I’m doing something I swore I’d never do: piling on a celebrity scandal. Let’s see if I can finish this without imploding under the weight of self-disgust.
Nike’s first Tiger Woods commercial was called “I Am Tiger Woods.” It ran when the golfing phenom was fresh out of college and breaking statistical and cultural barriers every time he got out of bed. The ads featured minority children and adolescents playing golf. Each boy or girl would look into the camera and say, “I am Tiger Woods.” Tiger invaded a sport that belonged to white, middle-aged, upper-class males and flung the doors wide open. Michelle Wie, an even greater iconoclast, followed in his wake a few years later. Tiger brought golf to the rest of the world.
We all wanted to be Tiger Woods. Now, we’re all glad that we’re not him.
As my favorite sports writer, Bill Simmons, observed, Tiger was the subject of gossip at 2009 holiday parties. Even the Michael Jackson saga seems dull in comparison. Michael’s death was bizarre and unfortunate, but Tiger’s colossal screw-up seems downright mystifying. Incredulity is the common feature of chin-wags about the Tiger saga. The following questions leave us completely dumbfounded.
Why was he stupid enough to email his mistresses and leave incriminating voicemails?
A great dilemma of the digital age is that it’s almost impossible to cover your tracks. Most of us know this. If we haven’t been embarrassed by an email that wouldn’t die, we know someone who has. Tiger is a smart guy. Why wasn’t he more careful?
Have you, um, seen his wife?
Women aren’t the only ones throwing stones. When pictures of his wife emerged, the fellas piled on. “How could he cheat on someone so gorgeous?” they asked. “How could he be unsatisfied with her?”
Didn’t he know those women would sell their stories?
We can’t understand why Tiger put himself in a vulnerable position with so many women. He gave each one devastating power over his personal and professional life. And they used it.
All of these questions have an unspoken subtext: We would never be so stupid. We would never be so reckless. We would never be so naive.
Of course we wouldn’t …
Don’t worry. I’m not about to issue an apologia for Tiger Woods. The guy screwed up in catastrophic fashion. I’m not going to defend him, but I’m not going to defend myself, either. Why? Because I am Tiger Woods.
Each of the questions above has an answer. I know, because I’ve seen those answers writ large in my own life; not as large as in Tiger’s, but I live life on a smaller scale. I can’t say for sure that my mistakes wouldn’t be as big, because my life isn’t as big as his. But I’m still Tiger Woods. I can explain this by answering the questions above.
I don’t think clearly when my appetites rule me.
Tiger obviously has a compulsion for sex. I’ve got my own appetites, and sometimes they define me. Whenever instant gratification becomes my first priority, I don’t worry about being careful. The desire—whether for food or money or some other pleasure—becomes more important than anything else.
I want more.
The beauty of Tiger’s wife is all but irrelevant. The pleasure principle thrives on novelty. It’s difficult to sustain a high, whether it comes from drugs, sex, or a triple-chocolate brownie. Whenever I rely on gratification and stimulation to supply my life’s purpose, satisfaction is fleeting. Tiger’s wife wasn’t enough for him for because he was looking for pleasure instead of intimacy. I do that all the time. So do you. Too often, we prefer feeling good to being close to someone. And whenever we need other people to make us feel good about ourselves, one person will never be enough.
I treat people as objects.
Not all the time, but more than I should. Too often, I see people as meeting (or blocking) my needs, instead of as complex children of God with their own needs, hopes, and fears. It’s not that Tiger trusted these women; he didn’t take them seriously as people. How much power can a thing really have over you, after all? Tiger didn’t see these women as his equals, just like I won’t see you as an equal if I’m in a hurry and you cut me off on the freeway. I won’t take you seriously unless you stop, get out of your car, and stare me in the face. That’s what these women did to Tiger when they sold their stories to the media.
I’ve oversimplified things and made a lot of assumptions. I’m sure the truth about Tiger is different and more complicated. But I know one thing for sure: I am Tiger Woods. Romans 3:23 says that we’ve all sinned and fallen short of who God created us to be. Tiger and I have this in common. We all do. When it comes to sin, there may be a difference in quantity, but not quality. On some level, we’re all selfish bastards.
Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story. God took matters into his own hands by joining us instead of punishing us. He came to Earth in the form of an impoverished infant. He came to redeem us and call us to life in which our sin, though ever present, no longer defines and rules us. He came for you, me, and Tiger. We’re all Tiger Woods, and Jesus came to save us all.