Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tiger, Tiger, Not So Bright

The wise are cautious and turn away from evil,
but the fool throws off restraint and is careless.
Proverbs 14:16

O how the mighty have fallen!
II Samuel 1:19

Tiger Woods has never entertained the nation as thoroughly on the golf course as he has in the national media over the past two weeks. Everywhere you turn; it’s all Tiger all the time. And with each new revelation, it gets worse. The man who had everything has apparently thrown it all away.

When the story first began to some out, it looked to me like one more example of our cult of celebrity run amuck. Those who had been worshipping at the Temple of the Tiger felt betrayed, but I was mostly amused. I am not a golfer and I have never had much invested in Tiger as an icon. Then, as more details emerged, I felt sorry for his wife. No one, I thought, deserves to be treated like that. No matter how many millions (billions) they have, it’s not enough. And I realized that the story would last long enough to haunt his children in later years.

But it’s not fun anymore.

And I have come to believe that it actually matters.

There are children who will see the story on TV or read about it on the internet, and it will become part of the raw material from which they construct their view of the world. They will hear the jokes about how now every guy REALLY wishes he could live the life of Tiger Woods. It will shape a part of how they understand male-female relationships. This is what rich and famous married men do. And this (wink, wink) is what all married men wish they could do.

Heroes matter. Kids need people they can look up to. In a perfect world, they would all look up to the right people. The adults in their lives would be their heroes. And those adults would be worthy of that adulation.

In the meantime, this is an important and painful reminder. Just because you can hit a golf ball into the next area code doesn’t make you a great human being.

In his semi-apology, Tiger said, “I am not perfect.” In our cult of fame and fortune, that is what passes for a confession.

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