In the week since Tiger held his press event, two other developments have not gone unnoticed. First, Gatorade dropped Tiger as a sponsor (Elin - whether you decide to keep Tiger or leave him, either way, you need him back on the golf course) - an action that demonstrates how quickly a billion dollar athlete can be reduced to just a multi-million dollar athlete. More on that later.
The second development in the past week was the appearance of basketball star Kobe Bryant on the cover of GQ magazine in a banker's pin-stripe business suit. It was the first time Kobe has appeared on the cover of a major non-sports magazine since 2003, when Kobe was charged with rape, a criminal offense that, had he been convicted, would have taken Kobe off the floor and put him behind bars for years.
And it is quite possible you don't even remember that incident, which, at that time, also generated front page headlines every day, confessional press conferences, constant media coverage and commentary, and the loss of most of his major sponsors.
Today, you likely don't remember much or any of that saga. What you do remember is that Kobe has since won another NBA championship title, marched in a ticker tape parade through downtown Los Angeles, regained the number #1 spot in logo T-shirt sales, and received rock star-like attention from fans the world over at the Beijing Olympics.
And it has only been a year since Michael Vick was released from jail after being convicted of federal and state criminal charges in connection with dog fighting. Mid-way through this past NFL season, not only had the rancor died down to the point where Vick was not receiving jeers, boos and catcalls at his home field in Philadelphia, but, in addition, he wasn't even receiving any jeers, boos and catcalls on the road from the fans at away fields. And you remember the predictions of how Vick would literally be "run out of town" everywhere he went. And I can go one step further. It seems a certainty to me that by this time next year if not sooner, Michael Vick will be the full-time starting quarterback for a competitive team in the NFL. And I don't think we are far away from the point when most of you won't remember very much about Vick's earlier problems. Mark McGwire has even been rehired by the Cardinals to coach players on hitting (a problem for which McGwire has previously used very innovative approaches).
The list goes on, and will continue to go on. And if we can get Tiger back on the golf course, the sooner the better, then I would posit that in two or three years, certainly much less than five or seven as with Bryant and McGwire, you won't remember much about Tiger's current travails, either.
In America, redemption is not only possible for fallen heroes; it is in fact something that the fallen hero can count on. And this is a good thing, for it combines the spiritual goodness of the concept of forgiveness and redemption with the more secular notion of facing consequences of one's actions, performing whatever response is required either by law or societal dictates, and then moving on with one's life.
We keep hearing from commentators, pundits, behavioral psychologists, and other TV "experts" analyzing the problems of Tiger Woods. And if there was one overriding theme they all seemed to share, it was that Tiger does owe us, and that he does have to account for everything he's done, and list the details of what happened, and answer every question we want to throw at him. Why? Because "he asked us to buy into this image he created," the one that got us to pay all of this money for his endorsements on various products and corporate services. No - No - No!
The only thing Tiger asked us to do was to buy into his being the greatest golfer in the world today, and to buy into watching him perform on the golf course. Corporate sponsors, the ones who dropped him, are the ones who asked you to buy into the image and larger than life persona - and frankly, so much of the general populace was and is just gullible enough to follow along. We will continue to follow along for the next "heroes" who may ultimately fall from grace, as the lessons in this regard are simply never learned.
Sports heroes don't declare themselves to be role models - we do!
It's almost as if we look for them to relieve us of that responsibility in our own lives and with our own families, and most importantly, with our kids. We looked up to Tiger and sang his praises because he was and is the greatest player on the golf course, not because he was the greatest person on the earth. In fact, Tiger was so private that most of us knew nothing about his life off the course. So we took what we saw and knew about what he did on the course and turned that into what we wanted it to be - and the corporate sponsors turned it into what they wanted it to be.
And given the fact that Tiger is not a public official, not elected or appointed to office, not handling public funds, not charged with any crime nor facing any charges or penalties for criminal activity, he frankly can handle this situation any way he wants to. Only Tiger has to account to his wife and family for his past actions, and for his plan to deal with them in the future. And if that means no questions, then that's what it is.
Besides, had questions been allowed at Tiger's press event, I can just see the first one - "Tiger, thank you for your statement. I'm going to read a list of names for you - can you either confirm or deny that you ever had sex with any of these names and what financial arrangements do you have with any of them - and have you fathered a child by any of them? Or did you pay for an abortion? And I have a follow up question to that one..."
How could that possibly help Tiger? The fact is, many people were not going to respond favorably to Tiger's statements regardless, and some dismissed whatever he was going to say even before they heard it. Given that fact, then Tiger was much better off at least presenting for public review the position and impression he wanted to leave on us, and then we could either respond favorably or negatively to it - based on what he said. The kind of questions I alluded to above would only destroy any possible positive response to Tiger as all the commentary afterward would focus on the questions and not his statement. He did the right thing - for Tiger. And Attorney Gloria Allred needs to relax. She has worked on and been an advocate for many fine and worthwhile causes over the years - this is not one of them.
The press event Tiger held was an important step in his process of making his way back, both with his family and his personal life as well as with his professional life. Many have asserted that Tiger's got a lot of work to do. That is true. But you can't finish the work you have to do until you start it, and enrolling in the therapy clinic and having the press event were clearly steps needed and helpful to Tiger in finishing the work he has to do.
But Tiger needs to get back on the course, and I for one hope that the people around him, and perhaps most especially Elin, try to incorporate the benefits of that step as well into the overall process, along with the other steps like therapy and reflection and withdrawal that have been prominently featured in Tiger's plan of action to date.
Indeed, a singularly focused Tiger on the course - along with a rededication to his wife and family - may together be the real answer. But one without the other may very well fall short. And Tiger might even be better on the course than ever.
I have argued that while his record last year was outstanding, and while he won twice as many tournaments as the nearest rivals, part of the reason he did not win a major was because the focus and concentration required to win a major was so demanding that, even for Tiger, with what must have been stressful inner efforts to keep the other life secret, he simply could not pull it off.
Imagine what Tiger could do this year with a clear mind able to focus just on the golf, and playing majors on courses set up perfectly for him in three of the four majors. If Tiger could win two of the four majors this year, then he's following the path of Kobe Bryant and Michael Vick, as well as Alex Rodriguez and Mark McGwire. Success coaching the Cardinals on the field is the one thing that can really help McGwire repair his current image off the field.
That's the proven path in our immediate gratification and "what have you done for me lately" society. So Tiger needs to get back on the course. But one warning for Tiger. In his statement last week he said that when he comes back he will be "more respectful of the game." I am also quite certain of this point. He will be welcomed back. He will be cheered. He will be idolized for his achievements on the course. But because of the revelations of his other life, he will no longer be able to curse and throw his golf clubs around in fits of anger. If he does that now, probably half the gallery, including his supporters, will openly jeer and boo him. And I will join them. But that's not what we want to see.
What we want to see is a shot from Tiger at the 16th hole at the Masters, with Verne Lundquist asking, "in your life, have you ever seen anything like this?" We need to see that. And yes, Elin, and their kids, and Tiger's mom need to see that. The world needs to see that. Tiger needs to see that. And when he can see that, combined with the new goals he has now set for improving his life as a decent human being, he will feel more encouragement and motivation to continue on that path than he could get from all the therapy treatments and counseling sessions in the world. Let's get started!
Carl Jeffers is a Los Angeles-and Seattle based columnist, TV political analyst, radio political and social topic commentator, and a national lecturer and consultant. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org