As we come back from the holidays and face a new year (but not a new decade, that’s another rant at the exploitation of the modern media), I have found it refreshing to have already gone two whole work days without seeing a Tiger Woods headline on cnn.com or in the newspaper.
I hope the Tiger-free news trend continues – until he comes back to playing golf.
While I certainly do not advocate cheating on your spouse, and if the rumors are true I feel badly for Tiger’s wife and kids, I don’t care that he cheated, and I certainly don’t hold it against him. I just hope it doesn’t hurt his golf game.
Shocked? Outraged? Think I am insensitive?
Nope. I am simply not an idiot who is surprised when any popular celebrity cashes in on his or her celebrity status and does exactly what a whole lot of people fantasize about doing, but cannot because they aren’t celebrities. Now consider the most extreme example, a celebrity who is as famous and recognizable as any on earth, who has made more money than any athlete in history, who is young, fit, and handsome, spends half his life on the road and has been sheltered from most aspects of “normal” life and society since he was a teenager. Are you going to tell me you are shocked that he has a thing for the ladies? Come on.
But I am not trying to justify his behavior, though I certainly understand it.
It’s your behavior, as the American public and fellow media, that I cannot understand or justify. Especially the golf media: if it weren’t for Tiger half of you wouldn’t have jobs.
But let’s get back to the general public.
Here’s the bottom line: Tiger was a wildly popular athlete long before he got married and had cute kids. This is obvious proof that it is not his family life that made people like him. In fact, it wasn’t his life at all, since no one knew anything about him, except that he was the best golfer alive, by a huge margin, and he won a LOT.
That is why you liked him, and nothing has changed, except that you’ve driven him to not play anymore.
Yes, he has a charitable foundation. So does every other famous athlete in every sport. Yes he is dedicated and practices hard. So does Vijay. It is a simple truth you cannot deny: you loved Tiger because he was a winner. You made him popular enough to advertise for Accenture and AT&T and Nike because he was a winner, not because of his morals, personality or sense of humor, none of which you knew the slightest thing about.
So what’s changed? He is still the same guy who won all those tournaments, led the money list, and is the best golfer in the world. That’s what you loved about him.
Please don’t tell me he’s a bad role model. Of course is. Almost all professional athletes are bad role models, and if you are disappointed because you held Tiger up as role model to your kids, it’s your own fault. Teachers should be role models, people who overcame handicaps should be role models, philanthropists should be role models. Athletes make lousy role models. At least he didn’t end up dead or in jail like so many other athlete role models. You know why all those kids in the commercials enviously said “I am Tiger Woods,” or would urge us “Be like Mike” in the basketball commercials? Because those guys get the money and the girls. That’s the role model. People do not want to be the best golfer in the world or the best basketball player or the best F1 driver because of the purity of the sport or their childish love of games, or else a lot more people would be into curling and croquet. They want to be the best because then you get a billion dollars and a rock star lifestyle, and we know how many athletes, rock stars and Hollywood celebrities have stable home lives, marriages and are well adjusted socially.
Which brings me back to the only thing I ever cared about Tiger Woods, which is watching his incomparable golf game, because he’s really good at it. Truth is, I am not even a real fan, it is more that I would not watch golf on TV at all, but in the last few years I would sometimes watch Sunday at a Major to see Tiger hit staggering shots and make must-make putts. I didn’t watch him for marriage advice, fashion advice or for philosophical self-exploration. His popularity was built entirely on winning golf tournaments, so why should it be subject to private indiscretion off the course?
At the end of the day Tiger may have made bad choices. We don’t know because we are not him, we are not his wife, and we are not part of his family. I actually saw an online poll asking “should his wife leave him?” Anyone who responded to that poll, regardless of their opinion, is an idiot, because no one outside his mansion could have the slightest idea what she should do. How many of you have walked a mile in her shoes, as the Swedish model wife of the world’s most popular and wealthiest athlete? I’m sure your insight is really relevant.
But let’s assume Tiger did make bad choices, for the sake of argument. It’s still between him and his wife. He didn’t break the law. When Mel Gibson “allegedly” got drunk, got pulled over by the cops, and spewed hateful anti-Semitic remarks, did you stop going to his movies? Quarterback Michael Vick tortured and killed dogs for fun and this weekend he will be playing in the NFL playoffs. Hell, the President of the United States did what Tiger is alleged to have done, except he also went on TV to lie to the nation about it in a heart to heart, perjured himself, and got into the whole mess by using his position to take advantage of an underling at work, something any of us would have been fired and/or gone to jail for. Now he travels the world on a non-profit dime as some sort of self-proclaimed ambassador of peace and Americana.
So for the New Year, if you must be obsessed with celebrity foibles, at least pick ones worth getting indignant about. There are plenty of choices.
I for one just hope Tiger gets back in time to win a few Majors.