Tiger reality check

I admit it.  I joined in on all the jokes about Tiger Woods’ “transgressions.”  I think I needed to laugh to overcome the absurdity of a hero who has fallen so far, so fast.  He was not just a sports superstar, he was an icon.  Now he is just human.

I stopped laughing at the jokes when I saw a picture of him with his kids, knowing that they will read all this “press” 10 years from now and know every sordid detail about their dad’s weaknesses.  Yeah… I joined the media feeding frenzy and now I feel bad about it.

There’s plenty of amateur analysis going on in the aftermath.  Was Tiger like a child star with an overbearing parent?  As soon as his dad passed away, did he go a little wild and revert to being a child?  Do money and power corrupt absolutely?  Was his marriage just a publicity stunt, carefully crafted to increase his endorsement earning potential?

The Tiger on the Accenture billboards and Wheaties boxes is indeed a powerful brand.  The Tiger behind closed doors in his own home is someone we really don’t know.  Here was an apparently happy and beautiful couple with serious marital problems.  Obviously, money can’t buy you love… or common sense… or peace.

With the speed that media is captured, manufactured and distributed these days, the line between business and personal personas will be blurry.  The line between reality and fantasy will be blurry.  And the line between admiring a hero’s image and tearing down the person is a thin one, and I for one am sorry I crossed it.

As you look up to celebrities, politicians and sports heroes, remember that you are looking at what has been carefully selected for you.  Believe me, I have done enough PR work in my day to know that you can put a positive spin on anything.  You do this mostly by omitting unfavorable details and shifting the audience’s view toward something good.

We should teach our kids about this reality check – that what you see on TV or Youtube is carefully edited and does not include all the facts.  Everyone struggles with happiness, everyone makes mistakes, and true heroism comes from helping others, not helping ourselves. 

This is the comeback I wish for Tiger… not a triumphant return to the Masters, but triumphant growth as a human being.

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8 Comments on “Tiger reality check”


  1. Thanks David for pointing out a teachable moment.

    It’s true that Tiger was just another idol created by businesses to sell product and in the end we saw that he was more flawed than we cared to believe. And it’s always been the case that scandals are the risk marketers take for using human spokespersons – just look back to the stories of Michael Phelps, Chris Brown, Brittany Spears, etc. It’s no secret that a lot of Marketing execs lost their jobs over these bad co-branding decisions.

    Tiger’s probably very lonely right now. I hope his family and religious community are giving him support.

  2. diane davidson Says:

    I’ve felt somewhat alone in my sympathy for Tiger Woods and have felt from the beginning that he got into something he could not control. Yes, there was an initial ‘choice’ but who has not made bad choices – there are so many options – sex, drugs, alchohol, sweets, cigarettes, money….. Most of our bad choices are not visible to the outside world or, if they are, we are not in the limelight.

    It’s so hard to burst on the scene at 20 and be catapulted into the ‘greatest golfer who ever lived’ status almost overnight.

    I wish Tiger and his family some privacy and time to figure out a path forward. For Tiger, I hope that he ‘finds his way’ – whatever that might be. He has brought us great pleasure, has astounded us with his gift, and on balance has done good things for the planet. Let’s ‘thank him’ by being compassionate if not empathetic, and allowing him the space and privacy he now so earnestly needs.

    • davidgoad Says:

      Thanks Diane. Why do you think the public is prone to tearing down the people on the highest pedestals?

  3. Jeff G Says:

    Well, not just a human. Normal human’s don’t have a 325 yd average off the tee box!


  4. I go with the p.r. idea of Walt Disney. He never created an attraction while he was alive that was based upon anyone ALIVE or REAL. He believed people are human and humans make mistakes. Hence, why all the attractions were based on animated characters or deceased historical figures like Abraham Lincoln. The idea of putting pressure on someone to ‘be perfect’ while providing a service and being iconic was too much for any one human to handle.

    I don’t believe ‘heroes’ should be based on celebrity. It’s really not p.r. folks who ‘create’ celebrity, it’s the public. P.R. folks are the people who either say ‘no’ to media (in the case of some vintage A-listers who never do interviews, nor are they part of scandalous tabloid headlines) or ‘yes’ and are pro-actively pitching people for coverage.

    People/the public are the ones who create the demand for celebrity. They’re the ones who purchase the tabloids. The tabloids (and other media) make money off advertising dollars. Whatever boosts TV ratings or boosts magazine sales, boosts advertising rates and lines the pockets of the media upper crust.

    So they know what sells. People keep doing this, so more stories like Tiger Woods, Lindsay Lohan, Jon & Kate Gosselin and the counteless others keep being escalated in visibility.

    All this – because of the sales of media which have the stories which cover the gossip that the public cannot resist buying.

    It’s like a traffic jam. We have them,and because people can’t help but slam on their brakes and watch a car crash, we have traffic jams. The car may not be blocking the lane, but people slow down anyway to look. Not many get out of their car to help rectify the situation, they contribute to the problem.

    This is the same with celebrity, media, sports figures… and hookers. If people didn’t keep feeding the money machine, we wouldn’t have the glorification of any of it by media standards.

    Tiger started out in golf as a child prodigy. One appearance on the Mike Douglas Show back in the 70s put him on the map. The rest is well, history.

    Like most children of mixed races, (Tiger is African America, Asian and Caucasian) activities, sports, etc. were introduced to give him something to focus on instead of the racial ridicule for looking ‘different.’ And usually the pressure/influence to over-achieve and succeed is prominent in families of mixed cultures.

    Tiger, much like other child ‘stars’ didn’t have a chance to be a child, but rather forced into a very adult world early on. This is not to make excuses for his behavior by any means, as we have seen successes like Ron Howard, Jodie Foster and others who have made the transition by making better choices for themselves.

