Monday, February 22, 2010

Tiger Woods- A(nother) Lesson in Interdependence


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On Friday, Tiger Woods, one of my favorite athletes/celebrities of al time issued an apology for his affair.  In fact, I'd say Tiger is my favorite athlete of all time.  I, rather hastily, posted that I was "not impressed" by his apology- probably a poor choice of words on my part.  As I said in an earlier post, I think there are some valuable lessons for all of us to learn from Tiger's unfortunate situation- Why Tiger's Downfall Is A Good Thing   Anything that doesn't kill us makes us stronger.  We're going to learn from someone's mistakes.  It's better and less painful if we can learn from others' mistakes.  In the case of Tiger Woods, while he's learning from his mistakes, we have an opportunity to do the same.



I want to make this very clear though.  I am not "judging" Tiger.  I am not angry with Tiger.  I want to see Tiger "restored".  I want to see Tiger back  better and stronger than ever.  I want to see Tiger happy.  I've been watching Tiger since he was 13.  I've been on the golf course with Tiger and seen him hit one of those monster drives.  I am a fan.



I want to clarify my earlier remark about Tiger's apology not "impressing me".  It's not that Tiger needed to say the right words to gain my forgiveness. Tiger's done nothing personally to me and there is nothing for me to forgive him for.  Sure, I'm disappointed in him, but for him not for me.  I don't think he yet truly appreciates how much his behavior has impacted his fans, his family, his wife, his kids and his legacy. I think Tiger is still compartmentalizing, still controlling, still wanting to have things in just his own way.  While he took the blame for the affairs, he doesn't seem to want to see that that's what has led to the media circus that now engulfs his wife and his kids.  In that sense, I don't think Tiger really gets how truly interdependent we all are.  



When  a man has an adulterous affair, it's not just his own business.  When we are in a family everything we do has a real and direct impact on those in the family with us.  When you have kids, an affair is not just cheating on your wife, it's cheating on your kids.  When you are a public figure you can multiple this effect.   Tiger, when he had his affairs, was not only putting his own reputation at risk, he was putting his wife's and his kids' emotional well being at risk.  I understand why Tiger pleaded for the press to leave his wife and kids out of this brouhaha.  But, unfortunately that is not the way it works.  Even for us mere mortals, when we screw up it usually hurts someone else close to us.  This is something we have to keep in mind as we make our decisions on a day-to-day basis.  None of us can do it perfectly.  Most of us don't even do it very well. But, part of the path of Buddhism is working to attain that kind of insight- understanding interdependence, karma, action/reaction and making wise decisions.  Tiger must have been sleepwalking through his life not to realize the path he was on. Not only did he had an "affair", he was having multiple affairs in such a way that it's not surprising that he got caught, it's amazing he didn't get caught sooner. Obviously, something was missing from his life.  It's hard for most of us to imagine that you could be Tiger Woods and need something else.  But, clearly he did.  Unfortunately, he could not see that grasping for that thing that was missing was perching him precariously over a very long fall- risking almost everything he already had. 



Tiger Woods is now learning and teaching us all about interdependence.  His actions have cost his family, his business partners, his sponsors (estimates are that some of his sponsor companies have lost billions of dollars in market capitalization over this) and his fans.  Some tell us we shouldn't care about our "heroes" or celebrities or put our faith in them.  And, they are right.  We shouldn't. But, we do.  We pay them millions of dollars a year in exchange for being able to live a little vicariously through them.  Some parents use them as role models.  When they accept that money, they make a social contract with us and when they fail so miserably, they break that contract and we all suffer.  



I truly hope that Tiger and Elin can work through their difficulties. He's a fellow human being and I hate seeing any human being suffer.  I hope that his kids will one day see how their parents worked through a very difficult time.  I hope that Tiger comes back, owns every record there is to own in golf and leaves the kind of legacy he and his father hoped for.  I hope that Tiger truly realizes that even though he's the most famous athlete in the world and could buy anything he wants, he still has to live by the rules we all have to live by.  I think that his press conference on Friday was a good start on his road to recovery.  As much as I miss seeing him on the golf course, I am glad that he is taking time to reflect and hopefully to grow and to learn.  I can't wait to see him back though.  The Masters wont' be the Masters if he isn't there.



