Tiger Woods’ free-fall has a big silver lining

1259757347_1As my eight-year-old son and I navigated the checkout counter at a supermarket yesterday, he looked at the nearby magazines – including People (“Tiger In Trouble”), Us (“Yes, He Cheated”), and Star (“What Really Happened! Insider Tiger’s Troubled Marriage”) – and asked for an explanation about the “trouble” that is hamstringing the world’s most famous golfer. “Oh, he’s having relationship problems with his wife,” I said before taking our purchases and going to a grade-school party – where Woods’ cheating became a topic of discussion among the parents. One mom said Barack Obama was one of the few major public figures who’d never commit adultery. A fellow parent cautioned her against putting the president on such a moral pedestal since he was “a politician” who’s adept at hiding his flaws.

Thanks, Tiger. Thanks for starting another national dialogue about adultery, lying, celebrity, and the like. People are even talking about race relations (see here and here) thanks to the salacious details that have emerged from your out-of-wedlock sex romps. There’s been nothing like this since 1994, when O.J. Simpson also had car problems that overlapped with sensational accusations that were hard to believe. The O.J. case divided blacks and whites (see here, here and here), polarized the football star’s fans against his nay-sayers – and led to greater awareness of battery against women, and a greater awareness of how the U.S. legal system operates.

These “silver linings” are often lost in the immediate media maelstrom that saturates the country. Even Bill Clinton’s Lewinsky affair had its up side – not the least of which was the outing of Clinton critics who, themselves, were guilty of taboo behavior (i.e., Henry Hyde and Newt Gingrich).

Like Clinton, whose escapade led to the infamous blue dress and other embarrassing revelations, Woods will survive his public humiliation. For Clinton, though, it took years for the Lewinsky dalliance (and the subsequent impeachment proceedings) to recede in importance to his overall presidency. The 33-year-old Woods will also have to wait years – perhaps until middle age – to regain a real foothold with his reputation. By then, my son will be a teenager. Then, I may revisit the Tiger Woods Saga of 2009. Yesterday, I passed on using it as a teaching moment. My offspring loves sports, looks up to people like Kobe Bryant for their otherworldly athletic abilities. He doesn’t know – nor should he – the ugly truth: Tiger Woods is just like O.J. Simpson and Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich and Kobe Bryant and (to name at least one woman) Judith Regan – all of them alpha figures who’ve tried to squelch the truth about their private lives. For now, my 8-year-old son admires Tiger Woods. His age group may be the only one that still does.

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