The Dark Side of Tiger Woods

Everything you saw of Tiger, except for what he was able to do with a golf ball, hasTiger been a mirage. That hidden dark side has been fueled by his own bullet proof ego that gets it’s energy from us, the adoring public. Facilitating that ego has been an inner circle of associates that has had neither the stones or the wherewithal to keep it in check. And so goes Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, Eliot Spitzer, Bernie Madoff, Mark Sanford, and  >insert any number of business executives, athlete, politician, and actors name here<. It’s not the sex, or the money; or the power; it’s the ego.

While many try to compare the rapid and destructive fall of Tiger Woods to that of Michael Vick it typically ends with shaking your head and muttering, “what were they thinking”? The prognosis for both is that they will make at least a partial professional recovery but it will come only after intense soul searching, emotional rehab, and inner growth. Michael is already well on his way and frankly, he had the tougher path to take in terms of his livelihood. Professional football can change on a week to week basis and cooling your heels for two years in a 6X10 prison cell doesn’t help you keep pace. Tiger can take a year sabbatical, continue to practice, and the game will be right where he left it last week. Note to PGA Tour professionals; take full advantage of his absence, it’s his bittersweet Christmas present to you. 

In the end Vick and Woods were victims of arrogance, stupidity, and their respective dark sides. Each will pay a price far beyond what any jury could levy. That price will take away their ability to return to the same level of endorsements and ultimately, fan support. Certainly I will view Tiger differently now than I did following him around Torrey Pines in 2008 and Turnberry in 2009. Accenture, Nike, Buick, and Proctor and Gamble spent a lot of money to make him and their product appeal to me while portraying him in a far different light than the one that shines on him now.

You may remember a few months back the BasicMan wrote an essay titled; The Redemption of Michael Vick. In that essay I took the unpopular view that Vick was not only worth redeeming but would prove his value not only in the NFL but to a certain segment of society in a way that he never managed to do before. I truly believe the world needs world class screw-ups like Michael and Tiger. Not so much for the example they set for how fast and hard icons can fall but for the potential they command in becoming a positive example should they be successful at an extreme makeover of their values, character, humility, and priorities. Michael Vick’s 2009 season with the Philadelphia Eagles illustrates this possibility for recovery. Redemption can be a wonderful thing.

However, as more undercover information (sorry, I couldn’t resist the gratuitous metaphor) emerges on Mr. Woods, I am beginning to think his recovery will be an entirely different animal. This was not just an isolated moral failure involving infidelity  but one where an impervious ego of monumental proportion was cut down to size in an all too familiar way. These were the actions of an undisciplined and immature person whose behavior was spinning out of control. Who knew?

What is it that makes seemingly intelligent, talented men at the top of their game do incredibly stupid things? There’s something more at play here than just sex. The  manufactured elitist image of Tiger Woods has been shattered forever exposing the dark side of a guy that puts his pants on one leg at a time. Except that this guy is Tiger Woods, the one that hawks expensive watches, high end cars, and global consulting firms. He was the manufactured persona that oozed excellence and perfection. You’d never catch Tiger doing a Levi’s commercial while playing tag football in a buddy’s muddy backyard. (thanks for being a ‘basicman’ all these years, Bret Favre)

Everything you saw of Tiger, except for what he was able to do with a golf ball, has been a mirage. That hidden dark side has been fueled by his own bullet proof ego that gets it’s energy from us, the adoring public. Facilitating that ego has been an inner circle of associates that have shown neither the stones or the wherewithal to keep it in check. And so goes Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, Eliot Spitzer, Bernie Madoff, Mark Sanford, and insert any number of business executives, athlete, politician, and actors name here. It’s not the sex, or the money; or the power; it’s the ego.

Don’t blame Tiger’s dad or Michael’s upbringing or Bernie’s sense of privilege. At a certain time each of these adults had to make a decision. Why am I going to this club tonight? Why am I making these arrangements with this hooker? Should I be doing this with these pit bulls? What airline flies to Argentina? Should I take this client’s money? All these decisions were made because there was an oversized ego that thought they could get away with it knowing there was a protective, supporting cast providing cover.

In announcing his indefinite absence from the PGA tour to repair the damage he took the first steps toward putting Humpty Dumpty back together. However based on what the public now knows, it will likely be too little, too late. His corporate sponsors have left the building and should Elin decide to stick with him, she would be eligible for immediate sainthood status. Tiger will have the holidays alone on his yacht to experience the solitude of his freefall.  

In the end Elin Woods will return to being Swedish model Elin Nordegren while Charley and Sam will learn about their dad’s dark side via TMZ and People Magazine. Much to Tim Finchem’s relief, Tiger Woods will hasten his return to the tour by abandoning his effort to erase his dark side and divorcing his family. He will make nice with his ex-wife and kids with a huge payout and within two years corporate sponsors will line up to make you forget all about this unfortunate incident with a new marketing approach exploiting the on course talent of the greatest golfer to ever play the game. But, like me, his many former fans won’t return any time soon if it plays out this way.

Knowing about Tiger’s incredible ability to focus I had high hopes for his future and a recovery of sorts from this human disaster. A simple and human “and they lived happily ever after” ending is at best only a remote possibility. The journey would be life changing and excruciating for him as he would have to learn humility. He should give Mike Vick a call.

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