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Tiger — Do We Like to See Greatness Knocked Down?

I’m still in Mexico on holiday (see photo above, but take heart, it is raining here and I didn’t bring my clubs with me — it is a family trip), and have continued to ponder the Tiger Woods speech from last Friday. Strikes me that a lot of people seem to be revelling in his downfall, including several readers of my Sympatico column who sent me e-mails over the last week. It strikes me as a typically Canadian trait to enjoy seeing those who are deemed to have gotten too big taken down a notch or two. And for Woods, those are big notches. Of course this isn’t happening just in Canada. It is happening everywhere. As much as we like to see greatness in sport, there seems to be some joy taken in watching it crash down to earth.

This has got me wondering why? Why are people so set against him? He didn’t kill anyone. Didn’t get drunk and injure a mother and a young child in a car accident. He didn’t get caught raising fighting dogs. He cheated on his wife, like at least two recent Presidents have, numerous Canadian politicians have, as have so many notable sports figures that the number is too large to count.

Are we angered by Tiger because he appeared so perfect, when it turns out he wasn’t? Is it the duplicity that bothers people? Or do we just enjoy seeing someone fall from such a great height?

I admit to finding the whole saga fascinating, but I don’t take any pleasure in Tiger’s decline. I’d rather be watching him hit remarkable recovery shots than witness him choked up and apologizing for his transgressions.

The blog will return to its regularly scheduled posting tomorrow, but until then — what do you think?

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I think this story and issue strikes an emotional cord. People develop an attachment to Tiger. Not a personal attachment but a belief attachment. They revel at his golfing ability and buy into his image. He shattered that with his behaviour. When someone breaks an emotional link, people respond – sometimes in not the most constructive manner. I think this is what is being seen by people’s reaction.

    Tiger hurt his family but did not harm other people physically. Essentially, he broke an emotional connection people had with his image. Their reaction is understandable although to certain extent not rational.

  • Hey Robert,
    I think your missing the point here. It has nothing to do with his greatness and yes the life he lives with his wife is between him and his wife, but he and those like him lied to the public by representing themselves as someone who they are not. We didn’t simply think he was a moral upstanding person, but based these assumptions on the way he promoted himself both on and off the course and as we now know, it was all an act. BUT, this is not the main problem or the main reason I think people enjoy seeing him fall.

    What has to be understand is that Tiger Woods became more than just a great golfer when the news broke. Sure people outside the golf world may enjoy seeing people of great power fall, but the real interest, in my eyes, should come from the fact that his ability as a golfer is the only thing allowing him to save any face. Everyone in the golf media talks about all the good things hes done (all mainly in golf) and think that this alone is more or bigger than this “one” moment in his life in which he’s lied to the public, shattered his “role model” status, failed his own family and all the while dealing with situations like the death of a father and the pregnancy of his wife. You mention other politicians and celebrities having committed the same mistakes, but from what we know they were nowhere near the magnitude of Tiger Woods and very few promoted the clean cut image Tiger tried to portray all the while being a role model for people of all ages.

    Imagine talking to someone in Charles Mansons community…do you not think they would say he had done much more right than wrong? Does that mean he should be forgiven? Does that mean we need to ignore the wrong and focus on the good? Does that mean that “one” moment in his life should all be overlooked with a sorry? As absurd as this idea might sound, it applies because from a moral perspective (not a law perspeective), the only thing helping Tiger is the fact that the golf community is so large and mainly only care about athletic ability. My personal problem with the whole situation is that if everything goes the way most of the golf media and the Tiger camp want things to go, that down the road…lets say 25 years from now…Tiger may well become the best golfer statistically and this infuriates me because someone like Jack Nicklaus who is not only the greatest golfer to ever live, but one of the most upstanding and respectable men to ever play the sport will no longer be “the best.” In a sport so obsessed with etiquette, respect for the game, history and honor, Tiger should be judged more heavily than the others, and I feel this “one” moment, although it cannot take away from his golfing achievements should take away from our overall view of Tiger when and if he breaks all of Jack’s achievements…in the end when we teach golf to our kids and enroll children in the first tee program to make them “better” human beings and open up opportunities for their future….Jack will always be the best…he is still and will always now be what golf stands for and promotes. This is something Tiger can never be…anymore.

  • What amazes me still is that people are shocked that a high profile athlete, who is flush with cash and lives a jet set life was engaging in affairs with (many) women outside of his marriage. Perhaps because he is a golfer and there is a great deal of integrity in the game itself? What does that have to do with what happens after the round is over, when the party begins for some of these young guys with money? Tiger isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last.

    Anyone that is bewildered that a professional athlete can have a squeeky clean public image and then be completely different in their personal life is going to find the balance if their own life incredibly challenging.

