By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @NYCA
I didn’t invest hundreds of millions in him like TAG Heuer, Nike, Accenture, Gatorade and Gillette.
I didn’t even buy his clubs or red shirts.
I did buy into his supernatural, god-like ability to play the game I am completely dedicated to. And he has not let me down. He’s an athlete, I’m a fan. We have our roles. He hits amazing shots, I cheer. Deal.
Some say he let down golf. He didn’t. Contrary to what his late father proclaimed, Tiger is not bigger than the game. I suppose this is proof. Golf doesn’t cheat.
I don’t think he screwed golfers either – well, only if those girls played golf.
So why is everyone so upset?
Because with Tiger – unlike Jordan and Kobe and all the other athletes who’ve done the same thing – it’s different. Was from the start.
His first Nike commercial when Tiger joined the brand set it all up. It said, in the first person, “Hello world, there are still courses I can not play because of the color of my skin.”
He made it about more than athletic prowess. Tiger was standing up not as a golfer but as a representative of his race. He wanted fairness, equality, outside the game. Fair enough.
There was the even more famous ad that followed, showing kids of all nationalities on the course, repeating the phrase: “I am Tiger Woods.”
This was more than an equipment ad because Tiger was more than just a golfer. Golfers didn’t just want to play with what he played, or play like him (remember Michael Jordan’s “I want to be like Mike” campaign from the same advertiser). They wanted to be him.
But now we see who he is, the personal side of him, and we are repulsed because we thought we knew him so well through millions of stories, videos, interviews read, shared, and commented on, that we wanted to be him. To the kids, he was them. Maybe he was the best of all of us. So when he sunk low, he brought us with him.
We can’t trust our politicians. They lie.
Or our corporations. They cheat us out of our 401K.
Or our banks. They sell us loans we can’t repay.
Or our clergy. They touch boys.
And now we can’t trust Tiger Woods.
So who can we turn to?
Ourselves. Oh boy, we can’t adopt another’s morality, character, integrity? We can’t be what we thought Tiger Woods was? Nope. Get up and look yourself in the soul and ask, “Are you Tiger Woods? Or are you more? Are you you?” It’s okay, you can say yes, you won’t be cheating on him. Tiger’s transgression changed his relationship with the world: his advertisers, his kids, his wife, and us. And, in part, that’s a good thing because it teaches us to be our own heroes.
It’s fine to want to bomb 360 yard drives with a Major on the line. It’s fair to covet his golf abilities. And it’s also good to know who you are admiring and why. You owe that to yourself. Tiger Woods has been someone very special to millions around the world. He’s done some wonderful things outside golf – his foundation that helps so many children is one. And, yes, he has been caught cheating on his family. Some will one day forgive him. I think that’s a good thing.
The truth is, even if we do forgive him, he’s not Tiger Woods any more. He’s just the world’s best golfer.