Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods seems to be in the news a little too much these days. Not that I don't think what he did was wrong and punishable, and news of it should be spread like a virus around the world so that everyone can know of his wrongdoings, but there's speculation permeating now about what exactly his sponsors will do; and now that this speculation has taken over, the real story is now hidden, which I don't necessarily agree with.

Beginning minutes after the truth was unveiled, news agencies and bloggers have been in a mad dash to discover first which of Tiger's sponsors will drop him from their roles.

The first, unveiled today, is Gatorade. And while I think it's a necessary move and a righteous position that Gatorade is taking (though they stood by Michael Jordan and Michael Phelps...), I think the fact that they needed to cover the "we're dropping him because of his gambling, extra-marital affairs, etc.," with "we're dropping the Tiger Woods name because identifying the drink by its flavors is more marketable."

Yeah, OK.

Now that he's lost his multi-million dollar contract with Gatorade, which sponsor is next? Many speculate that it will be Nike. Nike has a roughly $100 million contract with Tiger, but many think his skills as a golfer and his image at perpetuating golf in popularity with the worldwide youth are too vast to cast away.

Personally, I believe he is paid to be a golfer. He is a role model second, but when his role model status becomes larger than his sports persona and success, perhaps it's time to reevaluate himself anyway. Perhaps he needs to do some image revitalization after all the smoke clears, and needs to rework himself from the ground up, but if any athlete really hopes to be a role model, then perhaps they need to separate themselves from an adult life in which temptations exist.

If this scandal has shown us anything, it's a reinforcement of the idea that our idols (and role models) are anything but godly and perfect--they are fallible, inconsistent, easily tempted, and do not have the best morals and realizations about their public standing vs. their private lives.

Perhaps our children should learn this lesson before it becomes too late. Man is imperfect, and there is no perfect person in the world. Everyone has faults and misdoings, even those we catapult into godlike standings and place on proverbial pedestals to be admired and scrutinized by all.

And to prove my point, this idea is often reflected in literature, but with a twist that is vitally important for both Tiger Woods and the youth of America and the world to understand.

When Odysseus, the great warrior, left his homeland he promised his wife and newborn son he would return. 20 years later, after accidentally giving away (by bragging) his position to a cyclops who killed many of his men and after angering a principal god who would ultimately kill all of his men and nearly him, he returns home. He does not tell his wife about his infidelities along the way, nor about his hubris, but he does fit the description of the epic hero: one with faults, but one who, unlike the tragic hero, is not destroyed by their flaw. Instead Odysseus grapples with it and pays for it by having to carry the burden and the pain with him forever, missing out on most of his life.

But he never gives up and never turns from a path that is mostly right. Should our idols adhere to this "mostly right," squeaky clean (except for a few patches of dirt) image? Or should they be expected to be perfect or expected to fail much worse than they do?

Odysseus is inherently good and well-liked, well-intentioned, and intelligent. He is ideally a hero, and a role model in the ancient world. He has his downfalls, as does every hero, but it is his conquering of his inner demons that allows him to conquer his exterior demons, and through his vindication, he finally achieves the title "hero." Without these temptations, then countering them and eventually casting them out, the "hero" can never be born.

This is the crossroads which every major idol and role model must face (Tiger's may be greater than many others, I know...), and Tiger must make a decision on how he wants to act and be perceived from hereon out. Like Odysseus, his monsters are interior and exterior; like Luke (Skywalker), he must experience the dark side before he can understand how to conquer it.

Wow, cheesy conclusion, huh?

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