    I think people are so engaged in the story simply because it has become entertainment. It’s on TMZ, it’s on Entertainment Tonight. Did anyone (that doesn’t play golf or watch the game) care about what Tiger Woods was up to until hit hit the cover of the National Enquirer? Perhaps everyone is hopeful that Tiger will show up on Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew…and the drama shall continue!

  • Is it really “pleasure,” or is it validation of the values that most of us like to believe we aspire to? Many people like to believe that treating other people with integrity and respect — on the course, at work, in our relationships with friends and spouses — is worth the extra effort.

    Even fans of his talent (I’m one) could tell before this scandal dropped that he was not making that effort — that he felt “entitled” to act however he wanted. He employed a caddy who treated fans like crap. He threw a club into a gallery and didn’t even seem to care whether anyone was hurt. He forced the Tour to cater to his whims. And now we learn that he treated his wife with approximately the same level of decency. He made a billion dollars being a great golfer and a massive jerk.

    In other words, a lot of people feel validation that this behaviour is no longer being rewarded. It’s the same feeling you get when some guy in a BMW cuts you off on the highway, and you later see him getting a speeding ticket. Do we think better of him because he’s a talented bond trader or defence lawyer? No way, jerk — the rules apply to you, too, no matter how much money you make.

  • I think it has to do with two things:

    1. He has always carried himself with an attitude of being above everyone around him. When he does interviews he gives intimidating looks and glaring stares if he doesnt like the question. He is never seen signing autographs yet phil mick is supposedly fake although he signs a million? Overall he just seems to have this air of being on another level than everyone around him..and i don’t mean his game..just him as a person..i don’t like it..love the game he has..hate his attitude.

    2.Secondly the reason latch on, imho is the volume of his cheating. Lets face it, had this been one cocktail waitress we would not be talking about this, it was the coverup on his accident that obviously was not him going out for milk in the wee hours..high on ambien….in bare feet…while his wife helped unlock the vehicle with a 9 iron..as tigger careened all over.
    This is not one..but two..but six girls..but ten girls..but..ok..i will stop there. Its the staggering amt of women all over the planet..had it been one..it would be a simple affair and a non story.

  • The amazing thing to me is how much the media kissed his ass and glorified him, when he was such a repugnant turd.

    Many in the public were duped by the Tiger machine, but many in the media were complicit – Rosaforte, the broadcasters, many writers.

    I always thought he was an arrogant prick, with little concern for those beneath him. Now that his valuable image is in the sewer, it is funny to watch him grovel.

    The public apology was a joke – as has been pointed out, that was about Tiger protecting his beloved brand.

    There is an old saying that golf doesn’t build character, it reveals it. Tiger has always acted like a selfish, arrogant peacock on the golf course.

    I hope he returns, but somewhat softened and chastened in how he treats others and conducts himself – but I doubt it will be different. Reporters who ask him about his swearing will get the stare and freezeout, and Stevie will continue his role with the relish of a Pinkerton in Homestead.

  • I think Shark, Offended Waffle House and Tighthead (great names by the way) have said it very well. Golf Channel and the networks have basically been the Tiger Channel for a decade with incessant Tiger shows, ass-kissing, rationalizing his disgusting on-course behavior – including his in your face fist pumps as competitiveness, etc. etc. His arrogance, pout and walk on water attitude have rubbed many the wrong way but so many in the media were afraid for so long to incur his wrath lest they are denied any accessability to His Majesty. Any golf telecast was all Tiger all the time. Oh, and if you have a free moment, show (on tape delay) someone making a putt to tie for the lead.

    Tiger, his agent, his caddy, handlers, yes men, etc., have treated everyone like dirt for a long time and what goes around comes around. Even his ‘apology’ – and I use that term loosely, was a carefully orchestrated farce…”Okay, look into the camera after this line…touch my heart here…put the women together so the camera catches them…hugs.

  • RT,

    I think there was a lot of bottled-up resentment towards Woods that was kept in check by his on-course results and his carefully-managed presence, thanks to his handlers. Look at how CBS knuckled under to him when he refused to deal with Peter Kostis because he didn’t like something he said. From what I gather, that was typical of his behavior towards the press when they dared to be critical. I always admired his ability on the course, but I never liked his behavior otherwise. He always seemed fake to me.

    Now those chickens have come home to roost and I suppose that it is natural to expect that all that resentment has been released. When you treat a group of people badly for a long time you should expect that at some point, when the opportunity presents itself, they will extract payback.I think it is less a matter of seeing greatness knocked down as it is something that he had coming eventually.

    What I find more interesting is that his attempt a couple of Fridays ago to start rehabbing his image seems to have blown up in his face. People who in the past may have given him the benefit of the doubt now refuse to do so. He has a long uphill climb ahead of him and I don’t know if he has it in him. His mental state must be very fragile and he needs a lot of help.

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