    But this is to say that living life in a goldfish bowl is not easily transitioned to by many youth and it carries on into adulthood. Even adults who have not had the spotlight on them early on as a child, (enter the name of any politician) have made the same choices that Tiger has.

    People sometimes lose their spirit and a sense of themselves because too many people are trying to fit them into a mold of who they think they should be or need to be. There is judgment and sometimes the rebellious and very human element takes priority for them, because it’s the only way they can make a move on their own, without having to get the approval of a manager, an agent, a sponsor or anyone else. The moves may not be good choices.

    But the fact is, they feel empowered because the choice (right or wrong) is THEIRS.

    The result of all this can end up like Tiger’s with a glaring spotlight of scrutiny or result in drug overdose and death like Anna Nicole, Heath Ledger, River Phoenix and the list goes on….where self-loathing, self-destruction and self-and-success-sabotage becomes a ‘way out.’

    The people who enter their craft – beit acting, singing, dance, sports…..any kind of craft, where there is pressure, scrutiny, really don’t want the media paparazzi and crap that comes with it. If they are true artists, they just want to be themselves doing what they love to do. Some have successfully done this. But for the rest who are part of the media machine … they do what they do, as a means of a cry for help.

    I hope Tiger recovers his self-esteem and purpose, re-establishes his security emotionally and mentally and can move forward in personal growth. I hope he healthfully goes through the process of grieving the loss of his father and reconnects with the ideal of the good intention his father wanted him to have from golfing, which was a more secure sense of self… not the the other stuff which made him question his being.

    His golfing score and personal life are two different things. Hopefully his actions in his personal life won’t diminish his sports achievement and people can separate the two.

    But ultimately, this is an eye-opening lesson to everyone. We always ask “How are you?” to our family, friends and colleagues. But do you ever really get the real answer, or just the answer they think you want to hear?

    People need to stop being there only in the good times and re-establish what true human connection is and be there during the hard times, too.

    Tiger is going to find out who his REAL friends are at this moment. The people who were riding his coattails when he was just the historic sports icon champ will quickly go away. Those who actually cared about him as a person will remain with him through this difficult time as he rediscovers who he is.

  5. davidgoad Says:

    Stacey, thanks for adding so much to this post. I hope you don’t feel like I was disparaging PR professionals 🙂

    You included some really insightful points for me, especially about mixed-race children and achievement.


  6. Hi, David.

    I find it interesting when the general public, of which we all play at least some minor part, can gang up on someone, expand an unrealistic image of them to generate a monetary interest and influence, and then dash that same person on the rocks like a bottle of bad soda when it doesn’t work out. Being human implies imperfection, but it also stands for having some degree of common sense, compassion, and a forgiving nature.

    In the midst of the huge guns pointed at anyone who is in the spoiled limelight, that same general public will forget to consider in the same breath that they are as indivuals not flawless, and no matter how many people are in the gang pointing fingers at someone determined publicly as being in the wrong, they will conveniently ignore the simple fact that there are a few fingers from their own hand also pointed at themselves. I presume that they are silently happy that those fingers are not being pointed at certainties that are also made public, and accompanied by own names on the headlines.

    The masses are probably relieved that there is no spotlight on themselves, and that their own secrets are kept that way – secret. With sickness, poverty and world conflict taking most center stages, names like Tiger that have the greatest attention range will get the greatest promotional results… and will be attenuated at the corresponding level of risk.

    Side by side, Tiger and I could probably sit in a coffee shop and talk about life’s challenges, and walk away friends, more than likely. Seems to me that the money involved both with Tiger’s own life and also all the endorsement contracts and money schemes wrapped around his name become the greater influences. At some level, this is not Tiger’s fault, it is ours – ours for contributing to an economic environment in which we buy based on image and not fact, impression and not content, and peer acceptance as opposed to reality. We have agreed to live in a world where trends rule and the Jones’ set the bar for the common man.

    I feel for Tiger. The critical eye always upon him, he trades a grand image for many things that a lot of us take for granted – casual evenings relaxing in public, walking down the street without reporters and autograph seekers pestering, having a fender bender without it becoming front headlines… We all helped put him there, if in no other way than to try and exist with him in a free world where opportunities like his exist. As citizens, we endorse the system…do we not?

    Apparently the trade is worth millions of dollars. But the deal was made BEFORE the mishaps. Hindsight being 20/20, I only wonder if he would do it all over again. We may never know.

    If the goal is to be happy, Tiger had the ultimate thrills that some of us will never experience. On the other hand, falling from his high level of elevated and inflated grace is surely a low end of the biorhythmic cycle. Perhaps the fortified spirit that climbed those heights also developed the armor for the impact at the bottom.

    We all look at Tiger… yet don’t we all have things that could be inspected and criticized upon? They may be at different elevations, and our fall might not look so dangerous, but I have found in life that pain is pain, and so many people without the wealth and without notoriety have wasted their lives or given it way, or taken it… with way fewer contingencies.

    I am with you – it’s not funny, and it’s not news. However we can all learn something from living through it. And it’s not what happens to us that matters – it’s how we relate to it, and of course, what we do from then on as a result.

    I wish for Tiger to find his own answer to this quandry, and hope that it is as great a display of “doing the right thing” as becomes him as a champion, a man, a father, and, as so many are so vividly now reminded, as a human.

    Thanks, David. Again, you cause me to think deeply and seriously about life.

    Roland.

  7. Allyson Inglis Says:

    David,
    Enjoyed your article and all the following comments. Gives us all room to ponder. Have always felt like we are not the ones to judge others hearts that is between oneself and God. Thanks for all your insights…


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