Tiger Woods' life has been portrayed as an emblem for the United States - would that we could all be like him. Now that the tiger has turned, we must likewise accept that he represents the soul of the nation.
The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, December 8, 2009. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.
Tiger Woods - Emblem of America
The tragic aftermath of the revelation of Tiger Woods' actual life has raised the claim that Tiger Woods - who conducted multiple and overlapping affairs while married, and told his mistresses he couldn't stand his wife - is a sex addict. (Disclosure: I wrote Love and Addiction.)
(CNN identified the woman in the photo as Woods' mother-in-law, who was stricken with a stomach ailment. Emergency medical vehicles have visited the Woodses twice in the past week; I don't recall that ever happening at my home - and I'm 63.)
But Tiger Woods has a basic moral failing, rather than a disease. He is so entirely focused on his own interests and needs - exemplified by his sex drive - that he sacrifices any human being to his urges, even the mother of his young children.
This lends credence to the claim by one of his liaisons - whom he was dating while engaged to be married - that he sought a marriage of convenience. Like everything else in his life, for Woods family fits a sports marketing strategy - win and profit.
His selection for a wife of a marketer's stereotype - a blonde, Scandinavian bikini model - indicates that he approached marriage and intimacy the way he approached his golf game - with steely resolve and total preoccupation with his own, superficial, interests. Ditto for his choice of Barbie playthings.
The denouement of the "Woods' affair" raises further questions for all of us. Why did everyone in sports, the media, and America love such a man? The easy answer is because Americans worship success. The harder answer is that we admire self-serving duplicity and cant.
Tiger Woods acts like a man who doesn't care about people - from ignoring fans, to cursing uncontrollably when he misses a shot he thinks he should have made, to refusing to express any true feelings he has on any subject other than his golf game.
Why would this man be portrayed as an idol for children and sportsmen around the world? Why would manufacturers think - "This is the guy we want to represent our product"? The answer doesn't lead to good conclusions about our society's values.
Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson writes: "Enough with the whole thing -- we have far more important things to worry about." I disagree. The problem is not that the American public and tabloids are overly fascinated by the unfolding Tiger saga.
The refrain - "All Tiger has to do is get back on the golf course and start winning tournaments again" - is also recklessly wrong-headed. There is nothing more crucial for understanding our soul as a nation than reflecting on the entire Tiger Woods complex.