Friday, December 11, 2009

Why should we assume that because someone is a great athlete they are also a great person?

I guess that Barack and Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin, Oprah Winfrey and a whole lot of Hollywood celebrities owe a lot to Tiger Woods right now. Mainly, that he's hogging the whole front page of the tabloids (and therefore keeping them off the cover.)

After two weeks of almost continuous scandal coverage that began with a minor car crash the day after Thanksgiving and quickly ballooned into allegations that he is a serial womanizer, complete with mother-in-law in and out of the hospital, Woods today announced that he is suspending his professional golf career indefinitely to work on healing his family.

Mind you, I'm not defending Tiger or any of his alleged behavior here. But I think it's fair to ask what a role model is, anyway. We routinely put sports and entertainment figures on a pedestal and forget that they are human beings, subject to human foibles, and if someone seems too good to be human, well caveat emptor.

For example, Babe Ruth was some sort of a baseball God but he was an alcoholic and hardly someone you'd want your son to grow up to be like. I still remember Mickey Mantle (another alcoholic Yankee) giving his fans his last piece of advice, "Don't be like me." There was a time when Pete Rose, the guy who didn't have the talent but through hard work made himself one of the greatest of ballplayers was considered a hero by a lot of people. But don't go visit Rose in the Hall of Fame, because he's been banned for life for gambling on the game and then has years of whining and lying about it. A whole lot of ballplayers will not be going in there because of steroid scandals, and that's just one kind of drug.

On the other hand, you will find O.J. Simpson in the football Hall of Fame. True, he was acquitted, but I doubt if anyone considers O.J. a role model anymore. He was once though. Former Panthers receiver Rae Carruth wasn't as fortunate with the jury as Simpson was. He's in a North Carolina prison serving time for conspiracy to commit murder.

Meanwhile we seem to hear all the time about another suspension for drug abuse, in just about every sport. Olympic Champion Marion Jones even went to the extent of crusading against steroid abuse, even while (as we know now) she was virtually awash in steroids herself.

The old joke about a Hollywood marriage lasting about as long as the movie is in theaters is often true (though not always, there are some that have endured.) Drugs are as rampant in the entertainment industry as they are in sports. My kids, who grew up watching Mary Kate and Ashley movies, were disappointed to hear that Mary Kate had had some issues with drugs. But I explained to them that some people do. She's human, and they realize that she's not the best role model.

Now, I'm not just trashing athletes and entertainers because all of the evils I've just described are found in all walks of life. But that's exactly the point. We seem to think as a society that because someone can hit a golf ball accurately, run well with a football or belt out a song on stage or play a part in a movie that somehow that skill also makes them a better person.

But they are not better people. They are still the same as anyone else. True that there are still people to admire both in sports (i.e. Cal Ripken Jr.), entertainment (i.e. Patrick Stewart) and in may other areas and it's great to admire them. But here too, you can look around your neighborhood and find people you can admire just as much.

Really, the only difference is that if an athlete or an entertainer does something like this, you will read about it. And the bigger they are, the harder they will fall. But to err is still human and that's worth remembering.

When someone does a great thing in an athletic contest or turns in a great performance on stage, appreciate it for what it is. But not for what it is not.

I hope for his sake and for the sake of his family that Tiger gets things in order. Call him a cad if you like, but don't be shocked. Because the world is full of cads.


Jack Hampton said...

The problem here is that Tiger has maintained a squeaky clean image. That's why he's been worth so much to marketers.

Considering that Fuzzy Zoeller lost his sponsors for making one stupid comment about Tiger, I'd say he's getting his due.

It's OK to be a flawed human being but then don't set yourself up as something more than that.

Anonymous said...

Jack's right.

Tiger has made a billion dollars marketing himself as the wholesome, all-American kid. It's not the fact that he's a lech who cheats on his wife that's the issue here, it's the fact that he's been pretending for years not to be.

Eli Blake said...


Everybody knows what a cad Kobe Bryant is, but he still gets endorsement deals.

Tiger presumably got more because he is supposed to be (not a cad) but now we know he's a bigger cad than Kobe.

sandyh said...

Give it a year and he'll be right back there on that pedestal. I always thought his stage father had created a very uptight, unhappy young man.

Andre Agassi says he hated tennis but that all he was allowed to do by his father.

Why can't we accept children the way they are instead of pushing our own dreams on them to complete?

Why should Tiger be perfect? But then why couldn't he be faithful either?

It sounds like his wife is going to barricade herself on a remote island in Sweden where Tiger and the press will never see his children. She's lucky she doesn't have AIDS. imho, the only advertising he should be doing in the near future is a PSA about the importance of practicing safe sex.

That being said, it's really not any of our business, is it?

Eli Blake said...


Why can't we accept children the way they are instead of pushing our own dreams on them to complete?

ABSOLUTELY!! My twin girls compete in pageants (and one of them is the reigning Navajo County junior miss) but we've always made it clear to them that if they ever want to quit doing that, they can quit.

She's lucky she doesn't have AIDS.

That we know about.

That being said, it's really not any of our business, is it?

Which was somewhat of the point of the post. The problem is, as Jack and Anonymous pointed out, that Tiger made his NOT being a cad our business (and made a lot of $$ out of it) so there's a saying that what goes around comes around.

Maybe he should call up Kobe for some advice about how to get the endorsement deals anyway when everyone knows what he's all about.