Part of our mission here at Daily Fuel has been to illuminate life and early career insights for our readers. As part of that continuing purpose, we're excited to announce our new blogger, Christian Zilko, will be providing first-person accounts into one young professional's journey. Enjoy.

It Was The End of a Decade, But The Start of An Age

“Tiger is driving the ball better than I’ve seen in ages…he just needs to clean up his putts, and he’ll be in good shape.”

“Christian, shut up over there. You’re way too young to be talking golf. Go drop acid and listen to punk rock.”

Such was a conversation with my favorite professor last Thursday, one that I’ve had quite a few times over the years. I offered the same response I always give:

“I’m not a golf fan, I’m a Tiger Woods fan.”

For as long as I can remember, Tiger Woods has been my favorite athlete, which makes him a strong contender for my favorite cultural figure. Growing up, he was a symbol of unimpeachable excellence, the kind of quality we should all strive for in every aspect of our lives. Then, as we both got older, he became something of a fallen hero, a larger-than-life figure whose return to prominence would solve everyone’s problems.

Either way, I’ve been a die-hard fan for as long as I can remember. The major golf tournaments are my favorite sporting events, and when Tiger is in contention, I do my best to watch every second of his rounds. When I can’t do that, I’m constantly refreshing the Tiger Tracker account on Twitter.

Since 2009, there have been four Thursdays every year when I say to myself “alright, this is going to be the weekend where Tiger wins another major. I can feel it in my gut.” And while we’ve had a few dramatic finishes, the consensus has been that my gut has very, very, very poor judgement. Until this weekend.

As stupid as it sounds, Tiger Woods winning The Masters was truly one of the best days of my life. It adds to the excitement of April 2019, which was already shaping up to be a great month because of a certain clock that’s counting down to April 26th.

Along with Tiger Woods, the other most annoying, cliche-ridden aspect of my personality is my undying love of Taylor Swift. I am 100% certain that my journey to becoming a writer began with listening to Fearless in its entirety two times in a row after school every day in sixth grade. For whatever reason, I had never heard words move the way hers did, and it opened a part of me that I never quite closed up.

I’ve been a devoted fan of hers ever since, hanging on every album announcement and looking for hidden messages in her lyrics. Like Tiger Woods, she strikes me as a larger-than-life cultural figure who embodies everything good about our world. They both perform at the absolute highest level imaginable, and come across as approachable and all-American. They simply don’t make mistakes (with one obvious exception, but we’ve forgiven him!), and are impossible to dislike unless you’re a contrarian. They’re almost like modern folk heroes. They’ve reached greater heights in the fields of pop music and golf than any competitor, while remaining insanely likable.

Much like I devoted my entire weekend to watching The Masters, you can be certain that when that new Taylor Swift song drops on April 26th, I’ll be downloading it at midnight and listening to it 15 times before I go to sleep.

That Tiger Woods is winning majors and Taylor Swift is releasing new music with relative frequency (no more four year breaks between albums) tells me that a shift is happening. It seems like the good guys are starting to win again.

The two of them have each gone through some pretty rough years. Tiger Woods never really bounced back from his personal drama until last year, and his back injuries became so ugly that he thought he was done with professional golf forever. Taylor Swift followed the highs of 1989, a critical and commercial smash, with the darkest moments of her life. The pain of relationships failing, friends abandoning her, and enemies spreading vicious rumors, all on the most public stage imaginable, caused her to go into hiding for two years. She famously said that things became so bad that she wished he had never become famous. Her last album, Reputation, was written about the nightmare she lived, and the unexpected good that came from the darkest places.

But she clearly grew from the experience, both as a person and an artist. She’s finally in what seems like a perfect relationship, and she’s surrounded herself with a few real friends, and her army of endlessly loyal fans, to create an environment in which she can work happily. She’s releasing happy music again, and this spring’s new album seems like it will be no exception.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that a world without Taylor Swift and Tiger Woods is a pretty gloomy place, and I couldn’t be happier that they’re both back on top. They’ve been integral parts of my life for so long that when they hurt, I hurt with them. Tiger missing the cut at majors was as painful as hearing about how Jake Gyllenhaal broke up with Taylor Swift by not showing up to her birthday party. When Tiger would grimace after a swing, obviously in back pain, it was just as bad as when she sang about her flowers growing back as thorns.

Even the greatest people on Earth, the absolute titans of their fields, can suffer setbacks that cost them years. And those setbacks also hurt those of us who stay by their sides during everything. But all’s well that ends well, and things are ending very, very well right now. Tiger Woods is a champion and Taylor Swift is writing happy songs. Something is in the air, because our country’s heroes are starting to win again, and villains are starting to lose. You can’t ask for more than that.

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A hero is someone who, in spite of weakness, doubt or not always knowing the answers, goes ahead and overcomes anyway.
— Christopher Reeve
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