The “aura” that Tiger Woods projected since he first burst upon the scene back in 1994, when he rallied from six-down to beat Trip Kuehne and win the first of his three consecutive U.S. Amateur championships, has vanished and is gone forever.
In fact there’s a better chance of Elin returning from her island than Tiger recovering his good name, the one that so many corporations coveted and were willing to dole out millions to be linked to their products.
The old saying that you only get one chance to make a good first impression is certainly true, but it’s just as much a fact that you have an entire lifetime to screw up badly enough to wipe out all the good things you may have accomplished, at least in the court of public opinion. That’s Tiger x 7 or how many other former lovers had come storming out of the Woods since this column was filed.
My grandfather once told me that the only thing a man takes with him from this earth is his reputation. So while Woods’ obituary may well include his having won more major golf tournaments than anyone else in history, it will also prominently include his sordid sexual escapades, his fall from public grace and who knows what else?
He will be remembered in a similar way as Richard Nixon in that no matter how many tournaments he wins in the future, how many records he sets, there’s always going to be the “yeah, but” factor hanging around his neck.
This debate revolves around the question; Can Tiger come back?
Depends on what you expect. As a golfer?; Certainly. His physical gifts didn’t vanish, although since golf is as much a mental endeavor as it is proper swing mechanics, he could loose that special intangible that seemed to ooze from his very pores whenever the pressure was at its greatest.
We know from history that athletes have been able to put less-than-acceptable behavior behind them and once again have been embraced by their sport’s fan base.
Koby Bryant is a very recent example of a forgiving public. Magic Johnson admitted he cheated on his wife for years when he announced being HIV positive and today is very visible promoting causes and products.
Closer to home fans still cheered Wade Boggs after it was disclosed that he had a seven-plus year dalliance with Margo Adams.
But we expected more from Tiger, because he promoted that clean cut All American image. He was strong, athletic, good looking and the perfect role model.
Why, it has been argued, hasn’t fellow golfer John Daly been crucified for his sins? Why the double standard?
Well maybe it’s that Daly never pretended to be anything more than a red necked slob with the moral fiber of a skid row bum.
Tiger’s image as ‘Mr. Perfect’ was carefully cultivated, groomed and then refined and last Thanksgiving we found out it was all the human equivalent of fool’s gold. His entire public life had been one lengthy April Fools joke.
Fans will still applaud Tiger if he entertains them on the course, if he wins tournaments and more importantly if he wins majors.
Some will still bellow ‘You da man!’, but they will never again love, revere or respect him as a person.
That is as gone as the hickory shaft.
The ‘yeah but’ will always be there.
(Tim Geary is a Rhode Island based freelance writer with over 35 years of experience. He contributes regularly to several publications)
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