Saturday, December 12, 2009

Post No. 143: “Mrs. Woods, Can Tiger Come out to Play?”

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Some years ago, in response to Oprah Winfrey’s inquiry about why he engaged in “sexual indiscretions” with a White House intern, former President Bill Clinton responded, “Because I could.”

The first time the Logistician shared this story with a colleague, it was met with a roar of laughter.

At first glance, it sounds like such a child-like response. And yet, any time someone prominent in society gets caught doing something that most didn’t expect of them, one has to consider the Clinton response.

A good friend of the Institute, in a personal reflection about the recent Tiger maelstrom, wrote:

“The Tiger thing is mind-blowing. Not because he turned out to be a dog, but because people are all shocked and appalled. It's amazing how often when reading about national scandals that I think of the French police chief, Captain Renault, in the movie Casablanca, when Bogart’s club, Rick’s CafĂ© Americain, is raided. He was well aware of what was going on and was actually profiting from it, and yet he says, ‘I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!’”

Someone once said that powder cocaine is God’s way of letting you know that you’re making too much money. And the availability of freestyle sexual escapades around virtually every corner comes in a close second. Virtually any professional athlete (and lots of them at the big name colleges) will tell you that Tiger-type sexual encounters and parties have been going on for about 100 years, if not longer.

(Ben Franklin may not have been an athlete in the current sense of the word, at least not on the field or the court, but all that salon activity in France did wonders for his creativity. And we also forgot about some of the Roman emperors, and other royalty throughout history.)

And yet there is something else a bit troubling about the Tiger melt-down. Our friend went on to write:

“I wonder if his adolescence was stunted because his father made him play golf all the time . . . so he never had a chance to fool around? And so he's just a teenager emotionally and in terms of maturity? I feel sorry for him. He's been ‘The Man’ all these years but maybe he's just a teenage boy inside?”

Without trying to be insensitive, maybe it was the first period in his life that he really got to “play.”

Our friend went on to mention child stars Michael Jackson and Judy Garland, whose extended adolescences / early adult lives were in the public domain, and noted that their problems during late adulthood did not appear quite as shocking, prompting such wide-spread “Oh my Gods….”

Having just totally dissected the entire life of Michael Jackson earlier this year, the adoring public should not have been so surprised that the golfing world’s version of Camelot came crashing down so quickly after a single strike by one of Sadaam’s SCUD mistresses.

And of course, everyone simply forgot about the Todd Marinovich story.

Tiger arguably should be complimented for not having imploded at an earlier point in his career. But as is the case with many things in life, simply putting a cap on the geyser, Old Faithful, will not permanently prevent it from ultimately blowing….

Which brings us around to our point… about the importance of balance and moderation during youth.

Both too much and not enough of anything can prove to be problematic down the road.

What has been most interesting about the Media’s coverage of this continuing event has been the paucity of focus on Tiger’s parents. Perhaps that’s because Tiger is a 33 year old adult.

And yet Joe Jackson was regularly pummeled following Michael’s death.

What’s a parent to do? How do parents achieve the optimal balance, and know that it has been reached? After all, there is no book on the subject.

In an interview some years ago, Michael related stories of wanting to go across the street and play on the swings in the park, to which his Father responded, “No, you have to practice.”

In thinking further about Tiger, one has to wonder whether any kid ever walked up to the back door of the Woods home, and asked whether Tiger could come out to play.

He ultimately got to play, in more ways than one.

Folks seem to be primarily upset because he breached his marital vows, secondarily because his philandering posed a health risk to his “beautiful bride,” and thirdly because the kids will have to endure whispered jokes for years.

And yet, as Dylan once said, “It goes deeper than that.”

Tiger recently announced that he will take an indefinite leave from golf, to start the healing process and do some mending of relationships, which translates into going into seclusion.

Perhaps what Tiger really needs to do is something which his parents did not allow his to do with enough frequency during his youth…. Come out to play with kids of regular folks.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too tough on the Tiger. After all, he’s really not one of the kids with whom we played.

Perhaps some share of our examination should be directed toward the parents, and not necessarily in a critical way, but perhaps more in terms of what can we learn from their experience with their beloved son.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Post No. 142: A Funny Thing Happened to Tiger on the Way to the Altar

© 2009 the Institute for Applied Common Sense

One can not resist asking, "Is there anything beneficial which society can take away from this Tiger Woods 'infidelity during marriage' situation (regardless of one’s position about the propriety or impropriety of the conduct of the various participants involved)?

