Tiger Woods: Redemption Not a Matter of Our Perception, but His Identity

Allen J. KhaContributor IIFebruary 19, 2010

WINDERMERE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Tiger Woods practices golf outside his home on February 18, 2010 in Windermere, Florida. Woods will make a statement at the PGA Tour headquarters this Friday morning (February 19, 2010), according to a notice on the PGA Tour's web site.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

As the clock ticks towards 11:00 AM EST Friday, the beginning of Tiger Woods's heralded reintroduction press conference, anticipation and angst is exponentially increasing as we storm to hear, analyze, and extrapolate upon every word that comes out of Tiger's mouth.

We are taught in academic discourse that every word serves a purpose in a paper; every word contributes somehow to the ultimate argument. However, before we can craft our words, we must completely understand the purpose of the assignment and task. Otherwise, the lack of focus and ultimate understanding will cause us to be superfluous and make mistakes.

Tiger Woods's purpose tomorrow is to craft a focused press conference/speech that metaphorically provides the rope for him to climb out of the ditch. The manner in which he accomplishes this is unknown, and left to our conjecture. Nonetheless, we all should carry some impression that he will prepare heavily for tomorrow's conference.

Our purpose as the recipients of Tiger's press conference is to be able to formulate a more educated opinion on our feelings about him, whether it be good or bad. Tiger cannot control each individual's opinion, but he will seek to present himself in a fashion that makes us form the true and right opinion (presumably that he is a good man that made mistakes).

Because Tiger has prepared extremely hard mentally and physically for tomorrow's press conference, as decent human beings, we in mutual respect and reciprocity must prepare just as hard. We must work to understand our preconceptions of Tiger pre-scandal and expectations of Tiger post-scandal, and why we hold those opinions.

We must ultimately understand what we want and expect from Tiger before we judge how he treks the path of his future, and determine whether or not Tiger is blazing a path previously trekked, or unseen and untraveled.

Do we think that Tiger Woods will be the next inspirational recovery and redemption story, or do we think that Tiger will fall into deeper trouble? Can Tiger salvage his reputation like Kobe Bryant generally has with his, or will Tiger be consumed by egotism and defiance and ostracize his peers much like Barry Bonds did in the latter stages of his career?

Or can we not fit Tiger and his situation into an archetype? Is his situation and conceived pre-scandal image too different from those of Bryant and company? Do his socioeconomic and childhood circumstances affect the way we perceive his story? Is he just too unique and different? (Please comment on this— I want to hear y'all out.)

I personally feel that Tiger's path to recovery, like everything else in world, lies somewhere in between. Luckily, for Tiger and his advisers, he has precedent and a model to follow to restore his image. But Tiger concurrently is different from his peers that managed to "recover"; the scope of his stature and the scope of his problems are different and extremely unique.

Tiger doesn't have a preconceived bad boy image that will make it easier for Chelsea's John Terry to bounce back from his scandal. He doesn't have the ghetto background that provides a legitimate undertone for Michael Vick's recovery.

But Tiger is a superstar, and superstars find ways to beat adversity.

Nonetheless, I don't think our perception and analysis of Tiger and his upcoming press conference is Tiger's real problem.

Tiger's future is Tiger's future, and it is out of our control. Obviously his future is somewhat contingent on our newly-formed perception of him, but that is something that will be formed in the future, and not in the present. Our attempts to conceptualize Tiger's press conference tomorrow like either Kobe's path or Bonds's path, [Eliot] Spitzer's path or Clinton's path or Edwards's path, etc. are futile because they will achieve no ends and exhaust all means. Tiger is an individual, and individuals are unique by definition and take unique and dynamic actions.

Our current analysis has little to no bearing on what will really happen to Tiger in the future, and does little to figure out how Tiger's problem developed into what it is now, a deeply and fundamentally personal crisis.

Our quest to predict Tiger's future is somewhat futile, and I feel that we should focus on what fundamentally caused Tiger to fall in the first place: his lack of identity. If we figure out what made Tiger break into pieces, we can figure out the best way to piece him back together to a semblance of the entire puzzle.

I posit that Tiger's competitive upbringing and prodigious nature constrained him from being able to find his true identity. Under perpetual pressure to be impeccable, i.e. the perfect athlete, Tiger was unable to discover and develop his true self.

Needing to satiate his true desires and "fulfill" himself to some sort, Tiger looked to women and extra-marital affairs as a conduit to channel frustrations and/or find and fulfill himself. Whether or not being mischievous was the missing part of his identity that he sought to fill through incessant sex is up for debate, but it seems certain that Tiger was filling a psychological void through his actions.

Although the aforementioned argument is too detailed to be simple writing and too simple to be academic discourse, I hope that the point is clear and resonates; I feel that we can all relate to my hypothesis. When we are forced to act fake and through a guise, we overcompensate the truthful acts and intentions. These overcompensations obviously can be detrimental, as they were for Tiger.

My solution for and prognostication of Tiger's future is simple: Tiger needs to act like himself and be himself. Tiger may have built an impeccable image pre-scandal, but how satisfied could he have internally been if his image was built of a fake foundation?

Tiger really just has to be who he really is and be accepted as whatever that is. Considering the extremely forgiving and understanding nature of society, if Tiger does that, and he truly is a decent person, he'll come out of his current adversity stronger and better.

There are two maxims that I equate to Tiger's current situation: first, that you are not found [in God] (the religious context, but this is secular and general), you are lost; second, that you cannot be with something/someone until you are with (and at ease) with yourself.

Translated to Tiger's situation, we can state that although Tiger lived the good life pre-scandal, he was still lost and searching for his identity. He was not found, per se, because he was disingenuous in his success. Hopefully Tiger's time off from golf allowed him to find himself, so he can rejoin the golf community as a more robust and genuine individual.

Tiger has too much talent, quality, and general likability to not want him to succeed and recover. If Tiger has solved his fundamental problems and "found" himself, I am sure that whatever future lies ahead of him is the right future, a future we hope is redemptive and historic.