Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tiger on the prowl again soon?

Finally, one of the most inevitable "events" in golf is going to happen soon: Tiger Woods' divorce. I am squarely in the camp of those who think his personal life is his own business, but I think this will have a great effect on Tiger professionally. The rumored financial settlement is about fifty percent more than I thought it would be, but it will be seen as a bargain ten years from now.

Tiger was an idiot for ever admitting his infidelity in the media. My immediate reaction to his announcement was that it would cost him at least $500 million because he had just made Elin's case a slam-dunk. Also, going into therapy to try and save a marriage that was already irreconcilibly broken was a terrible decision. His honesty is admirable, but it cost him a lot of money. I wonder if any of his critics would tell the truth if it stood to cost them a few hundred million dollars.

The main problem that I see with Tiger going into therapy is that he probably "cured" some of the borderline OCD that made him the best golfer on the planet in the first place. Nobody can be as driven as Tiger was without having what many would see as obsession bordering on disorder. Apparently, Tiger was sincere and thought he could actually save his marriage, and bought into the diagnosis of "sex addiction" that many thought appropriate for him.

So, Tiger did his twelve steps, many of which were on display in his interviews after he got out of therapy, and probably made himself a better human being. Unfortunately, it affected his ability to compete on the golf course and be the best golfer of all time. It is nice to see a "kinder, gentler Tiger" making a genuine effort to be a better person, but he is probably doing it at the expense of his game.

In golf, as in most sports, fans, writers, and participants use cliches such as "go for the jugular," "killer instinct," or "cutthroat." These are only metaphors, but they are indicitive of an attitude that is neccessary to win on an elite level. Elite athletes need to disassociate themselves from their true personas while in the arena of competition. It is not an accident that the cliche "nice guys finish last" has lasted so long. Luckily for Tiger, he didn't do rehab for himself; he did it because he thought he had a chance to save his marriage. Why do I see this as "lucky?" Because as soon as the ink is dry on the divorce settlement, the old Tiger will be back.

Soon, Tiger will be living his life for himself again. Some may see it as selfish, but the magnificent obsession that gave him a chance to compete for the label of "greatest golfer ever" will be back, without interference from Elin or any of the myriad doctors and psychologists who have tried to "fix" a person who wasn't broken in the first place. While I don't agree with what Tiger did, I'm not ready to put him in stocks and flog him for it, either. Tiger has a lot of fame, a lot of money, likes to get laid, and can pretty much have almost anyone he wants. I don't think most of his aforementioned critics could resist the temptation to take advantage of the situation like Tiger did.

Another facet of Tiger that has, so far, mostly been "covered" by comedians, is that when he becomes single, his lifestyle choices will make him a hero to many. It is no accident that on Bleacher Report, an article about the "20 hottest mistresses in sports" literally had a thousand times more readers than most sports articles.

Tiger Woods is poised to become what those who run the PGA tour secretly want but would never admit in a thousand years: a champion golfer with "street cred." To most men, other men who get laid whenever they want by beautiful women are viewed through a lens of admiration. If Tiger runs through a prolific string of photogenic "encounters," a majority of the male population will idolize him, at least while talking candidly to other men." And they will definitely buy whatever he is selling, from golf clubs to clothes to after shave, or even condoms if he were ever to show a truly absurd sense of humor.

Most importantly, though, Tiger will be free to be himself again. And a Tiger who is being himself will dominate the tour as much as he ever did. If Tiger's therapy and all of the fallout from his indiscretions changed him at all, it is because it made him want to, as the great Walter Hagen used to say, "stop and smell the roses." This will result in Tiger having more friends off the course, but allow him to keep his "killer instinct" on it.

That is the best of both worlds. And it will show on the leaderboard. Make no mistake about it: Tiger will be back soon. And he will be a hundred percent in control of his life, both personally and professionally. I am willing to bet that the public forgives him a lot quicker than they forgave Kobe.

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