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 Café 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.


  1. A well written essay. I commend you. But even if the the past is prologue, it no longer matters. How, or why, he became what he has become isn't important. We are the product of our genes and our early and ongoing environments. We cannot change our pasts. We can only alter our potential futures.

    My take, at this point, is that Tiger's "extended break" from golf is really about seeing what the terrain will look like in, say, 6 months (perhaps only 3). It is a business decision. Even what happens in his marriage (which I would counsel he gets out of) will be a business decision. Maybe it shouldn't be, in some opinions, but it will be. What will the endorsement landscape for Tiger look like in 6 months? I don't have a well-tuned crystal ball but I suspect it will be similar to today only scaled down quite a bit. And, after a period, it will grow again into a powerhouse.

    Because, unless Tiger's golf talent falters too (and I do not believe it will until his 40's, if even then), what happens in his private life will not matter in the long run.

  2. Excellent perspective on the Tiger Woods issue. It has caused me to rethink my tendency to judge him as just another arrogant athlete behind a mask of respectability. I totally identify with delayed adolescence as I went through that in my late 40's after my second divorce. Once again we are cautioned against easy judgments of others even though their behaviors are less than we expected.

  3. I've wondered the same. Also from the perspective that Tiger, with a life so saturated in golf, golf, golf, and saturated with intense parental attention, he might have developed an overly self-centered persona. Me, me, me. Wife? Feelings? Hurt? Who?

    But still. It's grow up adult time. Accept the responsibility of husband and father. You can win golf tournaments against the greatest? You can keep your zipper zipped (psst, professional help IS available in every city there's a tournament).

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Hi! Sorry, this has absolutely nothing to do with what you just wrote, but I have no idea how else to get in contact with you. I JUST saw the comment that you left on my blog in freaking 2008 about being a guest author. I didn't think anyone was reading what I was writing so I just stopped using blogspot. I got curious today to look back at what I had written and was just going to mess around and write something else and then saw your comment (and flailed in excitement). If the offer is still open, I would be a guest author. Please let me know if that's still an option. The quickest and most certain way at the moment for me to actually know that you've responded to this would be to just email me at Life lessons learned: always check blogspot and never give up... I'm keeping notes. Happy new year and thank you again for the offer! I'm sorry I didn't see it sooner!

  6. At this moment as we type this, MSNBC is airing a piece on Tiger Woods, which includes lots of film footage of his parents and his early years when he was less than 10 years of age.

  7. At this moment as we type this, MSNBC is airing a piece on Tiger Woods, which includes lots of film footage of his parents and his early years when he was less than 10 years of age.


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