David Brooks, has an op-ed in the New York Times about Tiger Woods and his astonishing string of triumphs in the golfing world (including last weekends U.S. Open which I watched the end of on both Saturday and Sunday: my wife was right he did make that last put.) Brooks piece waxes on and on about the Tiger’s ability to concentrate
And for that, in this day and age, he stands out. As I’ve been trying to write this column, I’ve toggled over to check my e-mail a few times. I’ve looked out the window. I’ve jotted down random thoughts for the paragraphs ahead. But Woods seems able to mute the chatter that normal people have in their heads and build a tunnel of focused attention.
Now Tiger’s concentration level is definitely astounding (and his combination of hard work, athletic talent, and mental toughness is certainly unmatched in golf), but I wonder if David Brooks every seen a theoretician or mathematician working?
I mean I’m not sure about you, but the level of concentration it takes for me to read stuff like this is pretty damn high. I know, I know…I’m not the swiftest cookie in the cookie jar. But I’m betting the best and brightest in the world of theoretical science are actually distinguished by an amazing ability to focus and keep out the rest of the world. Personally this only happens for me once in a while: I’m not a walking zombie, you know. But when it does, I wonder if this is what “the Zone” of sports feels like. So while I certainly think of Tiger Woods as the greatest golfer the world has seen, I guess I’m a little jaded when it comes to thinking that his ability to concentrate so deeply somehow superhuman.
Which brings me to the bigger question: how are we going to arrange for a concentration competition between Tiger Woods and a group of Fields Medalists?