The Tiger Woods comeback is almost complete.
No, he didn’t win the British Open this weekend, but he was damn close. And he showed, as he has multiple times this year, that he is healthy and able to compete with men half his age and probably half his talent. Woods will win again, and when he does, America will cheer.
Which makes me wonder; what would this country say today, in light of the “me too,” movement and the hyper-sensitivity surrounding all things women, if Tiger’s scandal were to break for the first time? How will America respond when (because it will happen) today or tomorrow’s biggest athletic celebrity is exposed in an identical way? It sure feels like things will be different, and that’s a shame. Not because Tiger’s behavior was in any way okay, but because at some point we have to remember one of the cornerstones of our societal greatness; forgiveness.
Ten years ago, Tiger Woods was at the top of the golf world and was just four victories away from tying Jack Nicklaus’ all-time Major Championship record and solidifying himself as the undisputed greatest of all-time. He was far from beloved; he was a jerk to the media, he basically overtly hated his children, he came off to most as cocky, and he almost never smiled. But he was easily the most popular golfer, and arguably, athlete, on the planet for one simple reason; he was a winner. America loves winners, despite our cultural attempts to make winning less important.
And then we learned that Tiger had been cheating on his wife. With porn stars and prostitutes. About 40 of them. And he was addicted to prescription pain killers. Later, he would get DUI’s, check into rehab for fake sex addiction and pill dependency at a fancy day spa. Any of this sound familiar? It should…it mirrors many of the famous men who have been ostracized publicly over the past year. In fact, what Tiger did was far worse, some would say, then what some of the current “me too” movement victims have done. While it’s true that there’s no indication that Tiger forced himself on any women, he was clearly a philanderer who used his fame and fortune to screw as many women as he wanted, and even that, today, is frowned upon.
Look no further than Bill Clinton. The former president’s legacy is being tarnished daily for the fact that he was a serial cheater (something we all knew at the time). Most notably, he had an affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern more than half his age, at the time. In today’s climate, we’re told that he, as an older man, used his power and influence to coerce her into bed, even though the entire relationship was beyond consensual. In retrospect, really, how different is Tiger’s legacy?
The good news is that we’ll probably never have to examine that because while the vocal minority tries to tell us otherwise, America, en masse, accepts that we’re human. Christ, this is a country which has large segments of its’ population who have found a way to justify, defend, or deny truly heinous behavior by celebrities they love ranging from Michael Jackson to Bill Cosby. What Tiger did should never be uttered in the same sentence as those two or similar dirt bags.
And, seemingly, it never will be. For this weekend, the world was behind Tiger, cheering him on. The only thing this country loves more than a winner is a comeback story, and his might be the greatest of all time if he can complete it.
Today, Tiger overtly loves his kids and smiles and laughs on the regular. He is more forthcoming with the press, and he comes across as a rehabilitated man, despite the fact that less than a year ago he was arrested on a DUI. America doesn’t care; we want winners, and we really want our heroes to win, and win, and win again. When Tiger does win again, and he will, it will be one of the greatest comebacks of all-time and America will go insane. And with that, will come a reminder that in this country anyone can achieve anything…sometimes twice!
So what happens 5 years from now when Kevin Spacey (or someone of his ilk) emerges from the shadows a “changed man?” Having gone away, completed rehab, issued what will be a better apology, and all the rest, will America embrace him anew? And should we?
I stopped making predictions about American society after Donald Trump became president, something I never thought possible as late as 5pm Election Day, so I don’t know the answer to any of this, but it will be fun to watch. Almost as fun as the British Open was this weekend; when I was cheering for Tiger, along with record setting galleries at the course and people watching at home.