution of a Tiger Woods or a Wayne Rooney.

So, by getting married, they found that their lives had become unbalanced, and at times unmanageable. Which would make them no different to a million other guys out there.

Which is how the world wants it, apparently -- everything ground down to the same pulp, no respect for true quality or achievement.

On the Vincent Browne show last week, a political reporter finished her preview of the morning papers on what she may have thought was a kindly note, remarking that Sean Og O hAilpin will probably leave more of a legacy than Wayne Rooney.

While it wasn't a premeditated attack, it had that casual disdain for Rooney which can only come from a deep lack of understanding.

Wayne Rooney, by the time he was 20 years old, had already left a legacy that can never be extinguished, even if every whore in Great Britain stands in line to sell her story to the News of the World.

And in the end, it may come to that.

Sunday Independent