Tiger’s Fall and Rise

By Paul R. Stanley 

Since November of last year, the saga of Tiger Woods marital infidelity has consumed the attention of a substantial percentage of Americans who yearn for the intimate details of his and Elin’s personal struggles.  It all began on Thanksgiving night when Tiger crashed his SUV within the confines of his gated community.  When the initial news reports surfaced some of us probably attributed the accident to opening that second bottle of white Burgundy at the dinner table. Overindulgence may have been the cause, but not of a fine and rare vintage of wine. 

Just as millions of people worldwide are fascinated with the details of this and other high profile scandals, my fascination is not with the contents of the text messages or the location of each of Tiger’s encounters, but rather watching people soak up every single detail they could hear or read and still yearn for more; like a sponge that can never take in too much water. For the small percentage out there that could care less, well, you’re not reading this article anyway.  

Is it simply our desire to know what goes on within the four walls of celebrities’ bedrooms that enthrall us or are we just as curious about what goes on with Mike and Jane next door?  I think it’s some of both, but Mike and Jane probably aren’t worth several hundred million or be two of the most beautiful people in the world. 

Tiger isn’t the first celebrity to suffer marital woes, but he may have been the most vilified yet.  David Letterman endured a bit of embarrassment when his affair was revealed after being caught in an extortion attempt.  I haven’t checked the Nielsen ratings, but I doubt his indiscretion had much impact on his late night show or the willingness of advertisers to reach their target audience. High profile musicians not only write and sing about one-night stands on the road but also proudly boast of such interludes in autobiographies written by ghostwriters willing to make these late night or early morning encounters come to life.  My goodness, just look at Gene Simmons self-proclaimed accomplishments (sleeping with over 10,000 women); and he has his own reality show! 

No, it’s not the details of the story or even of the affairs themselves, but rather the fall from Mount Everest that holds our fascination for such long periods of time.  Besides being known as the greatest golfer of all time, I think the perception people had of Tiger was that of a privileged prodigy who seemed to not only demand perfection in his work, but gave others the impression his perfection extended beyond the sand trap.  His was a story of a Father who helped his son take advantage of his natural talent, had the ability to endure intense pressure yet still keep his composure when putting for an extra half million dollars and gave the world the allusion he possessed the perfect family and the perfect wife.  

After the news of Tiger’s indiscretions broke, his fellow tour professionals reacted in a variety of ways.  Some took the opportunity to take a swipe at the games best while he was down and defenseless.  A few just gave him a quick kick in the ribs as they walked by.  Some offered support and prayers for he and Elin.  There’s no way of knowing the exact percentage of where everyone came down on this issue, but I was hoping his tour colleagues would have been more supportive. The reality is we all have our own personal struggles and attractions that pull us away from being the person we are capable of being; at least to the outside world. 

Much has been written about Tiger’s rise and fall, but before we prematurely redefine “fall”, we need to draw a comparison to our own lives and to a limited extent, the lives of others.  No one is perfect; not Tiger, Magic Johnson, Roger Clemens, Mark McGuire, or Michael Jordan.  These were sports figures we came to admire for their athletic abilities first and then their seemingly flawless personal lives.  Now we know they had plenty of flaws.   Remember John Daly? I attended the golf tournament in Memphis in 2008 when his then wife reportedly attacked him with a steak knife.  So why weren’t John Daly’s marital woes a yearlong international story?  I think it’s because we’ve come to expect such from John and Sherrie Daly but not from Tiger Woods. Thus John’s stumble was much shorter than Tiger’s fall. John was just standing on the curb but it was Tiger who was on the mountain. 

It was obvious Tiger was embarrassed and humiliated beyond recognition.  We knew he would be remorseful, yet we were looking for repentance.  He checked himself in to a clinic in Southern Mississippi to get help for the addictions that gripped his soul harder than he gripped his driver.  After a few months we eagerly watched his nationally televised somber and contrite apology.  I can’t speak to Tiger’s heart.  Only he and God know that.  But I do know that Tiger fell in front of millions and now has to choose how he’s going to rebound and reprioritize his life.  I don’t know about you, but I was pulling for he and Elin to work things out. I hope they both can forgive for their sake and the sake of their children.  While I’ve never been an above average fan of Tiger’s, I’m now pulling for his golf game to once again rise to the top. 

I remind my eleven-year old son that it’s not what happens to you, but more importantly, how you handle what happens to you.  At such a young age he’s watched his Dad achieve success and fall flat on his face.  He’s made the cut on a competitive baseball team only to log onto the team website the next season to discover his name missing from the roster.  I think that had more to do with me than my son’s athletic ability. Falling is not fun and it leaves us cut and bruised and sometimes broken.  But getting up and dusting ourselves off sure does feel better than wallowing in the mud.  After all, a sponge can only take on so much water. Let’s all pull for Tiger to reach the top once more in both his professional and personal life.  That would be a story worth reading about. 

Paul Stanley is a freelance writer who lives in Franklin, Tennessee.  He is writing a memoir about his own life in business and politics.  He can be reached at paul@paulstanley.org

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