Just got through watching Tiger’s public apology. Tough duty.
As a lifelong avid golfer, I have been a Tiger Woods fan. He seemed to personify all the positive things about the game. When his dalliances became known, I was, along with millions of folks all around the world, deeply disappointed and saddened.
Unfortunately for him, his promiscuous adultery is more than a matter between him and his wife.
Here is a man who has become the living symbol of a game which is all about integrity.
In football, baseball and basketball, the players are more or less expected to break the rules. There is the attitude that if the referee didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.
Not so in golf. A golfer, alone in the forest, who accidentally moves his ball a quarter of an inch, is expected to report the fact, and penalize himself one stroke.
The man who cheats at golf is drummed out of the foursome, banned from the club, regarded as a pariah.
It should be rather obvious that cheating on one’s spouse is a more serious offense than cheating on the golf course. Unhappily, many people don’t see it that way in the age of Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt.
Still, in Tiger’s case the philandering led to lying, and urging others to lie. Once the ramparts of truth have been breached, the fortress of integrity falls.
The USGA, the PGA of America and the PGA Tour have invested millions of dollars in the First Tee Program, which introduces intercity kids to the game of golf as a means of encouraging them to play the game of life by the rules.
These leaders insist that golf teaches integrity, personal responsibility and good character. It is a game, they say, that helps young people develop their moral compass.
Tiger Woods has only begun to experience the punishment that an unsympathetic society will extract from him.
With his truthfulness impuned, he will face myriad rumors and vicious gossip. Not only will his numerous trysts be exaggerated, and supplemented with outright fabrications, but insinuations about his business ethics, allegations of steroid use and who knows what other calumny will fill the check out counter magazines for years to come.
As sincere and wrenching as was his appearance on TV this morning, Tiger will not escape the penance that follows naturally from his conduct.
Eventually he will have to answer questions. Hard questions. Uncomfortable questions. Unfair questions. Hurtful questions. What is at issue in the public mind is his veracity. And veracity cannot be bolstered by stonewalling. It will only be reestablished in the heat of cross examination.
The good news is that the bad guys will wear out their welcome. To the extent that Tiger is perceived as being pilloried unjustly, he will earn the sympathy of the public.
To the extent that he stands up courageously and forthrightly responds to the concerns and doubts of his many admirers, he will win back the respect of golfers who, like me, want so very much to have their hero back on the first tee.