In the last 15 years alone, there has been Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Jude Law, Eliot Spitzer, Kobe Bryant, Mark Sanford, Alex Rodriguez, David Letterman, the list goes on. Now, it's déjà vu all over again. Another successful man caught with his paws in the honey jar (pun intended). But not just any man. We're talking about Tiger Woods, the wealthiest and most famous athlete on Earth.
According to reports, we are now up to seven alleged mistresses. That image of Tiger as a humble, honorable family man has not only been tarnished, but now lays smashed in far too many pieces to ever be reassembled again. The price that will be paid for Tiger's infidelity is enormous.
There is the price of dishonesty in which what appeared to be the true mettle of a man, professional athlete, celebrity, and multi-millionaire aside, was nothing more than a carefully manufactured and cultivated façade. Another idol who has come crashing down from his pedestal.
And what about the price of perfidy. What must the legions of Tiger fans, who have followed him from his earliest successes as an amateur through the heart-rending illness and death of his beloved father to his awe-inspiring victories on the golf course, feel to learn that their adoration was for just another man with feet of clay.
Of course there is the financial price that will be paid. Yes, Tiger's sponsors have stood by him so far. To do otherwise would be to make themselves out to be fools. There is their public rationalization that what happened is a private matter that doesn't impact their relationship. But as the number of mistresses metastasizes, so will the embarrassment, and finally the corporate recognition that the damage is irreparable. A cowardly weekend press release will then be issued in which the sponsors announce that they have chosen to discontinue their relationship with Tiger for any number of reasons (the economy, a new marketing direction) totally unrelated to his recent transgressions (a word, by the way, that is an insult to all those whose trust he violated). And relationships that have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for those sponsors will end. Of course, Tiger's infidelity will cost him perhaps billions in earnings over the remainder of his career (not that he will end up in the poor house, of course).
Tiger will also drag the argyle-socked and perma-pressed sport of golf down with him. As the most visible face of professional golf, the sport will pay a huge price, easily into the billions of dollars in lost revenue from a decline in attendance, television, and merchandising revenue attributable to Tiger. His sleazy behavior will, by extension, also hurt the many professional golfers who don't live the gilded life that Tiger does, but rather struggle each week to eke out a living playing a game they love.
Can I muster sympathy for anyone in this sordid affair (pun intended)? I certainly have no sympathy for the sponsors who paid Tiger millions to be the shill for their products. They care only for the bottom line and will have their "come to Jesus" moment only when Tiger no longer serves to pad their balance sheets.
I have little sympathy for the fans who chose to idolize (and idealize) a man who just happens to have a spectacular talent for what is, as Mark Twain so aptly noted, "a good walk spoiled."
I leave my complete absence of sympathy (what I actually feel is contempt) for Tiger, who had the world by the tail (pun intended) and chose to dishonor himself and bring unimaginable sorrow to those who loved him for a few (okay, more than a few) cheap thrills with a bunch of floozies.
My sympathy does go out to those who paid most dearly for Tiger's infidelity. His wife Elin who must pay a personal price of betrayal for having to suffer the indignity of not only learning that her husband is a serial philanderer, but also the humiliation of having to live this very private nightmare under the spotlight of a salacious culture that feeds on scandal the way sharks feed on their prey. I also feel sympathy for the price that his children will pay as they get older and learn what kind of man their father really is.
A post like this would typically end with a hope of redemption on Tiger's part. He would "cowboy up" to what he did, ask for forgiveness, and promise to devote the rest of his life to atonement for his sins. But I just can't go there. He may truly be sorry for his infidelity, but, at this point, I think he's most sorry about having been caught. If Tiger really felt remorse, he would have felt it after his first affair (or at least his second or third) and would never have made it to his seventh. No matter what Tiger says or does in the name of redemption, for all of his wealth, he'll never be able to compensate those who have suffered the most from his repugnant behavior.