You know how bugs are irresistibly attracted to light? I admit: I'm the same way when it comes to Tiger Woods. So, when he turned on his light bulb this week by announcing that he was coming back to the golfing scene, and no less than at that grandiose event, “The Masters” (don't you just love it when one of the many fat old white men who run the event intones that name—-in his finest “Joe-ja” accent—-during the broadcast?), I couldn't help myself—-I had to go towards the light.
Obviously, I'm not alone: every media outlet, from the Wall Street Journal to the Hindustan Times, flogged the story on their online front page. Hey, who cares about stories that have foregone conclusions, like health care “reform” (hint: follow the money), when we can watch the soap opera Tiger Woods has become and wonder about its ending.
Tiger's story, thus far, has been taken from Greek mythology. Is Tiger Dionysus (a/k/a Bacchus, the inventor of orgies), or maybe Oedipus (did you see the way he hugged his mother after his “press conference”)? And, will he return, triumphal, to his throne atop the professional golf world, like Achilles (did I hear someone say “heel”) returning from the Trojan (something else, like discretion, Tiger has no use for) War, or will he, like Icarus, fall to earth having flown too high, a victim of his own hubris (itself, a concept of ancient Greek origin). His subjects await, with baited breath.
Will he stage a successful comeback in Augusta, or will he, like he did at Turnberry, implode yet again? Of course, we now know why he faltered so dramatically at the British Open last year: he had, shall we say, too many irons in the fire (and not enough on the links). It's hard (so to speak) to keep track of getting the ball in the hole on the golf course when you've got who knows how many skanks back at the hotel waiting for you to do something similar with them.
We're about to see whether Tiger's lengthy sojourn at a sex rehab clinic in Hattiesburg (I suspect a few weeks in Hattiesburg will make you swear off of more than just indiscriminate sex) had an effect on anything besides his obsession with cheap women. My bet is, unless Elin has figured out a way of adapting a chastity belt to Tiger's gonads, or convinced him that her clubhead speed has significantly increased since the first time she used one of his “rescue” clubs to rescue him from his delusion that she didn't know about his indiscretions, sooner or later Tiger will prowl again.
I'm intrigued both by the similarities, and the differences, between Tiger and another fallen golfing idol, John Daly. The major difference between them, of the many, is that Daly has both a sense of humor and of irony about himself, and about his rise and fall in the world of professional golf, whereas Tiger, by all outward appearances, has neither. Both of them are, in some ways, tragic characters, but Daley at least realizes it.
It has been said of Daly that he owes his popularity to being perceived as the “every man” of golf, someone whose foibles and excesses endear him to his followers, not because they suffer from the same, or even similar, impairments (though some do), but because they see in him the imperfection and vulnerability we all suffer from. This is something we could never say about Tiger.
Up until recently, the thought that the words “imperfect” or “vulnerable” could be uttered in the same story, much less sentence, about Tiger was unthinkable. And there, of course, is where Tiger's redemption lays (if we're speaking of his peccadilloes) or lies (if we're speaking of golf), in the eyes of his many acolytes. Jesus won't help him (sorry, Brit Hume), and neither will that master of deception he's reportedly hired to help him restore his reputation, Ari Fleischer (which is like someone hiring Jeffrey Dahmer to advise them on their diet). Ari, being who he is, and who he's worked for, obviously played a role in Tiger's decision to lie when he told the world, barely over three weeks ago, that he “just didn't know when that day [returning to golf] would be.”
Of course he knew he was going to play in The Masters when he said that. Can anyone seriously doubt that? Gee, thanks, Ari, for at least being consistent.
So, while playing golf like he used to may go part of the way to restoring his image (and I'm still not discounting the prospect of disquieting—-to Tiger—-albeit soto voce, snickers and catcalls from the Masters galleries), until he makes us believe that he understands he's both imperfect and vulnerable, and stops trying to BS us, like he did with that snickering-up-his-sleeve, born-again, mea-sorta-culpa he tried to run down on us a few weeks ago, he will continue to be seen as damaged goods in the eyes of anyone, including fans and sponsors, who recognizes the difference between contrition and hubris.