For those that think I was letting Tiger off the hook for his personal responsibility in my March 4th opinion article, “Tiger’s Failures Stem from Our Own”, that is surely not the case. I thought that what he did was as despicable and wrong as the next person. I wasn’t trying to say that he’s not responsible for his actions, for it is inevitable that we all end up being responsible for our actions somehow, and rightly so. Even OJ Simpson, who bought his way out of criminal punishment, still faces civil punishment through our legal system, and more importantly has to face the music with his friends, family, associates and the general public. He got away with murder, but his image to his family and friends will forever be tainted, and he has to live with that.
Perhaps what I was really saying, is that our society is not judgmental enough, but only when it suits us. For instance, some who think I’m not holding Tiger personally responsible, probably are still friends with someone they know who has cheated on a spouse. Or perhaps those that say I wasn’t holding Tiger responsible enough, were the ones that told Tiger’s dad that he was doing a fine job raising Tiger, not raising any objection, questions or concerns, when the young boy seemed to be obsessed with golf and estranged from the other kids.
Tiger obviously lacks the traits of a true hero, but as I say in my book written before the scandal occurred, “..we don’t know what true heroes are anymore.” Tiger is an embodiment of what extreme dedication, hard work, razor sharp focus, maniacal tunnel-vision, and singularity of devotion to a sport can do for your performance in it.
My point of the article was that we don’t care what it took for kids to get to that point of success and achievement. If we understood the process to get there, we would understand what these athletes missed out on growing up. And I argue that there are no other athletes that have had the kind of responsibility and success that Tiger has had with his ultimate celebrity status. He has been the highest paid athlete since 2001 and is a unique story of his time. In 2007 and 2008 he made more than double any other athlete, and was second in celebrity earnings to Oprah Winfrey.
I too was fooled by Tiger’s seeming perfect image, and just couldn’t believe that he had it all together like he did. I was astounded and aghast years ago, when I saw this supposed picture of perfection on and off the course, and was dumb-founded as to how he did it all. I was in a similar position to him growing up, and wasn’t able to come close to being able to handle it all with balance and healthy thinking. My mind was weak and bothered by things, so I was just baffled at how he did it. I eventually came to accept it and succumb to the fairytale, because it was the easy thing to do and I wanted to believe it. I thought he must be the exception, and there is one incomprehensible person that is of just the right disposition to carry it all off.
Thus, I was as disappointed, or more so, than others when the scandal broke, believe me. This fairy tale image I allowed myself to take on of Tiger had been broken. I wanted to believe that I had chased something worthy and something that was available, that it could have been attained. I wanted something untouchable in this dirty life of ours that tries to smear and de-value others’ efforts and achievements, as the media or public are always critical and trying to find and illuminate some of the dirt that they don’t stand against.
I disagree with Steven Kane, and do not believe that Tiger admitting to this public debacle is the first step toward his atonement. His statement seemed contrived and forced to me, and he did it because he had to, for us the public and his sponsors, so he could come back to golf without being derided and taunted on the course. Tiger Woods may have publicly acknowledged his personal responsibility, but so too did Charles Manson, John Edwards, and Bernie Madoff. Are they also reforming themselves and on their way to atonement? They knew what they were doing when they did it, and they did it for a reason. That reason is a part of who they have grown to be.
To admit personal responsibility for something, and to be sorry for it, are two totally different things. The divide between being able to change the very fabric of the person you are and reform yourself, and to say some half-appeasing words to have the appearance of change, is as wide as that gulf of space between Mercury and Pluto (wherever that lil’ bugger has drifted to in our solar system). Only God knows what Tiger is actually thinking or believing. None even knows if Tiger wants that reconciliation you speak of. Just as his bad behavior and great golf were not formed in a vacuum of our imagining, either will be his supposed atonement.
Yes it is a serious issue, that is why I’m dissecting it. Serious issues often have complex underpinnings rather than readily available solutions. It’s as if the people who say Tiger didn’t live by their rules are upset and mad that he didn’t, rather than sad. It’s as if they want to be rewarded for their own good moral behavior, as if the reward in acting that way is not enough. It shouldn’t be a burden to act that way, those people should feel fortunate that they have the set of values in tact that they do, and have those principles to guide them. Tiger is unfortunate and unlucky not to have those principles instilled in his fiber, and is the less happy one for it.