February 20, 2010

Tawdry Tiger

Over the past few weeks several people have asked me what I think about the whole Tiger Woods drama. Most, I think, were asking me as a sports fan. A couple, I believe, asked me as a minister who thinks about such things. I want to write about it from both perspectives.

As a sports fan you must somewhat suspend your disbelief. It's like going to a movie about aliens invading the earth. Even though we have zero proof of life on a distant world, you choose to believe for a couple of hours to enjoy the movie. Same goes for sports. If you root for a favorite team, inevitably they will employ an idiot. So what do you do? Only root for teams with players whose morals fit you? You would have to give up sports.

However, golf is different. It's an individual sport. Rather than rooting for laundry you actually must root for a person. But how many people root for a person based on who they really are? Maybe if your cousin plays professional golf. Otherwise, you are rooting for people you really don't know. So you can root against Tiger because of what you now know about him, but you risk rooting for other players who may be involved in the same kind of stuff, you just don't know it.

But there is obviously more to this than sports. This scandal says something about our strange relationship with sex in this country. Here are just a few things I think it might show us.

1. Most of America seems to have no idea what to think about sex. We live in a country that sells sex left and right. There is a massive industry feeding people's bizarre interest in the sex lives of the rich and famous. Girls in swimsuits sell beer. And cars. And hot wings. Yet, we all act utterly offended when someone famous cheats on their wife. Why? They are just fitting into the mass marketing culture of which they are a vital part.

2. Our double standards are incredible. I heard a famous sports writer say that the demographic that Tiger and golf must win back is women. He stated simply that women are the group most offended by Tiger's behavior. Again, why? I understand being upset that Tiger cheated on his wife. In fact he did it numerous times. All with women! Sure Tiger betrayed a woman. 15 women also betrayed her. Is he a louse? Absolutely. But let's not pretend this is a male issue. It always takes two to tango.

3. There is actually way more to this than sex. While Tiger may in fact be a sex addict, his conduct is very similar to something we have seen over the past several years involving athletes, movie stars and politicians. Those with power or especially wealth and talent, are treated like they can do no wrong. Young athletes with amazing potential are given millions of dollars before they accomplish anything. People glob onto them hoping to cash in on this wealth and fame. When that athlete or movie star does something untoward, those around them do not confront them. You don't take a shot at the golden goose. So these people get used to having whatever they want. No one tells them no. The rules don't apply to them. So, why would getting married suddenly make them accept the rules. The time when we develop integrity isn't just when we are a child. It is those years when we first hold a job, or have to make our way in the world on our own. If during that time the rules don't apply, you develop the notion that the rules will never apply. Perhaps rather than looking jealously on those who achieve wealth and fame at an early age, we should remember the massive risk to the soul and spirit that comes with that territory.