Enough Already!

I write this a few hours after Tiger Woods was forced once again to withdraw from a golf tournament because of pains in his lower back. Indeed, we have been given a detailed description of Tiger’s problems, including the fact that his “glutes” tightened up because fog delayed his tee time and he hadn’t had time to warm up properly when he had to actually hit his first shot — something the producers thought America needed to know. I suppose if those producers discovered what brand of deodorant the man uses they would determine that this is something America needs to know as well. Anyway, the whole withdrawal thing has been covered ad nauseam in the public media since the moment it occurred, including uninterrupted coverage on the Golf Channel of his long trip from the golf course via golf cart, his change of shoes, a closeup of his woebegone expression full of self-pity, to his eventual disappearance in his expensive rental car — the hell with the golf tournament and the fact that the rest of the players were still on the course! It does make one wonder.

After Tiger failed to make the cut in his last tournament, turning in a score that would suggest he was a moderately good amateur club player, the TV airways have been filled with endless analyses of his golfing problems, which focus on the fact that he has lost confidence in his stroke and is worrying too much about the mechanics of the game, etc. etc. To which I say two things: (1) Enough already! The man is over the hill and there are other good golfers out there who deserve a little TV time, and (2) Tiger’s problems have nothing whatever to do with his golf swing. They have to do with his utter confusion about just who the hell he is.

Tiger Woods is the reductio ad absurdum of the self-esteem movement that has swept the country and dominates our schools. He has been told since he was old enough to swing a golf club (on national TV at an age when most kids are still sucking their thumbs) that he is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Growing up he became convinced by doting parents and an adoring public that he could walk on water. After seeming to fulfill the hopes and expectations of all and sundry by winning stacks of golf tournaments while making an obscene amount of money, marrying a beautiful wife and having two lovely children, he was discovered to be an inveterate adulterer. His wife found out about his infidelities and chased him out of the house with one of his golf clubs (reportedly). Then came his total humiliation, including a very public divorce and a stay in a rehab center where he was supposed to learn how to keep it in his pants, after which he tried to come back to the golf course and win a few more major tournaments. It didn’t happen. He actually won a few minor tournaments, but it was clear that he was a shadow of his former golfing self. Why were we surprised? His self-concept had been shattered. He suddenly found himself up to his ears in the very water he had been told for years he could walk upon.

Though, doubtless, there are some who watch to see if Tiger still has some of the magic that made him one of the best golfers ever, I suspect that much of the golfing public continued to follow him with something akin to morbid curiosity: after all, how often does one get to watch the gradual meltdown of a major star, a superb athlete who could no longer “bring it” the way he had done for years? But those “fans” are like buzzards picking at the innards of a dead carcass; thanks to the entertainment industry the sporting pubic has been fascinated by the man’s demise, refusing to just let it go. Enough already! Let the poor man try to put his self back together, if he can — though a good psychiatrist would be more to the point than another swing coach. But, in the end, we assuredly can learn a valuable lesson from his fall from on high.

As I say, though an immensely talented athlete, he is a prototype of the spoiled child who has been told all his life he was exceptional. Reeking with self-esteem, he suddenly learned he had feet of clay. His sense of who he is has been severely damaged and no amount of stroke correction and no change in coaches can repair the damage that was done by doting parents and an adoring public who apparently never let him learn about failure. He is today a tattered shell of his former self, complete with numerous physical problems to go with a middling golf game. Just listen to his press conferences and read his body language!

Thus, those who think that we do our kids a favor by telling them how terrific they are until they feel entitled to have whatever they want should take a long look at Tiger Woods and reflect on the damage we can do to young people when we lead them to think they are superior beings and forget to remind them from time to time that, like everyone else, they are flawed. We need to let our kids fail so they can learn how to deal with failure. And we need to reserve our praise for those moments when they actually accomplish something noteworthy. Otherwise, they might fall from the heights we place them upon — like Tiger Woods.

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10 thoughts on “Enough Already!

