The Relative Importance of Being Able to Hit a Ball into a Hole

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Back before he was hit with a media muzzle, Tiger Woods' late father Earl used to make some pretty outlandish claims about the potential future accomplishments of his golf-prodigy son.

In one memorable interview in 1996, Earl indicated that -- in his humble opinion -- he had sired the messiah.

"Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity."

More than Buddha, Earl said. More than Gandhi. More than Nelson Mandela. "Because he has a larger forum than any of them."

Half of Earl's statement is completely true. For some mad reason, a guy who has nothing other to offer global society -- or for that matter a dinner party -- than his ability to hit a 1.6-ounce dimpled ball into a hole with a stick, has a larger audience than the former president of South Africa and the founder of one of one of the world's great religions.

The other half of Earl's statement, of course, is resoundingly false. Tiger Woods is not going to do a damn thing to change human history. In fact, the only thing he has to offer humanity is -- as stated before -- his ability to hit a ball into a hole. Nothing, I repeat, nothing else.

While critics at the time poo-pooed Earls comments, Tiger's sponsors --
Nike, Accenture, et al -- built an empire on Earl's premise, touting the eternal virtues of personality that it apparently takes to be really good at hitting balls into holes.

Apparently you have to be a leader. And you have to have strength of character. Dedication. Commitment. Excellence.

Actually you don't have to have any of these things. All you have to do is spend a lot of time hitting balls into holes.

There are two lessons to be gleaned from the phenomenon that is Tiger Woods.

1) if you try, really really hard and practice every day, you too may be able to get really good at hitting balls into holes.

2) Our society has its priorities completely ass backwards.

Let me be clear. And this is coming from a die-hard sports fan. There is absolutely no value that Tiger Woods adds to our society other than his ability to hit a ball into a hole.

Some will quote his charity. Yet 80+% of all charitable and philanthropic donations in America are given by people making less than $50,000 per year. Some will quote his dedication. There are elementary school teachers who also do the same thing every day for years and years without any acknowledgment whatsoever. Some will quote his leadership. There are civic leaders, military leaders, and activists who display more leadership -- without any accolade -- every day. Certainly none will now quote his commitment.

Now that Woods has failed to live up to the titanic image crafted for him in part by the world's leading shoe brand -- which offers nothing to global society except really kickass shoes -- it might be time to ask a few questions. Not "Why do men who have everything still cheat?", because, well, if a few money hungry succubi are willing to reward Woods' ability to hit a ball into a hole by diddling him and hoping for celebrity later, that's their priority. And if a billionaire with a model wife, a father complex, a nerd complex, and a thing for blondes can't live up to the perfect image handed to him by daddy and has to blow off steam through self-destructive behavior, that's his.

The bigger questions are cliche, but worth pondering.

What mad theater is this in which a man who hits a ball into a hole is worth billions of dollars and a hardworking schoolteacher is worth 35 grand a year? Seriously.

This morning Good Morning America featured an in depth interview with the Kardashian sisters, who also have nothing to offer humanity except perhaps their Lopezian proportions. It was followed by a closer look at the women in Tiger Woods' brood.

Hopefully, of the cast of characters involved in this silly drama, Tiger's wife Elin will show some strength of character by dumping his sorry ass on the curb, despite how much cash he offers her to stick around for another five years.

Hopefully, she will be smart enough to see that the end of the day, his billions don't mean a thing. In reality, none of the qualities he -- and they -- told us were there, are actually there. And he, despite his uncanny ability to hit balls into holes, is just... a dude.

And would that we would just let him be one. Why do we find it essential to imbue the athlete, the movie star, the president-elect with qualities that are simply not his? Why is Tiger Woods the brand necessary? Why are the slo-mo shots of his on-course triumphs, set to Beethoven's swelling symphonies, so essential to us as a nation?

Perhaps because, without that, all you have is a guy standing on a patch of grass... hitting a ball into a hole.

And really, how much value is there in that?