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If You Love Something, Burn It to the Ground and Destroy It, Revisited: Catching a Tiger By Its Tale

December 3, 2009

Back in June, I wrote a piece about the destruction — from both internal means and the media/society’s overbearing effect — of those things we place upon a pedestal in our culture. The point of that piece is that if something sticks around long enough, and we as a people love it enough, we’ll eventually have no choice but to kill it. That’s what we do. We aren’t satisfied until we have closure — with anything — and in the pop culture realm, it means we feel the need to beat something to death so we can move on to the next big thing.

I only reference this June piece because of the current goings-on of Tiger Woods and his ever-expanding cast of an epic presentation about the adulterous canoodlings of a major athlete. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, you can read about the details from our very own Reverend St. Orts here. He covered it much more eloquently there than I ever could in a recap here, and at the time insinuated that there might be more than meets the eye to the “domestic dispute,” as it was inferred to be by the police at that time.

Cut to right now. A beloved sports figure is tied to our posts as we line up the firing squad. Tiger Woods, as it turns out, may have been a bit of a philanderer, allegedly carrying on ongoing trysts with at least three women (that we know of) — club promoter Rachel Uchitel, cocktail waitress (and VH1 Tool Academy contestant girlfriend) Jamie Grubbs, and socialite Kalika Moquin. Consequently, this would mean he’s cheating on wife Elin Woods, with whom he has two children.

I’ve just made Tiger Woods sound terrible, just there. And cheating on one’s spouse is terrible, let’s not split hairs. But I’d like to make the argument that if there’s ever been a public figure who’s earned the right to have us give him a break, it’s Tiger Woods. 

I don’t say that because Tiger’s the best golfer who ever lived. Though he is. There are few sports where one can point to “the best,” unarguably, but you can do that with golf. You can point to Tiger. And I don’t ask for a break for Tiger because of his fame, his reported $100 million in promotions each year surely staggering all of us.

I say this because if there’s one celebrity who has actually built up karma points (and let’s face it, that in itself is a rarity in modern celebrity and sports culture), it’s Tiger Woods. I know I’m not the only one who actually knows several children under the age of ten who idolize Woods, who sit watching golf with their fathers on Sunday afternoons and to whom Tiger has always been an upstanding role model and vintage example of a good sportsman. 

Tiger’s charity work rivals any of his sports or Hollywood peers, with the Tiger Woods Foundation working with a reported ten million children each year and providing leadership skills, camps, grants, scholarships and opportunities for kids. 

And Tiger has always been a gentleman in the public eye. You’ve never seen tabloid photos of Tiger. He’s never been caught drunk and obnoxious in Vegas. He’s always taken his status very seriously and appeared, at least, to hold himself to a higher standard than most with his kind of success. 

But most of all, we all loved Tiger. Show me one person, before this incident brought the family’s dirty laundry to light, who ever said to you “I just don’t like Tiger.” He’s an athlete no one roots against. It’s nearly unfathomable. The Yankees are great, but there will always be those who hope they lose. The Celtics are loved, but there will always be those who can’t stand them. Tiger is a one-man team whom no one roots against. 

So here we are, with this thing. A man’s private life, his home arguments with his wife and his dalliances with other women exposed. And not just exposed — exploited. 

Once the media smelled a mistress in this scenario, it collectively vowed not to stop until Tiger answered for all of his sins. Media outlets from CNN to ESPN and E! to Entertainment Tonight camped like vultures outside his home, shooting pictures of the house from the air. The sharks were circling. This was the perfect opportunity to bring someone big down. And it doesn’t matter who pulled the trigger; if one media outlet took the high road and didn’t do it, another would. The fact that it was Tiger Woods, whom everyone adored, just made it juicier.

Our television viewership and newspaper and website readership became judge and jury as we all waited with baited breath. Did he cheat? Is he getting a divorce? How many women has he been with?

Tiger Woods, the man who is better at what he does than perhaps anyone else ever, who has raised countless dollars for children and who has never taken his role as a figurehead anything less than seriously, has never been more famous than right now.

And that’s the problem. We’re more into him when we’re trying to destroy him than we are when he’s being one of the most fascinating people in our world. 

Tiger released a statement on Wednesday that was and wasn’t a confession of wrongdoing. But in true Tiger fashion, it was eloquent and graceful, and it gently stated that whether he did or didn’t do anything wrong, the only people he has to answer to are his wife and family:

I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone.

He continued:

…for me, the virtue of privacy is one that must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one’s own family. Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn’t have to mean public confessions.

Let’s call ’em like they are. It looks like Tiger Woods had an affair. Or several. And there are many experiences he’ll yet have to go through within his own family to make things correct because of that. But we as a society should let that family have the space to deal with things on their own terms — instead of adding to the angry torch-bearing mob, simply because we have nothing better to do than join in the burning of our idols, an act which actually makes very little sense.

As he said himself, Tiger Woods has not been perfect. None of us are. It’s regrettable that Tiger committed these transgressions and hurt his family, but it’s just as regrettable that we feel the need to know every single detail. I’m not much of an advocate for celebrities who have behaved badly, but in this case I’m making an exception. Because it’s none of my business. Or yours.

Let the man deal with this on his own. On his own terms. Because this isn’t about golf, or Gatorade, or Nike, or Playstation 3. It’s about a man’s own life, and a life which would seem to be crumbling right now. We can offer our hopes that he can reach a peace within himself and his family, but we don’t need to sit outside his house in a news van as we do so. He’s always been good to us. We’ve always loved Tiger. We’ve always rooted for him. Why should we stop now?

  1. Jay St. Orts permalink
    December 3, 2009 6:31 pm

    Two of the gophers (they prefer “Multimedia Logistics Assistant”) here in the LPs from the Attic offices take bets on TBTS titles–usually, whether or not they actually reflect the true subject (and, usually at my, your good Reverend’s, literal expense).

    And yet: I just took Chet’s money–he swore up and down that this was going to be a surprise Buck Owens piece.

  2. Bbob permalink
    December 3, 2009 8:42 pm

    Wow and you all of this without mentioning the name of Mrs. Woods. Maybe words should be written how spouses should react to cheating spouses. A three iron instead of standing by there man at a CTJ press conference.

    If she pursues divorce, who determines what 7 clubs he gets to keep?

    There I go, made him sound like a bad person.

    • December 3, 2009 9:08 pm

      If you want those words, you can feel free to go to the online comments on any number of scandal-mongering sites, I’m sure you’ll find many, many, many words expressing similar sentiments.

  3. December 3, 2009 10:23 pm

    Actually, I did mention his wife, and the trouble he’s put his family into. Make no mistake; I’m not exonerating Woods for a single thing he’s done to his marriage — he was in the wrong. I just think in this particular instance, the goodwill he’s given back to the masses is still intact. He’s done nothing to harm the same public that’s persecuting him for his wrongdoings, and that’s why it’s none of our business how he and Elin respond to this — which I’m assuming will be difficult for them. I don’t wish those troubles upon any marriage. But again, it’s none of our business. He’s a golfer, he’s not some friend of ours.

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