Monday, March 26, 2012

Back in the Saddle Again

So, Tiger Woods won his first PGA tour event in almost 1,000 days this weekend. It's been since his now famous Thanksgiving auto-accident, which may or may not have included a really high dose of sleeping pills and an enraged Swedish woman brandishing an incredibly expensive golf club. What is definitely included was Tiger's wife confronting him about a series of terribly traitorous affairs.

That personal tragedy, combined with some serious knee problems made for three down years for the world's greatest golfer. A likable, nice guy - destined for stardom from the age of two. He married a gorgeous model, had two beautiful kids and more money than God.

I'm not going to dwell on the speculation. Is Tiger a sex addict? Maybe. The tales of his escapades certainly don't fit entirely the model for a cheating rich guy. Did the absence of his father lead him astray? Certainly the role models he chose upon his father's death are better examples of selfish, entitled athletes (it's not like Michael Jordan or Charles Barkley have had a lot of marriage success).

Tiger's tragedy is not an uncommon one. We'll probably never know whether he was truly sorry or simply sorry he got caught. I'm pretty confident he loves his kids and probably still loves his now ex-wife. I'm not sure he does, or ever did, love them more than himself.

I appreciate some of the changes he's made - dropping friends who enabled him and embracing a few who seem to genuinely care (Roger Federer knows how to be the best in the world and is also, by all accounts, a committed family man). He got rough treatment for the way he fired caddie and former best friend, Steve Williams. Obviously it could have gone better, but the people who don't have our best interests in mind don't usually change their tune when the relationship comes to an end.

So many people are unhappy with Tiger. There's a lot of people rooting for him to lose. Tiger's screwed up royally and quite honestly he doesn't deserve anyone's sympathy or forgiveness; I'm not sure he's ever asked or cared. I do think measuring worth has no place in forgiveness anyway.

There's a lot to respect in Tiger's focus and discipline on the course, but he's still just a human being. He stopped being a person society could respect; will society learn the lesson when he returns to respectability?

Tiger Woods shouldn't have been a role model, even when he was a well-behaved clean-cut golfer. Perhaps that's the problem: we live in a society that doesn't quite know how to define success and therefore doesn't know what to look for in an example. We're a dichotomous society - we want heroes who give us permission to be self-indulgent, but we also want them to be happy, well-balanced individuals.

The trouble is simply that those two things don't go together. The only way to satisfy that burning desire inside us to be fulfilled is, paradoxically, to forget ourselves and think of others, serve others, love others.

Tiger Woods certainly learned one way it doesn't work; he's also got plenty of opportunity to serve others. The choice is whether he's going to allow his life to be centered around him once again or if he'll really be different. That's almost as exciting to watch as his assault on the record books.

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