Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Par Value

Tiger Woods announces his return to golf with his entrance into the Masters' Tournament next month in Augusta, GA.
I suppose this is a good thing. While he certainly has more than enough money that he could retire today and never lift a club in anger again, he's young enough that it would make him crazy, and probably end his marriage and family for good.
A man needs a hobby, after all.
Others will reflect on whether this is a good thing for Woods or for golf.
I'd rather focus on why his return to golf is good for America.

Just don't make him out to be a hero if he does [win the Masters']. This isn't [Ben] Hogan coming back after almost dying in a car crash, nearly broken in half by a bus. This is a guy going back to his job after the job he did on his good name, and on his marriage.

I've often railed about the cult of celebrity we have in this country, and how we raise heroes way over our heads, only to notice the feet of clay just before they crash down on top of us. It happened with John Edwards, and the people angriest at Edwards are the people who took too him so very early on, adopting him like he was the featured boy singer on Sixteen Magazine.

When he betrayed Elizabeth, he betrayed those people too, and they were hurt. Messiahs can do that to a person.

Woods has a chance to redeem himself a little. We forget how amazing a golfer he can be. As pathetic as that sport is-- it's a little like saying he's the greatest hopscotch player-- no one can deny his talent there. If his golf skills have not eroded terribly-- and apart from the stress and pressure his personal life has now put on those skills (concentration, focus, consistency), there's no reason to think they have-- he can re-establish himself as a golf champion and golf hero.

And that ought to be enough. It should have been enough from day one of his career. He's a man. He's just a man.

And sometimes, men do really incredibly stupid things, and hurt people around them. Unfortunately, the people around him include not just his family, but his fans, the media, fellow golfers and anyone who happened to tune in a TV when this scandal was at the top of the news.

We were all injured by his clumsiness and that, my friends, is the farce of this whole thing. He's a golfer, not a priest, and so we had no business butting our noses into his personal life.

More than redemption, he needs to be put into perspective. We can applaud his skills without applauding him, just as we ought to applaud anyone who has a talent in a particular area, but we need not deify him or her either.

Humans have flaws and failings. We should appreciate that Woods struggles with infidelity just like so many Americans do. We can empathize with him, we can weigh his assets and liabilities as a person and as a person, try to determine what we would do in his circumstance. With all his money, for example, he probably shouldn't have gotten married if he had this problem and if he didn't recognize it, then the people who so carefully marketed this up-from-the-Wheaties-box athlete should have dialed it down a notch and handed us expectations he could live up to.

To have done otherwise was to do a signal disservice to Woods and then to us.

Ironically, my suspicion is after the Masters' things will go back the way they were before: we'll have Tiger out of the news for a very long time, win or lose. We Americans are as fickle in our life's choices as Tiger appears to have been with his marriage.