I normally avoid these stories like the plague because I frankly don’t find them terribly relevant to either the worlds of government and politics or serious concerns of social matters. But with that said, the saturation coverage we’ve been seeing over Tiger Woods being charged with driving while impaired this weekend really seems to speak to some problems which are more media oriented than anything that may or may not be wrong with the legendary golfer these days. (For the record, they’re saying there was no alcohol in his system and it was something to do with a reaction to a combination of prescription medications rather than some ill advised drinking binge.)
Kevin Williamson of National Review waxed eloquent on the situation, commiserating with anyone who reaches the heights of fame and fortune with their life completely defined by “The One Big Thing” they do, only to fall to pieces when that big thing goes away.
But when the One Big Thing is gone, there is a double loss — the thing that defined your life is now in the past, and, at the very moment when your income and public profile both are likely to be heading south, you face the real crisis: You have done something extraordinary, but it is finished, and now you do not know what to do. The lucky ones have great marriages and happy families, faith, community, and friendship to take the place of being in the movies or playing basketball. The ones who don’t have that will try to fill up the great empty hole in the middle of their lives with other things: alcohol, drugs, sexual promiscuity, recklessness in personal and public affairs, including financial ones. Do you know why so many people who ought to be happy but aren’t happy develop problems with cocaine? Because cocaine works exactly as advertised. It makes you happy, until it doesn’t.
Kevin’s colleague Jim Geraghty spins off from that introduction in the Morning Jolt, also seemingly able to relate to how ivory towers can put someone in a gilded prison of their own making.
I think it was Tony Robbins who had this observation about celebrities who achieve fame only to quickly become self-destructive with drugs, booze, or other reckless behavior: we all want to stand out, to be special, to be recognized as exceptional and better than anyone else at one particular activity or skill. Some people achieve that . . . and then suddenly feel separated from everyone, as all of their old friends from before and no one they know can relate to the pressures and troubles that come from fame. We want to be separate and connect at the same time.
I suppose all of that is fair enough. I couldn’t really say, having never reached the same levels of platinum status celebrity and riches that Williamson and Geraghty have managed, to say nothing of Tiger Woods. But we’ve watched enough athletes and movies stars spin out of control, eventually crashing with either hilarious or tragic (or sometimes both) results that it’s not difficult to imagine.
But my main question this week after watching this unfold is, once again, why do we care and why is the media so obsessed with it? Woods isn’t even regularly playing golf anymore, and when he does the results have been mediocre at best due to whatever combination of medical problems, swing mechanics and/or lifestyle demons are plaguing him. (In one of his last outings in January he failed to even make it into the weekend, missing the cut on Friday.) So it’s not as if whatever is going on with him is having any major impact of the world of golf.
And if you’re not worried about the fortunes of the PGA, what’s the real attraction here? Is this supposed to be some sort of life lesson about how too much fortune and fame can ruin even the best among us? A cautionary tale reminding us to be happy with our more modest fortunes because “more money is just more problems” in the real world? Thanks for the tip, but if I get a shot at a billion dollar payday and an endorsement deal from Cadillac from my latest strain of horseradish I think I’ll take my chances.
If not any of those reasons, then what? Are we really still fixated on the idea that movie stars and professional sports figures are somehow supposed to be “role models” for our youth and they somehow let the entire world down when they fall from grace? Give me a break. Kids need role models, but that task should be handled by their parents or guardians. Perhaps their teachers and the local police or community leaders in an ideal world. If your kid is suddenly stealing beer from your fridge because of what Tiger allegedly may have done, there was something wrong in your household long before Woods got chased out of his house by a golf club-wielding spouse.
In the end, what did Tiger Woods really do? Even in the worst case scenario where the original suspicions were true, he would have been one more guy who exercised bad judgement and got behind the wheel after drinking too much. Not admirable and potentially a danger to others in his community, but even that would have been a tiny story which impacts almost nobody in the larger scheme of things. If he was honestly screwing up his prescription medications, that’s a good tip for everyone to be reminded of to be sure, but it hardly requires the endless parade of mug shots we’re seeing on cable news and the torrents of hand wringing going on.
I’m willing to let Tiger be Tiger. If he did break the law on some minor rap the local police can handle it. And he’s still got billions of dollars to keep him warm at night and he can afford 24/7 chauffeur coverage if he loses his license. This really isn’t a news story, or at least it shouldn’t be. And the fact that it’s getting so much play likely says far more about us than it does him.