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11 comments:

Kansas Bob said...

I think that professional golf has developed an addiction to Tiger. This Golf Channel guy got all choked up at Tiger's apology.

brian said...

Tiger has taken professional golf to a level it has never even approached before. Revenues and viewership multiply when Tiger's in contention. I've been a golf fan all my life. But, if Tiger's not playing on a weekend, I'm far less likely to watch.

I don't think it's just Tiger's skill. In fact I know it's not. People who have never watched golf before watch Tiger because of who he is.

I don't see anything wrong with guy getting choked up. I think it means he saw the pain that Tiger (a fellow human being) is going through.

Kansas Bob said...

Not sure that I understand Brian.. what did you mean by "watch Tiger because of who he is"?

brian said...

Bob,

I'll give you an example. My mother-in-law watches Tiger Woods play golf. Before Tiger she didn't know what a par, a birdie or a tee shot was (I'm still not sure she does). She watches because she sees a man of mixed heritage excelling in a sport we've been shut out of. I like Tiger for a variety of reasons. His skill is just one of them. I like the father-and-son story of his father helping him achieve his full potential. I like Tiger's mental discipline. I like Tiger's charitable work. I like Tiger's mental toughness. I admire his work ethic. I love the fact that Tiger has blurred the race line in his sport.

I think it's so cool that Tiger has elevated to the level he has in a sport that arguably was the most racist sport ever. I think it's great when I see people look at someone like Tiger and their perceptions of race begin to fade away.

Kansas Bob said...

Thanks Brian! I am not a golfer and don't watch the game. Your comment helped me understand why so many people are so upset about his indiscretions.

Did you feel the same way seeing Shani Davis at the Olympics or was it different maybe because you do not skate? Guess I am just wondering if the issue is ethnicity or sport? Hope the question doesn't offend.. just trying to understand.

brian said...

Bob,

It's a complicated issue. I'm not offended by the question at all, BTW.

With Shani, first of all I watch speed skating exactly once every four years. So, he's not that big of a deal to me. I heard of Shani from the last Olympics. Yes, it's cool that there's a black guy competing in a white dominated sport. But, it's not the same as golf or tennis where black people (Jews and women) were actively shut out until very recently.

I'm a big fan of the underdog all of the time. Sometimes, when I'm feeling like I'm cursed when it comes to sports, I have to remind myself that my team usually losing is not a coincidence. I'm usually rooting for the underdog. I don't identify with Tiger only because he's black and I'm black. I also get great joy out of watching any minority or oppressed group break through barriers.

Kansas Bob said...

Thanks for that explanation Brian. I am a huge fan of underdogs too.. just never saw Woods that way I guess.

UncleJesse said...

I don't see many people talking about Vj Singh's Indo-Fijian ethnicity?
Somehow, Tiger has a certain aura about him.
I'm dealing with relationship issues of my own, I'd love know what you guys think.
http://trailblazerministries.blogspot.com/2010/02/menand-being-attracted-to-other-women.html

brian said...

Uncle Jesse,

I think there are a couple of reasons you don't hear much about Vijay's ethnicity. One is he's not an American (at least he wasn't born and raised here). Two, he's not of an ethnicity that most of us can easily relate to. I doubt that most golf fans could actually tell you where he's from or that his father is Indian.

UncleJesse said...

Good point Brian...I guess I'm tired of people caring about the colour of skin, and focus on character.

brian said...

UncleJesse,

Growing up as a black child, I wanted nothing more than to live in a world where the color of one's skin didn't matter. It matters far less than it used to. But, it still means something in our society. The scars of our racist past are healing. But, we're only kidding ourselves if we think they're completely healed.