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Well, This is Awkward. Tiger is Decade’s Top Athlete.

tiger woods 001Three weeks ago, Tiger Woods had it all. He was the world’s best golfer, a superstar athlete with a beautiful wife and kids, millions of dollars, sound endorsements from big brands, and an untarnished image. Then, in the very early hours of Black Friday, Tiger Woods was involved in a single-car accident on his neighbor’s front lawn, and not because he was trying to get a jump on his holiday shopping. Allegations came out that Woods was cheating on his wife with a number (10+) of women. He eventually admitted to some “transgressions.” Woods then lost several of his endorsements and recently took an indefinite leave from the game of golf, presumably in an attempt to stay out of the public eye for a while.

Then, just when you thought you’d heard the last of Tiger for a bit, the Associated Press went and named Woods the decade’s top athlete. What timing! Only weeks after one of the darkest moments of Tiger’s life, he’s given a ridiculously awesome award. And here I thought I’d missed the window to talk about Tiger Woods.

What I’ve learned about Tiger

Tiger Woods is human, after all. Until a few weeks ago, he was a flawless superhuman, almost a robot. He is still an amazing golfer and a superstar athlete, as evidenced by his newest prize. But Tiger has shown us he can make mistakes, pretty huge ones at that. Tiger’s legacy is tarnished. Many people have lost respect for him, and respect is a hard thing to gain back once you’ve lost it. It will be interesting to see how Tiger handles himself from here on out.

What Tiger should have done differently

Oooh, I know! Tiger should not have cheated on his wife with ten or so women. That might have solved the problem. On a more serious note, Tiger should have just fessed up to everything, right away. Obviously doing so would have been the most humiliating thing he’d ever done in his life, but in the end it would have been 100% better than letting it all come out through TMZ. We live in an era of transparency. Your secrets are going to rise to the surface. We are more likely to accept people who fess up to their mistakes. In this instance, Tiger looks like a cheater and a coward, and it will be hard to forget both.

tiger woods 002What’s next for Tiger

Tiger is right to take some time off. As much as some people may want him to publicly dish out all of the juicy details, it is completely understandable that the man wants some privacy. Even if Tiger doesn’t deserve it, his wife and children certainly do. He’ll take some time to figure things out, and will come back at some point in the season. Tiger’s best chance to “make this all go away” is to start dominating. If he wins a couple of tournaments right off the bat, people will begin to forget about Tiger’s “transgressions,” mainly because the media will forget first. They will talk about Tiger picking up where he left off, how he is the greatest golfer of all time. Sure, now we know Tiger isn’t the greatest person of all time, but if he starts winning, the audience, sponsors, and positive attention will follow.

What his “transgressions” mean for the game of golf

Golf is going to suffer, no question. There is a lot of evidence out there that says that when Tiger is on the course, tournament attendance and television ratings are significantly higher. Now, he is taking an indefinite leave of absence, and we will see just how much golf needs Tiger Woods. Tournament attendance is going to drop. So will television ratings (I definitely won’t watch any non-major without Tiger in it). We will probably see some sponsors pull out. Inner-city golf programs may even lose funding. Tiger Woods is golf. Without him, the game is going to have problems.

Tiger’s brand will never be the same. He has lost his perfect image forever. Now, we have to accept Tiger as a human. Most of us have lost some respect for Tiger. Personally, I feel horrible for his wife and kids and for what they have to go through. In the end, I’m a fan of golf and a fan of Tiger. I will always think of him a little bit differently, but between you and me, I can’t wait for the next time Tiger steps up to the tee box. I think most of you are with me.

What are your thoughts? Is Tiger ruined? What about the game of golf? What should Tiger do now?

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Images by Keith Allison

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2 Responses to Well, This is Awkward. Tiger is Decade’s Top Athlete.

  1. Colin O'Keefe December 17, 2009 at 5:52 pm #

    “…but if he starts winning, the audience, sponsors, and positive attention will follow.”

    I certainly agree, at least with the audience and attention. It’s a tired cliche but the American public has a short memory span.

    Obviously, golf is going to suffer when he’s not on the course. But what happens when he comes back? Is that first tournament (conceivably The Masters) going to get more or less coverage because of this scandal? I think the answer is obvious. It’s only an anecdote and small slice of the market but Bill Simmons makes an interesting point in his observation that millions of women will tune in to root against Tiger. Other casual sports fans will tune in to see how he responds.

    This is why this coming season and the ensuing 18 or so months will have a large impact on Tiger’s lasting legacy in the world of sports. He could come out on a mission, hellbent on this false pretense of revenge (against people who never really wronged him). How insane would a grand slam be this year?He would receive untold praise for succeeding int he face of adversity, even though it was his fault in the first place.

    And if he crumbles? If mental demons prevent him from putting his game back together? It’s karma, it’s payback. Instead of being the greatest people will say “if only he hadn’t cheated.” Maybe he still breaks Jack’s record but if he stumbles now people will wonder if he could’ve been better.

    Obviously, it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

  2. Sam Taggart December 18, 2009 at 8:37 am #

    Colin, thanks for your comment. I think you are dead on, the American public (and media to an extent) has a short memory span. Winning cures everything. We’ll have to see how Tiger comes out and plays this season, whenever he comes back.

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