Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tiger Woods- from Montreal Gazette

As published in the Montreal Gazette

Self-Inflicted Fall From Grace: Tiger Woods's cynical use of his family as
post-tournament props distracted attention from what he was really doing.

First of all, let me say quite clearly that I am not a fan of Tiger Woods. Never have been, never will be.

I recognize that he can hit a golf ball quite well, for what that's worth.
Lance Armstrong can ride a bike. Barry Bonds can hit a baseball. LeBron
James can dunk a basketball.  OJ Simpson could play football.That doesn't make any of them heroes. Matter of
fact, they're all about as far from being heroes as you can get.

Tiger Woods is a man whose life is built around greed and a ruthless,
monomaniacal obsession with winning. No wonder he's obsessed with acquiring
mistresses. The man has always had everything he ever wanted. Who is going
to tell him no? When I read about Woods, all I see is stories about when
he's going to return to the PGA Tour, how he's going to rehab his image (as
though it's all about image and nothing else) why he's likely to come back
better than ever. No one mentions that this was one twisted, greedy human
being from the get-go. Tiger Woods is what happens when you turn your child
into a machine.

Pity his father, Earl Woods, is no longer around to see the destruction he
has wrought. The infant who was on television putting against Bob Hope when
he was 2 years old, the 3-year-old who shot 48 for nine holes, the teenager
who stepped into a multi-million-dollar Nike contract before he won his
first pro tournament, has finally broken out of the carefully constructed
shell. Predictably. What Tiger Woods, his father, his handlers and his
sponsors failed to understand was the simplest of all truths: we are human.
We are not robots.
The human Woods kept trying to break through the robot. We caught glimpses
and they weren't pleasant: The petulant child hurling his clubs and swearing
when a shot goes awry. The swearing. The dirty, leering jokes. The arrogant
brat who does his famous drive-by every time he passes the autograph hounds
waiting after round, refusing to do a Phil Mickelson and spend 15 minutes
signing autographs for the adoring gallery.

The greedy walking corporation who made it eminently clear from the
beginning that he didn't care about the Asian sweatshop workers who were
turning him into the wealthiest athlete on the planet. The American of mixed
racial heritage who couldn't care less about politics at home, where people
of colour have suffered and bled for 300 years.

The most outrageous thing I have heard said of Woods came from his father.
Earl Woods predicted that Tiger would turn out to be one of the great men on
the planet, like Gandhi or Nelson Mandela. Woods is a great golfer, whatever
that is worth. He is not a great man, by any stretch of the imagination.
Woods doesn't begin to measure up to the athletes who were also great
humans: Jackie Robinson, Jim Thorpe, Bill Russell, Babe Didrickson, Muhammad
Ali, Jesse Owens, Rocket Richard. They had to fight real hatred and
prejudice. They suffered real hurt.

Woods is a shill, nothing more or less. He works for anyone who will pay
him. He'll peddle watches, golf balls, automobiles, consulting companies.
And Woods will not trouble himself for one instant if he learns that a good
part of his fortune is because of the labours of Asian workers making a few
dollars a day. That's not his problem, as long as he can afford to cruise
off into the sunset on a $20-million yacht named Privacy - a middle finger
flipped at all the suckers who pay the bills.

The nearest parallel we have to Woods is Michael Jordan. Jordan was the
first athlete to go global as a brand rather than as an iconic sports hero.
He was the first anti-Muhammad Ali, the athlete who didn't give a damn about
anything but himself. Jordan refused to take a stand against people like the
racist South Carolina senator Jesse Helms because racists buy Nikes, too.
Now Woods has picked up where Jordan left off - and therein lies a
cautionary tale.

What was left of Jordan after his career was over was seen in his
disgraceful speech when he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Jordan is now a bitter, angry, vengeful, vindictive man who used his Hall of
Fame speech to slander all of his rivals and most of his one-time friends
and teammates.

Someone wrote to me yesterday to say that "we" have torn down the icon that
is Tiger Woods. Nothing could be more wrong. "We" might have built Tiger
Woods into the monster of ego and greed he has become, but "we" had nothing
to do with tearing him down. Woods did that himself, with his insatiable
greed, his roving, relentless sexual appetite, his cynical use of his
beautiful family as props to distract attention from what he was really

In two or three years (if not sooner) most of this will be forgotten. Woods
will be divorced, he'll have as many mistresses as he wants, he'll go back
to winning majors, raking in millions and endorsing half the products on the
planet. Why will he get away with it? Because sports fans want someone to
worship, and the bottom line is that they don't care if the man inside is
worse than Tony Soprano.

If you want to help your children find heroes in the world of sport, stick
to figures like Tony Dungy, Marc Trestman, Anthony Calvillo, Ben Cahoon,
Jean BĂ©liveau, Otis Grant, Clara Hughes. Remind your children that when
Hughes won her gold medal in Turin in 2006, she immediately donated $10,000
to Right to Play, the charity that attempts to help African children through

If Tiger Woods was to donate a comparable portion of his personal fortune,
it would come to $200 million or more. But he won't do it. That is one
reason he's not a hero. Never has been, never will be. Because for openers,
if you're not a hero to your own family, you're nothing.

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