An argument could be made that society should constantly re-evaluate all of its institutions, including the institution of marriage, to determine their continuing viability and value, and that unfortunate events such as the still developing story involving Woods, should prompt us to re-examine that institution now.

Arguably, every time society determines that something is not quite working the way that it was envisioned, it should re-visit the original reasons and expectations underlining the creation of the practice.

Marriage (as we currently view it in America, particularly its restrictions on sex with others) is a relatively recent convention, which has evolved and changed over time. When difficulties arise, especially involving celebrities and public figures, society has a tendency to examine the event from a static perspective, using the rules and expectations of the current culture.

Perhaps looking at it from a dynamic perspective, and determining whether it still performs a valuable societal function, including an examination of its costs and benefits, might be the way to go.

Many soundly criticized the CEOs of the Big Three auto companies and the investments banks, and the Federal Reserve for being asleep at the switch and not paying careful enough attention to business fluctuations which led to our current economic recession. "How could they have let this happen?" we asked. Why should we expect any less diligence from society in terms of monitoring and responding to fluctuations in societal values?

Is marriage really for everyone? Why do we expect virtually everyone to marry at some point during their lifetime? Why does society have a tendency to question the “whatever” of people who haven’t been married by a certain point in time in their lives?

A suggestion on our part was previously made that marital infidelity had at least some biological component, which went beyond the simple exercise of discipline or personal responsibility, or religious beliefs for that matter. That suggestion was soundly and emphatically criticized by our readers.

Assuming, for purposes of argument, that there is no biological component, then simply examining the conduct of golfer Woods, Albert Einstein, Gov. Mark Sanford, Sen. John Edwards, Sen. John Ensign, inventor Henry Ford, Presidents Wilson, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Clinton, would strongly suggest that many do not respect the institution as presently constituted or evolved.

And this is not to suggest that the rules of the marital agreement have only been violated by men. And that’s not to mention that the “other women” are also members of society, who obviously do not respect the current form of the institution.

Some of the best and brightest minds of our culture, people who have excelled in their various pursuits, and who have served their countries and improved the quality of life for millions, have chosen not to adhere to their marital vows. And why not?

There must be something there. For us not to re-examine the real issues, or for us to simply dismiss them as “aberrations,” or even examples of “selfishness,” would serve little value.

Perhaps people today are marrying for all of the wrong reasons.

Are potential loneliness and a desire to grow old with a companion sufficient enough reasons to justify marriage? And what about security? Are the reasons that most people get married so self-serving, in terms of underlying motivation, that the majority of marriages are bound to fail at some point?

One of the wrong reasons might be public and peer pressure. Many a professional person has felt compelled to get married in order to advance professionally.

Imagine the questions which would be raised about an unmarried presidential candidate.

Back in July of this year, we featured an article about the risks associated with conformity. The article suggested that group-think may delay our addressing certain problems and crafting solutions. If the group thinks that nothing is wrong, or that the current model still works, then it continues to deny the existence of problems.

Some years ago, Charlie Rose interviewed a very prominent member of Indian society and an Indian family dynasty. The young man had been educated in some of the best institutions in the world, and had grown up in both the Western and Eastern worlds.

Since the man was recently married, Charlie asked whether he thought that family arranged marriages or marriages where the participants were romantically involved were better. His answer was quick and unequivocal – arranged marriages. He explained that one felt more responsibility to society and to one’s extended family in an arranged marriage.

He also added that if one actually fell in love with the designated spouse, then that was like “icing on the cake.”

And with all of the talk about infidelity in connection with the Woods marriage, we still do not have a clear picture of whether there was any violence.

However, there is little question that when a spouse disappears or is murdered, attention is first directed toward the other spouse. An editorial in Time magazine some years ago suggested that marriage is one of the most dangerous places for an adult woman to be in terms of physical violence.

Tiger Woods has done a lot of good in the world, and has made many of us proud. This is obviously a blemish on his career, for which he has taken full responsibility and apologized.

However, in the same way that Magic Johnson’s AIDS condition may have done much to focus society’s attention on that disease, perhaps Tiger’s “indiscretions” may help society focus on whether marriage is still a viable institution for the majority of its citizens.

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