Looking back on these last few months of Tiger’s self-inflicted humiliation, I am struck at how completely transformed his image has become. Many celebrities have their reputations tarnished through their own failings, but few downward spirals have started from the height of Tiger’s. And few scandals have been so utterly comprehensive; Tiger’s lack of moral judgment has been sliced, diced, and pureed. There seems to be nothing new to dissect, until that is, the newest mistress appears as if scheduled.
Truthfully, I’m bored with the drama. My interest lies in a different place. I find my mind wandering back a decade or so, and a lot closer to home than Tiger’s clinic or Augusta.
I’m not real big on celebrities-as-role-models. In fact, I am generally anti-celebrities-as-role-models. They are just humans, and humans have frailties and worse. But, Tiger seemed different. A solid upbringing with an extremely disciplined dad who groomed Tiger with military precision. It was the perfect example of immense talent, combined with an ideal environment, combined with an off-the-chart work ethic; the perfect storm for any endeavor, the perfect example of how to achieve one’s very best. An example I confidently espoused at my own dinner table with my own child.
My daughter showed promise as a junior golfer. She picked up a little junior club at 4 years old a smacked the ball high in the air and seemingly too far for a little girl. We started knocking it around in the backyard and at ranges and she just got better and better. Soon she was on the course, refusing to hit from the “girls” tees. As a pre-teen she started getting lessons from local professionals. At the same time, Tiger was wowing the world; in 2002 he was winning his second Masters in two years (the youngest golfer in history to win 7 majors), my daughter was 11. She was excited about Tiger and loosely followed him like young kids do. I bought her Tiger’s large instructional book, “How I Play Golf.” I read the lessons, she looked at the pictures, we were both happy with “our Tiger.” Talent, resources, hard work were the unbeatable formula.
None of these three factors has changed with Tiger (that we know of), but the role model thing has been damaged more than anyone could have imagined pre-SUV crash. What do I say to my daughter now? At 19 she already knows the world has its ugly side and celebrities are more often infamous than famous. Of course I’ve known this for a very long time, but this one bothers me in a place I can’t quite reach.
Tiger was the kid who did it right and got rewarded beyond our imagination. His was a dad’s ideal example of the ideal athlete.
Now, selfishly, I want that example back. I want to be able to lean on the virtues I preached to my daughter; talent, resources, hard work. I want to be able to use an actual human as the example. I want to root for historical performances without having to add morality clauses. I want this for the golf memories my daughter and I shared. I want my Tiger back, or at least what he once stood for.