  1. You’re quite right, Hugh. There is a universal lesson in Tiger Woods’ life — the success and the downfall. It’s similar to what happened at Penn State with its football program, and I suppose at many other major college football programs, too. And with many pro athletes. The pampering and sense of entitlement, along with the wealth for many of them, encases them in a bubble, or on an island, where they make and are allowed to live by their own sets of rules for, where accountability for violation of any rules is minimal at best. Until the violations become so egregious no one can turn their heads away anymore. Woods’ adultery. The rampant child molestation at Penn State. … Ray Rice, Adrian Gonzalez (the tight end of the Patriots accused of multiple murders), Michael Vick, Jim Tressel, Roger Clemens, etc. And such an arrogance to them, too, as they flout law and rule!

    The lesson ultimately falls on the rest of us: when are we going to stop it? Not only the behavior and the environment that enables it, but the feasting upon it — the millions of Americans who want to know what Tiger Woods’ glutes are all about, so the TV stations tell them. TV’s only giving us what we want, or what most of us want.

    Ugh!

    • You raise an interesting question: does TV give us what we want or manufacture what we want? I think it’s a bit of both. Thanks, again, for filling in some of the gaps!

  2. Hugh, I think your point that Tiger’s worst nemesis has little to do with golf is correct. He made mistakes in life and they caught up with his golf game. Raymond Floyd was a renowned party boy on tour. It was not until he focused on his game did he start to win majors.

    As for his game, Tiger was a meteor unlike anything else we have seen. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan and Bobby Jones were the same, but they had one thing in common different from Tiger. They had stellar competition. So for a period of twelve years or so, Tiger was significantly better day in day out than his competition.

    Then, the competition and equipment started getting better about the same time Tiger was on the downward side of his peak. They saw him as beatable rather than looking over their shoulder. He still is very good and will win some tournaments, maybe even majors late like Jack did, but it will be harder for him. I would also add at the very time Tiger needed him most, he jettisoned his caddy. That yin and yang is important.

    The issue of coddling athletes and young people is a good one. I am sure Tiger got much of that, so he may have lost some grounding. The issue with a woman in every port reminds me of a famous politician. There is the narcissism that very famous people cannot seem to escape that is their albatross.

    Good post, BTG

    • I seriously doubt that Tiger will win another major — for the reasons I gave and for the fact which you mention that the competition is getting better and they no longer fear Tiger Woods. But the main point is that we are raising our kids, by and large, in Tiger’s image: indulge and spoil and never say “no”! Is it any wonder they feel entitled?

      • Tiger was pronounced over-the-hill by a writer this morning. That will get his dander up. He may be on the downward slope, but he is one of the most competitive athletes around. As for the indulgence of the young, we are guilty of some of that with our kids, but try to work against that trend.

  3. Great post, Hugh. I’ve felt the same about Tiger for quite some time now. I think proof of his downfall actually began before the golf club incident. The best swing coach out there is Butch Harmon, and he worked solely with Tiger. But Butch’s reputation was growing, and Tiger fired him because he was concerned that Butch was taking away some of the spotlight. That was the beginning of his downfall, I think.

    And I agree with you, I don’t believe that he will do much more in the matter of winning major tournaments. He is vulnerable since much of the game is between the players ears. I think proof of the point is Tiger claiming this week that he is not focused on beating Nicklaus’ record 18 major wins.

  4. You provided a very-entertaining read for the first half of my bus trip to Guayaquil yesterday! I remembered that news like this rarely stretches this far… You are so right, praise should be earned, and I used a slight trick of that concept yesterday in a drawing class for children. One briliant ten year old is quite haughty at times as well as lazy – he’s learned how to manipulate others to get what he wants without earning it, so as I critiqued each student’s work, he paid sharp attention to my words. some of those words were aimed at him but spoken to another. he didn’t attempt the calligraphy part, and his mother had told me that he ‘hates writing’ – so i pointed out to the class that few people knew the art of designing words, and those that could would be respected in the future.

    ha.. ten minutes later, he was designing beautiful letters!

    wonder what lessons one could teach tiger?

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