Everyone is talking about Tiger Woods these days -- even the nice man who drove me to the airport the other afternoon. He and I had an in-depth conversation about how an icon like Woods, described in the past as an All-American family man and the greatest golfer the world has ever seen, could have fallen so far so fast.
My opinion? That Woods had to be profoundly arrogant to think he could act so badly and expect silent loyalty from those involved. Woods, I concluded, must lack the character and the integrity that we were all led to believe he possessed.
My conversation partner seemed to think the story was really a private matter between a husband and wife and it was the media churning up controversy. Besides, he said, "Isn't integrity and character the same thing -- what's the difference?"
To me a person's integrity is displayed in how they interact with and treat other people. Character goes to the core of who they are.
I thought about his question and my answer a day later as I floated up in a rented boat to the back of the lakefront estate owned by Tiger Woods in Windermere, Florida. I'd traveled to the ultra-exclusive golf community of Isleworth to see first-hand where and how Woods lived. I wanted to try to understand why a man of such supposed respectability and mystical talent would put in jeopardy... well, everything in his life. Since the front entrance to the gated community was off limits the boat was the only way to catch a glimpse of Tiger's lifestyle.
No telling what I thought I'd learn bobbing off shore looking at Woods' primary residence. The 8 bedroom, 9 bathroom mansion gave me no clue to Tiger's integrity or character. What I saw were only the trappings of his life -- a swimming pool, private boat dock, a vast expanse of manicured grounds and mammoth windows overlooking the serene lake.
My conclusion: The house, like the man, looks perfect on the outside but inside there is turmoil and trouble.
To us regular folk it seems odd that such mayhem could erupt in a situation where there is an abundance of wealth, health and adoration for a lifetime of practicing to be perfect. But striving for that perfection, demanded not only by Tiger himself but also by his father, Earl, obviously came at a price.
As I looked out on the bucolic backyard where Elin Nordegren likely took their children out to play my mind flooded with questions. I wondered if this awful episode might have been averted if the elder Woods hadn't died in 2006. Could Earl have managed the P.R. effort in a more effective way? What did the pressure on young Tiger have to do with his later-in-life explosion of bad behavior? Was it simply a case of a guy finally going after what he hadn't been allowed as a younger man? Had Tiger really been with other women right after his wedding and during Elin's pregnancies?
Most important: Why had Tiger gotten married in the first place? If he was a single man we likely wouldn't be talking much about this.
As I looked out at his seemingly ideal home I recalled a video clip of Tiger talking about wanting more children. "After you've had them you really want to have more of them," he once told a reporter from Entertainment Tonight as he smiled broadly.
Really? And did he ever get a flash of his children's faces, or even his wife's, as he carried on with all those other women? His serial cheating spree seems proof positive that Tiger Woods lacks both integrity and good character.
Think of all the lives changed by the selfishness of his acts. His mother, Kultida, must be mortified by his alley cat ways. His children's lives are certainly affected and while Woods recently declared he was indefinitely giving up his beloved golf so he could "work on being a better husband, a father and person" it seems as though Elin's character prohibits her from continuing to live to lie.
The gentleman who drove me to the airport also asked me why "we seem to take such joy in the demise of others." I think it's more like fascination we feel, like the kind experienced when driving by a road side accident. We crane our necks, riveted by what we might see but taking no joy in the destruction.
Eldrick "Tiger" Woods created his own accident at the side of the road and there could be more sordid revelations. Fresh humiliation (and loss of endorsements) could be just around the bend.
I don't really care that he can play golf. In the game of life, where integrity and character is the measure of the person's true worth, Tiger Woods is a loser.
Diane Dimond can be reached through her web site: www.DianeDimond.com