Backstory: Who's the more dominant sportsman: Woods or Federer?
This is the endless summer of Roger Federer and Tiger Woods. They are the stars of a new Golden Age of Sports, where athletes are molded, packaged, and branded, where the sun never sets on a global stage.
But Federer and Woods are more than brands, and surely more than personalities. They are flesh-and-blood champions, known locally and globally for their work ethic and their dominance.
In an era where politicians, business tycoons, gosh, even actors, worry endlessly about such a thing as creating a legacy, Federer and Woods create something more enduring.
They just win, week after week, year after year. They don't talk about legacy, they talk about victory.
It's fashionable now to try and figure out who is more dominant, who means more on the sporting landscape.
You say Federer and I say Woods.
You say Federer has won 10 major tennis titles, including last month's Australian Open, where he flattened his rivals with a superb blend of shot-making and steel. He didn't drop a set. And now, at 25, he's poised to make a run at the Grand Slam, out to conquer that red clay at Roland Garros to claim the French Open, and then repeat as champion at Wimbledon and the US Open.
I say Woods has won 12 major golf titles and swept the big four – the Masters, US Open, British Open, and PGA Championship. If any modern golfer can win the Grand Slam in a single season, it's Woods. He refashioned his swing for the long haul and physically and psychologically crushed all his near rivals. At 31, he may just be entering his prime.
The argument is circular, emotive, not easily resolved. After all, Federer wields a tennis racket while Woods swings a golf club.
They're fast friends, of course. Woods dropped in at last year's US Open to see Federer win the final in New York. Federer wandered the course at the Dubai Desert Classic this past weekend to watch Woods play.
They may be the only two active athletes who know what it's like to compete at such a rarefied level while yearning for more success. Federer is out to surpass Pete Sampras, who won 14 Grand Slam titles before retiring. Woods is aiming at the 18 major golf titles won by Jack Nicklaus.