Tiger Woods: Still an American Hero

Ron FurlongAnalyst IIMay 16, 2010

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 16:  Tiger Woods celebrates making a birdie on the 18th green to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 16, 2008 at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Where do we draw the line between what a player does in their sport versus what they do in their private life?

Problem is, some athletes’ private lives aren’t so private. This is where the line gets rather obscured, and at times, starts to fade.

Tiger Woods is arguably the most recognizable sports figure in the world; certainly of current athletes. Michael Jordon might give him a run for his money if you throw in retired icons as well. Maybe Pele?  Jack Nicklaus? Wayne Gretzky?

But with that popularity comes the loss, to a certain extent, of Tiger’s privacy. His personal life, to a large extent, is played out publically. And of course, this is multiplied by about 10,000 when that private life has something scandalous attached to it.

These are not new thoughts or anything groundbreaking, I’ll admit.   But to me it brings up the question, what can we tolerate from an athlete? What do we, the public, the great judges of behavior of icons, deem to be unacceptable in the private lives of our heroes?

Of course, the problem lies in the fact that there are millions of judges with vast, different opinions. And with Tiger Woods, for a multiple of reasons, he brings out more strong opinions than anyone in the history of sport ever has.

If someone else in sport, other than Tiger Woods, did what Tiger did in his personal life (unless you live under a boulder in Tibet I’m sure you know what he did), we would hardly care. I won’t say we (the great millions of judges) wouldn’t care at all, but safe to say it would probably entertain us for only a day or two, and then we would forget about it. Or, at least, pack it away in the subconscious.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

If it was, say, Justin Leonard (sorry Justin), do you think we would be raking him over the coals like we are Tiger? Would we really have this public separation in opinion like we do now?

Hero worship. That’s what it boils down to. Is Tiger Woods worthy of that? Can someone with repeated infidelities still be a hero? Not only a hero to us grown lovers of the game, but to our children, as well?

Where do we draw the line between when someone can be a hero, and when we feel they can’t?

Well, we as a group can’t. We, as a group, are not a collective. We, the judges, are millions, if not billions, of separate individuals with vast, different sets of beliefs and acceptances. We will never be untied in this issue.

So, since we are all individuals with our own beliefs and views and opinions, and we are all, in effect, judges, all I can do is give you one judge’s opinion.

Is Tiger Woods still a hero?

My answer, for what it’s worth, is yes. He is still the greatest golfer I have ever seen. He is the fiercest competitor I have ever seen. He is the greatest “closer” any sport has ever seen. If he will be these things again is yet to be determined. But, for the last dozen or so years, he has been these things.

My oldest daughter is starting to like golf, and often accompanies me to the golf course where I work.  She loves being on the course just for the beauty of it; the being with nature aspect (turtles, frogs and herons are her favorite part), but she also is starting to like the game itself.

When she watches golf on TV with me she likes to follow Tiger Woods. She, like me, enjoys the things about Tiger that I listed above.

It is impossible for her to not be aware of the off-course scandals that have followed Tiger around for the last five or so months. When she asked me about them, I tried to tell her as much as I felt I could.

After I talked with her about him, she asked me one question only. If he was still going to golf?   I told her he was. All she said was, “Good. I like when he golfs.”

Tiger Woods is still her hero; because of what he does on the golf course. That separation that so many people have such trouble with was so very easy for her. She thought about it for about 10 seconds, than made up her mind.

I realize it isn’t as easy for us. It’s not so cut and dry for us almighty, wise grown-ups. But, there is something to be said about drawing that line so quickly and so precisely. The line, for my daughter, is thick and clear and as obvious to her as the lines of a football field.

That line represents separation. Separation between private life and public life. That line allows her to still admire golf’s greatest player. It allows her to still call him a hero.

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!