Sports Transgressions

The angry athlete

America's New Sport: Catching a Tiger by Its Tale

Commentary on athletes falling from grace.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that our voyeuristic society waits with bated breath for Tiger Woods’ apology.  There will be plenty of criticism.  Was his apology genuine?  Did he only do this because he wants to reclaim endorsement money that he has lost during his public ordeal?  Is he getting his money’s worth on the people that represent him and the public relations gurus who advise him?  In a fairly anticlimactic manner, I am forced to ask, “Who cares?”

We need to decide if we want to treat Tiger Woods, or any other star athlete, like a super star or a super man.  Infidelity is abundantly well represented in relationships and many people believe that the affair is not the problem; it is a symptom of the problem – something is missing in the relationship.  Well, oddly enough, even when in a monogamous relationship, the rest of the world does not become ugly.  Might there be greater temptations for the popular, attractive, rich, athlete/entertainer than your run-of-the-mill schlep who feels that their partner is not giving them enough attention?  Absolutely.  Are there people who, if they knew they would never get caught (male or female), might push the boundaries of their marital vows?  Again, no doubt.  The amazing thing is that many of the philanderers, like incarcerated criminals, are convinced that they’ll never get caught.  Arguably the most recognized face in the world, Tiger Woods, would be able to carry on not one, but several, top secret relationships.  That is about as likely as Hugh Hefner walking into a sorority house and asking for directions to the library. 

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It is disappointing that Tiger, despite all the evidence to the contrary when swinging a club, is in fact human.  It is baffling that we look to athletes, entertainers, or anyone else to be our role models.  Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that we aren’t particularly convinced that we have good role models amongst us; good fathers, good husbands…they must be harder to find than the Tooth Fairy.  Nonsense.  There are plenty of good people out there; and you know what? They have fallacies and fall from grace too.  There are good husbands who are bad fathers and bad husbands that are good fathers.  Same goes for women in the wife/mother roles.  All in all, trying Tiger in the court of public opinion implies that the public has some right to weigh in on his capacity in those roles.  I don’t think we do.

I, for one, honestly don’t want to hear his apology.  He didn’t hurt me; unless I am now concerned that all men will be labeled as “on the prowl” because a man who could have it all took advantage of that.  I have better things to occupy my mind with.  I don’t think he owes me one either.  If I were just a sports fan, as one of my buddies pointed out, he should apologize for not playing golf - which is a wonder for us to watch, and thus he is depriving us. 

However, the person who he needs to apologize to is his wife…and it will, and should be, her decision on how she proceeds.  He has obviously put his family at great risk.  Whether or not the Woods marriage can be saved is between them.  I anticipate the many women who will ridicule or even slander Elin Woods if she makes the decision to try to work things out with her husband.  Because of this, I think she is at risk for being humiliated a second time.  First when all the news came out and now when people pass judgment on her for what she chooses to do.  Marriages are complex relationships.  They come with rules, agreements, flexibility and needs.  Only the people in that relationship can truly attest to its value, whether it is worth saving, and decide how to proceed down the road to recovery. 

But if he weren’t married, would it be such an interesting story?  Tiger Woods long held a squeaky clean image and now has fallen from grace.  Derek Jeter will soon take his name out of the running as the most eligible bachelor on the planet.  He publicly has had his share of relationships, but as a single guy, never was there a blemish on his PR resume when he showed up with different dates on consecutive nights.  Derek Jeter gets it right.  Consummate professional, humble to the core, and a phenomenal leader…but one day, he’ll be married, and he’ll forget to put the toilet seat back down showing that he is human.  Should we await an apology for that?

Hell, maybe this will all be for naught.  Tiger will find a way to recover and thrive again.  Not without scars, but he will rise from the ashes, to again show that, at least on the fairway, he may be a little more than human.  And we will wait and watch for any sign that he and any other superstar athlete may be a little less than human.  Why?  Probably because even being human is too much to ask.  The cameras will be waiting and the reporters will be baiting, to find the next time that an athlete falls from grace…to catch a Tiger by their tale.

Mitch Abrams, Psy.D. is a clinical sport psychologist specializing in anger management, sexual assault prevention and the treatment of trauma.

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