May 30, 2017: I admit to a mild sense of trauma looking at that jarring mugshot of Tiger Woods. It is unfortunate that the 41-year-old continues to find himself in the news for all the wrong reasons. In a world of voyeurism and internet, the salacious nature of this development feeds the voracious appetite of the hungry eyes that feed off the stars. Tiger clearly has issues that he needs to deal with at a personal level, but for us, he needs to remain this incredibly committed athlete that won 14 grand slam titles. The rest is just useless trivia that should not define our understanding or lack of it of this great champion.
Woods is a once in a generation athlete with the hunger, determination and hard work that are needed to translate talent into performance. He has enthralled us with his feats – as a young fledgling champion at the Masters in 1997 or playing with a broken libia and damaged knee ligament enroute to a thrilling US Open victory in 2008.
On that journey, he drove golf to spaces we didn’t know existed before. Tiger raised the bar and a young generation has been feeding on that ever since. Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day are some examples of young men whose experience of golf draws from the epic feats of Woods.
Yet the great man himself has been finding himself lost in the woods repeatedly. As people who understand sport, golf in particular, we need to look at Tiger through an empathetic lens rather than the narrow prism of pseudo conservatism.
“What happened was an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications,” said Woods, in a statement issued by him. “I didn’t realize the mix of medications had affected me so strongly.
“I would like to apologize with all my heart to my family, friends and the fans. I expect more from myself too.” We can understand that.
Sport feeds our instincts better than nearly every other activity in life. It showcases the potential of the human race and highlights everything that is good of the species. The exemplary athletic prowess of some of these athletes drives us to expectations of character and values that we might hold dear. It is unfair for us to expect an athlete to live up to our expectations the moment they get off the field.
Either through television or through gate receipts, we pay an athlete for their performance on the grounds. They owe us no more, no less. If you have paid a large portion of your savings to experience an athlete at her peak, expect no more, no less.
It is terribly injudicious for us to relish their weaknesses as if it were a feast. Far from being a feast, it is more akin to vultures that feed off a carcass.
Woods deserves our love and respect. He has earned it a long time ago. We are bankers to his legacy and it is important that we play that role well to help future generations understand Woods’ contribution to this great game.
Embrace his greatness, understand his struggles. Tiger Woods needs us now more than we need him. This isn’t the time to desert this great champion.