Tiger Woods

By: Eddie Clements

There is much ado about something. It looks like the best golfer the world has yet seen has shanked one into a hazard which may be composed of quicksand.

When Babe Ruth entered professional baseball he upped the whole game a quantum level. It was no longer just a game of singles and doubles, with the occasional base-on-balls thrown in to gain a run or two at a time. Now runs could pour across the plate in bunches. Power became the standard, later characterized by the famed Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver as “a single, a walk, and a three-run homer”. Ruth’s play elevated baseball to become “The National Pastime”, a widely viewed spectator sport.
Tiger Woods has done the same for golf. As the premier pro, the man can make shots in a tournament contest others would not even consider, much less attempt. Besides making the array of “wow” shots, they worked. His ability to win tournaments has begun a steady march towards not just setting records but obliterating them. It would not be too much to say his game has raised the bar for other pro golfers; they had to get better just to have a chance of keeping up and not be embarrassed. Like Ruth with baseball, Woods made golf better.

Golf as a spectator sport is definitely an acquired taste. It is much more fun to play than watch, as are many sports. It is also more work than it looks like, as I found out when I took up the endeavor. Alas, I began too late in life, but playing the game afforded me some appreciation of the skills and effort involved. I can watch it on TV with an interest lacking before taking up the game.

Woods’ participation guarantees greater spectator interest in any tournament he enters, and with good reason. His prowess was recognized early. Nike offered him a $25 million dollar endorsement contract out of college. No need for him to earn the backing of sponsors like most pro golfers. His future was automatically assured. His performance on the course has justified the enormous rewards for just joining the pro golfers’ tour. Unlike many prodigies who later disappoint, his success has yielded not only notoriety but huge financial rewards.

Besides the financial benefits of celebrity, he has attracted a beautiful wife with whom he sired two lovely children. He enjoys the best life has to offer, lives in a mansion, and has many adoring fans.

For years Tiger has shown patience answering questions of reporters after finishing his rounds. To me, the answers sometimes seemed a bit strained, like he wanted to say “haven’t you ever flubbed a shot, nitwit?” He has been shielded from criticism by the media because of his status as the first African-American to achieve so much in golf, traditionally considered a game of the white and more privileged.

But Tiger’s temper gets the better of him on occasion. After hitting one off the fairway into the trees, he would visibly slam a club down or into a bag, uttering expletives. These outbursts seemed to have become more frequent as his career has progressed, but the press has never made a big deal out of it. Someone should have told him it sullies his image.

Unfortunately, celebrities don’t usually take criticism well, and there may not have been anyone around Tiger with enough weight to say something and make it stick. Or, perhaps no one else noticed as I did, or thought of it the same way. I kind of doubt that, though. A likely explanation is to dismiss these behaviors as the foibles of genius. When you can do what he does, a lot can be forgiven.

Not just now, it appears. A series of events has unfolded that may change Woods’ life forever. Rumors of serial affairs and their subsequent revelations may have spurred him to escape his wife’s anger by fleeing his own home, ending in an embarrassing car crash. He does not want to answer questions about the incident, but events have spiraled out of Woods’ control. Questions will hang in the air unanswered, joined by still more questions and rampant speculation unless an end is put to this sad episode.
There is something bothersome about this having to do with the center driving the attention. We have heard the media is driving the story, that it won’t rest until questions are answered. But the person driving this story is Tiger himself. It is not that he refuses to make any statements satisfying public curiosity, rather, why did he throw it all away in one or more foolish trysts?
I’m repeating unsubstantiated rumors here, but they are becoming increasingly solid. In other words, none of this would have happened if Tiger had not decided to take a flyer in his skivvies at 2AM on a holiday night. Thanksgiving, for goodness sake, the most family night of the whole year, is disturbed by reports of the world’s premier golfer crashing his vehicle into a tree and causing himself injury. Some of his injury may have come from the aggrieved wife.

Who could blame anyone for getting mad about discovering their spouse’s unfaithfulness? Such discovery causes incidents like this, reducing world-class talent to actions expected of persons enjoying far less privilege. That’s the polite way of putting it. The crude way is to say these ungrateful rich louts behaved like trailer-park trash.

How the mighty can fall.

What this incident and his temper reveals to me is a lack of spiritual guidance to Tiger’s life. I don’t know his religious beliefs, if they exist or to what extent, but he didn’t take his marriage seriously enough to honor the commitment. That says he is very weak or very unaware; either can devastate a family. He needs to get acquainted with God, if for no other reason than to realize God is Someone Else.

By extension, some commentary following the incident said that Tiger will recover from this and will lose no endorsements, that people will forgive and forget. That may be as troublesome for our nation’s people as the sexual affairs are for the Woods family. When you accept such bad behavior with no more than temporary concern, we are all diminished by spiritual impoverishment. And, while what happens to another family may not have any discernible impact on our own lives, when our heroes fall from the heights of our ideals, the ideals suffer.

Eddie Clements

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