He’s not a machine.
He’s not an avatar.
And he’s doesn’t walk on water.
There may have been some doubt before he became the cover story of every tabloid from Hollywood to Hong Kong. But the myth that Tiger Woods is perfect has been debunked.
Unless you’ve been living in a hole — without access to electricity, running water or any form of news media — you might have heard that the King of Golf had a rough week.
There’s no need to recount all the lurid and sordid details. There are enough rumors to fill the Smithsonian.
This is not the side of Tiger Woods the world is used to seeing. Since he appeared on The Mike Douglas Show at the age of 2, swinging a golf club as a child prodigy in front of Bob Hope and Jimmy Stewart, Woods has been in the spotlight and groomed for success.
His adolescence was one big dress rehearsal for a life of pressure performances on famous stages.
When he left Stanford, he was trumpeted as the next great superstar. When he won his first major, The Masters, by 12 strokes, his name started popping up in the same sentences as golf legends.
It was only a matter of time until Woods surpassed them all.
Woods didn’t disappoint. He won at a historic pace. He took home record amounts of money. He built a brand that was stronger than IBM, Coke and McDonald’s combined. He carefully crafted an image that was representative of what he wanted the world to see, know and perceive about him.
He was it.
But was it all a scam?
Does it matter?
Who knows what’s true and what’s not at this point? Who cares?
Tiger Woods is still a great golfer. He apologized to his family for his “transgressions.” Beyond that, whatever possible marriage troubles Tiger and Elin Woods have are a private matter between them. Or at least, they should be, because the reality is, this is nobody else’s business.
But this is what the United States has become. We would rather talk about the personal details of one of the most famous athletes in the world than discuss the consequences of sending 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan to fight in a war we never should have started in the first place.
The Tiger Woods one-car accident and its ensuing drama should be a non-story by now. But it’s not going away anytime soon. The story has taken on a life of its own and become bigger than it deserves to be.
There was a time when this kind of “dirt” would have never seen the light of day. Back in the day, reporters protected athletes and powerful figures to preserve their reputations. News was dignified. Some things were better left unsaid. Whatever happened after hours stayed hidden from the world. The unheroic actions of “heroes” went unreported. Journalists had an obligation and responsibility to uphold the notion that these people were heroes.
Of course, some things that should have been reported also got covered up in the process.
But now, “reporters” have gone to the other extreme. No topic is off-limits. The world has become so obsessed with celebrity culture that we have lost sight of what really matters.
This shift began when salaries skyrocketed. Once the gap between what celebrities and non-celebrities made became so wide, celebrities became more interesting. Throw in cable TV, the Internet, 24-hour news cycles, 24-hour news channels, viral videos and Twitter. And before you know it, somebody sneezes, and it makes global headlines.
Society nowadays seems to care about the wrong subjects.
Pro athletes and celebrities get treated like superhumans. They get put on unrealistic pedestals. And the cost is their privacy.
On a certain level, they’ve allowed it. Such is the price of making more money for one season or movie or reality series than most people will make in a lifetime. If celebrities are going to shill products and get paid ridiculous sums of cash, they have a certain responsibility to live up to their end of the bargain, which means showing some restraint and discipline and good moral judgment.
At the same time, it’s not fair for those same people who build up the celebrities to rip them to shreds like vultures fighting for the last scrap of gazelle the minute they foul up.
The culture of celebrity is a balancing act. Right now, the teeter-totter is hanging at the Grand Canyon.
Maybe the Tiger Woods story is the one that brings everyone back to reality. Maybe we realize that none of this nonsense should impact his legacy.
He made a mistake — perhaps many. But how would you like to have your dirty laundry exposed for six billion people to see? How would you like a spotlight shined on your most unflattering moments?
I’ve never formally met Tiger Woods, but when I attended Stanford, I saw him around campus, at a few parties. One night, he just happened to be standing in front of me at the supermarket, with a coed, waiting to pay for whatever it was he was buying. I had heard all the stories, knew all about the hype, but at this moment, he was just a customer, a student, normal, like everybody else.
That’s how I’ve always viewed Tiger Woods. That’s how I still view him.
He’s a man who worked harder than most to be able to do extraordinary things with a golf club.
Give the man a break, and let him get his house in order.