It appears that after all this time, what the world might have really wanted is for Tiger Woods to be flawed, because it brings him down to everyone else’s level.
When someone appears to be too perfect, it makes people uncomfortable. It forces them to face their own deficiencies. And for so long, Tiger was just too damned perfect.
He was unassailable in his sport, unparalleled in corporate America, had the perfect family, the perfect image. The perfect Swedish model wife. The perfect life.
And frankly, it was just too perfect for most. Though I don’t often watch golf, I’ve always respected Tiger for his work ethic and determination and admired him for his natural ability. But I also found Tiger to be mundane – it’s just that there was nothing there to latch on to. What was Tiger besides a carefully constructed image of what a perfect athlete was supposed to be?
Outside of a few glimpses that all might not be what it seems – the occasional off-color joke, for example – Tiger was scrubbed clean and antiseptic. He was Gatorade and Nike, red shirts on Sunday. He wasn’t a human being, he was a brand. Tiger was a walking embodiment of everything good in sports, when viewed through the filtered prism of corporate commercialism.
And then came Thanksgiving, when he started appearing more on TMZ than ESPN, and it was revealed that he’d been rivaling Wilt Chamberlain in his… prowess.
The problem for Tiger is that too much perfection can grow tiresome – for both us and for him. We’ve seen it all before – Kobe Bryant, John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, Alex Rodriguez, Michael Jordan – when it gets to the point that someone has so much money and/or power that he begins to feel invincible. That’s a dangerous mode to be in; it leads people to make decisions based only on whim without regarding seemingly extraneous factors such as morals and repercussions.
It’s a proven fact: Fast women follow fast money. And Tiger clearly had both.
I’ve never understood why men in his position actually choose to get married. When he married Elin Nordegren, I remember thinking at the time that I could understand why he’d pick her – I mean, I’ve certainly never had the opportunity to date a Swedish model – but not why he’d tie himself down. As beautiful as she is, Tiger was probably surrounded by tons of women exactly like her. Why just settle for one? Be like Jeter, who’s looked at as a lovable playboy instead of a horrible scoundrel, and is able to date starlets and models since he’s not under the grid.
I’m sure this isn’t how it went – at least I think I’m sure – but I’ve always had this image of a Nike boardroom in which a bunch of men in suits told Tiger that he needed to get married to further the wholesome image that leads to a billion-dollar athlete. And Nordegren fit the bill perfectly: blonde, anonymous, breathtakingly beautiful. Their family pictures were the modern-day American Gothic.
But Tiger, who never really had a childhood, pushed as hard as he was from the age of 2 to be the greatest golfer in the universe, missed out on some things. You can’t work as hard as Tiger did and become as good as he is without missing out on some things, and when opportunity knocked, he saw an opportunity to make up for lost time.
The women he cavorted with would most likely possess low self-esteem – who else would purposely consort with a married father? – and of low social standing relative to one of the two or three most famous athletes in the world. I guess that’s the point; when with them, Tiger didn’t have to live up to the world’s ridiculous standards for him. He was with regular women for once, behind closed doors, no investment, no strings attached.
Except… there are always strings attached. The “other woman” almost always has a longing to be the main squeeze, and a scorned woman can be quite vindictive. Any prospective attempt to dampen the impact of the revelations was swept away when one of his mistresses released a damning voice mail to US Weekly.
I can’t think what it’s like to be Tiger, apparently attempting to give his wife money to stick around for at least a while to give the illusion that he had made amends for his transgressions.
But time heals all wounds. For better or for worse, Tiger is a bigger star than he ever was before. Once he shows that he’s penitent – the trendy thing is to go to “rehab,” no? – the public will be quick to again embrace someone who they have grown accustomed to adoring. Just look at the heartwarming redemption tale of Kobe Bryant, who won back his wife and basketball fans one $4 million ring and one jump shot at a time.
But for now, for the rest of us, does this make us feel emboldened while we greedily, vicariously watch as Tiger appears to be just like the rest of the world in his imperfections?
Or does it unnerve us somewhat that even someone – especially someone – hailed as a paragon of virtue gives in to his base desires so readily and unabashedly?
Probably a little of both, but a little more of the latter.