The sins of Tiger Woods:Golf icon is an ego monster who used his family as props to distract from his relentless pursuit of women and money
DECEMBER 18, 2009
MONTREAL – First of all, let me say quite clearly that I am not a fan of Tiger Woods. Never have been, never will be.
I recognize that he can hit a golf ball quite well, for what that’s worth. Lance Armstrong can ride a bike. Barry Bonds can hit a baseball. LeBron James can dunk a basketball.
That doesn’t make any of them heroes. Matter of fact, they’re all about as far from being heroes as you can get.
Tiger Woods is a man whose life is built around greed and a ruthless, monomaniacal obsession with winning. No wonder he’s obsessed with acquiring mistresses. The man has always had everything he ever wanted – who is going to tell him no?
When I read about Woods, all I see is stories about when he’s going to return to the tour, how he’s going to rehab his image (as though it’s all about image and nothing else) why he’s likely to come back better than ever.
No one mentions that this was one twisted, greedy human being from the get-go. Tiger Woods is what happens when you turn your child into a machine. Pity his father, Earl Woods, is no longer around to see the destruction he has wrought.
The infant who was on television putting against Bob Hope when he was 2 years old, the 3-year-old who shot 48 for nine holes, the teenager who stepped into a multimillion-dollar Nike contract before he won his first pro tournament, has finally broken out of the carefully constructed shell.
What Tiger Woods, his father, his handlers and his sponsors failed to understand was the simplest of all truths: we are human. We are not robots.
The human Woods kept trying to break through the robot. We caught glimpses and they weren’t pleasant: The petulant child hurling his clubs and swearing when a shot goes awry. The swearing. The dirty, leering jokes.
The arrogant brat who does his famous drive-by every time he passes the autograph hounds waiting after round, refusing to do a Phil Mickelson and spend 15 minutes signing autographs for the adoring gallery.
The greedy walking corporation who made it eminently clear from the beginning that he didn’t care about the Asian sweatshop workers who were turning him into the wealthiest athlete on the planet. The American of mixed racial heritage who couldn’t care less about politics at home, where people of colour have suffered and bled for 300 years.
The most outrageous thing I have ever heard said of Woods came from his father. Earl Woods predicted that Tiger would turn out to be one of the great men on the planet, like Gandhi or Nelson Mandela.
Tiger Woods is a great golfer, whatever that is worth. He is not a great man, by any stretch of the imagination. Woods doesn’t begin to measure up to the athletes who were also great humans: Jackie Robinson, Jim Thorpe, Bill Russell, Babe Didrickson, Muhammad Ali, Jesse Owens, Rocket Richard. They had to fight real hatred and prejudice. They suffered real hurt.
Woods is a shill, nothing more or less. He works for anyone who will pay him. He’ll peddle watches, golf balls, automobiles, consulting companies.
And he will not trouble himself for one instant if he learns that a good part of his fortune is due to the labours of Asian workers making a few dollars a day. That’s not his problem, as long as he can afford to cruise off into the sunset on a $20-million yacht named Privacy – a middle finger flipped at all the suckers who pay the bills.
The nearest parallel we have to Woods is Michael Jordan. Jordan was the first athlete to go global as a brand rather than as an iconic sports hero. He was the first anti-Muhammad Ali, the athlete who didn’t give a damn about anything but himself.
Jordan refused to take a stand against people such as the racist South Carolina senator Jesse Helms because racists buy Nikes, too. Now Woods has picked up where Jordan left off – and therein lies a cautionary tale.
What was left of Jordan after his career was over was seen in his disgraceful speech when he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Jordan is now a bitter, angry, vengeful, vindictive man who used his Hall of Fame speech to slander all of his rivals and most of his one-time friends and teammates.
Someone wrote to me Friday to say that “we” have torn down the icon that is Tiger Woods. Nothing could be more wrong.
“We” might have built Tiger Woods into the monster of ego and greed he has become, but “we” had nothing to do with tearing him down. Woods did that himself, with his insatiable greed, his roving, relentless sexual appetite, his cynical use of his beautiful family as props to distract attention from what he was really doing.
In two or three years (if not sooner) most of this will be forgotten.
Woods will be divorced, he’ll have as many mistresses as he wants, he’ll go back to winning majors, raking in millions and endorsing half the products on the planet.
Why will he get away with it?
Because sports fans want someone to worship, and the bottom line is that they don’t care if the man inside is worse than Tony Soprano.
If you want to help your children find heroes in the world of sport, stick to figures such as Tony Dungy, Marc Trestman, Anthony Calvillo, Ben Cahoon, Jean Béliveau, Otis Grant, Clara Hughes.
Remind your children that when Hughes won her gold medal in Turin in 2006, she immediately donated $10,000 to Right to Play, the charity that attempts to help African children through sport.
If Tiger Woods was to donate a comparable portion of his personal fortune, it would come to $200 million or more.
But he won’t do it. That is one reason he’s not a hero. Never has been, never will be. Because for openers, if you’re not a hero to your own family, you’re nothing.