The student blog for Drake University first year seminar entitled Visual Politics

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Tiger Woods 'Fist Pump'

Hadley Jennings
As most of you know, Tiger Woods has become an iconic image to golfers, sport fans, and the public eye for many years now. For purposes of this post, I will be focusing more on the culture of the golfers of our generation. Tiger Woods has been at the top of the game of golf for as long as I can remember and he is the best golfer of this time in my point of view. He has not only overcome the challenges of the game of golf, but he has overcome the challenges that have come with him being African American. The fact that Tiger has become one of the most well-known golfers around the world is a challenge in itself, let alone putting with that with his race.  His well-know fist pump has been an iconic image not only in sports magazines around the world, but to the human eye. Many golfers of this generation look to Tiger as a role model. They see him as a man of determination, hard work, and success. Any golfer of this generation can look at this photograph and tell you exactly who this is and they can tell you the phrase ‘fist pump’ to describe what he is doing.
Now that I have given you some background information, I am going to explain why this image is iconic. First, I must define the definition of the word icon that I will be using.  I will be using the definition that Robert Hariman and Louis Lecaites use in the book No Caption Needed. Hariman and Lecaites would classify an icon as, “those photographic images appearing in print, electronic, or digital media that are widely recognized and remembered, are understood to be representations of historically significant events, activate strong, emotional identification or response, and are reproduced across a range of media genres, or topics.” Hariman and Lecaites also provide for us five assumptions in which to classify an image as iconic. The ‘fist pump’ image of Tiger Woods is iconic based on two of the five main assumptions that the stated in the book: aesthetic familiarity and civic performance. In my opinion these two assumptions are the two main assumptions that I use to classify this image as iconic to this generation of golfers.
When this photograph is shown, this culture of golfers can immediately give you the logistics of the photograph. Why is that you might ask?  The reason for this is because it has aesthetic familiarity to us. Aesthetic familiarity means that the image is familiar in our minds, relatable, and transcends our imagination.  This image has become familiar in our golf set minds from watching Tiger play, reading articles about him in the latest Golf magazine, or seeing news about how he is doing in the latest tournaments. In any of those three places we can find pictures of Tiger doing his iconic fist pump. This fist pump is not only something we see him do in tournaments and captured in pictures like this picture, but it is something that we have adapted into our own golf game. When I make a long putt or a big putt to win a match, I find myself doing the fist pump motion. I do this not only because Tiger Woods, my icon, does it, but rather because this image is so familiar to me in my mind. Since the iconic image of the fist pump is so familiar to me, I have adapted it in my own ways and put it into active use in my golf game. Many other golfers of this generation have also adapted the fist pump into their normal routine of a round of golf. That alone makes this image iconic because it has become so familiar it has become emotionally entwined into our routines on the golf course.
That emotional connection from the picture to our own movements represents the second assumption by which I believe this image is iconic, and that is the civic performance the image provides. Civic performance is described as the emotional perspective of the viewer. The emotional perspective of  the viewer is the emotional scenario that goes through a viewers mind when he/she looks at this photo. The viewer is captured by flashbacks of tournaments they have watched with Tiger doing the fist pump, pictures they have seen of Tiger doing the fist pump, and ultimately making the connection from Tiger to themselves. When the viewer looks at this photograph they flashback to the times that they have done the fist pump while playing a round of golf. That alone, gives the photograph both civic performance, by capturing the viewers emotion, and aesthetic familiarity, by relating the fist pump to images of Tiger Woods doing the fist pump in their own minds. The two go hand in hand to make this photograph iconic to this culture of young golfers.  In the words of Hariman and Lacaites, an iconic image with civic performance “motivates action and organizes collective memory.” The image also “acquires the capability to reveal or suggest what is unsayable” (Hariman and Lacaites). 
In conclusion, this image is iconic to me and the golfers of this generation because it is so familiar to us and it sparks that emotional connection not only to Tiger Woods himself, but to our lives and the relation it has to us as young golfers. The Tiger Woods fist pump has become a widely used motion to golfers of this generation everywhere. This photograph is a perfect example of Tiger Woods’ impact on the game of golf and this generation of golfers. His motion has become iconic to use and this widely spread image of his fist pump, in conclusion, has become very iconic to this culture of young golfers.

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