Schmucks like us

Tiger Woods was arrested for driving while intoxicated. This is not the first time Tiger Woods has run into trouble behind the wheel or had embarrassing personal details made public. He, or whoever writes his public statements for him, knows better: “I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to,” he said after the sex scandal that turned him from sports hero to public laughingstock. “I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them. I was wrong. I was foolish.”

Woods apparently drinks too much sometimes, and, if the tabloids are to be believed, he has expansive sexual appetites. I wonder how alien those problems really are to the average American man. But the average American man does not have $600 million, an almost universally known name, and a face recognized by 98 percent of the people he encounters. Maybe you haven’t behaved the way Tiger Woods does — but how many Playboy models do you have on speed-dial? How many of them were calling you at the peak of your career or slightly thereafter? Maybe you lead a more virtuous life. Maybe you just lead a smaller one. It is difficult to say without being tested.

And that may be why we love the ritual public denunciation of fallen idols. If we convince ourselves that they are monsters and moral outliers, then we do not have to face the much more terrifying possibility that they are schmucks like us — and that we are schmucks like them.