Why Tiger Will Never Match Nicklaus
Monarch: Ruler, sovereign, emperor, king.
Patriarch: Head of family, respected senior.
Philanderer: Has casual affairs with women.
My high school track coach treated the males on the team like younger brothers, doling out homespun advice whether we wanted it or not. My favorite pearl of guidance was his take on how best to deal with self-inflicted humiliation.
“Boys,” he drawled in his slow Southern baritone, “if you ever get caught with your pants down, pull ‘em up before you start running.”
I’ve recalled this advice twice: once when the situation clearly applied, and again recently watching Tiger Woods. You have to be a really bad driver to run over a fire hydrant when you’re a short spit from your own driveway. And you have to be a petrified chicken to be too scared to talk to the cops if living a palms-up life. Woods has long defied logic on a golf course. His ambitiously self-destructive behaviors behind the curtain of his real life seem to defy it as well.
Tiger isn’t the first great athlete I’ve seen or known who obsesses over his brand. DiMaggio was fanatical about his and Cal Ripken Jr. is nearly so. Tiger aligns with the former far more than the latter. DiMaggio was a controlling, tight-fisted, money-counting hermit. Ripken is much different, a kind and giving man of the people.
It’s well known that Jesper Parnevik’s former nanny married a narcissistic wizard who calls the shots, surrounds himself with a phalanx of tightlipped yes men, and demands lip-zipped loyalty. Woods rules with absolute power, like a monarch.
The man whose golfing record he chases—Jack Nicklaus—is twice Tiger’s age. He has a wife and children, too, but has yet to ricochet his car like a pachinko ball off neighborhood fixtures on the dark side of Thanksgiving night. Nor has Nicklaus refused to speak with the police, regardless whether or not he was required to.
Nicklaus is not a monarch. He is something far better: a true patriarch, a man’s man whose lifelong off-course decision-making and behavioral choices are suddenly, glaringly beyond reach for Woods. Jack is a devoted family man whose life proves it. Tiger is forever exposed for what he was and is—a media creation—skilled like Superman in circus ways but selfish, weak, disrespectful, and pitiable in others more important. Woods is no patriarch, nor is there evidence of sufficient character to indicate he’ll ever care to be one.
Tiger has two big problems to deal with en route to becoming a man. One is that he is an emotional infidel. The second, I suspect, is booze. My mother died from too many bottles. It changes people, very good people. Connect the dots of buxom commonality and trail leads down Tiger’s yellow brick road—straight through a swinging pub door.
Fishbowl fame can be a horrible life. Ripken once told me that living with recognizable notoriety had its pluses and minuses. The pluses came from who he has access to, especially great business leaders to mentor insight. The minuses arise every time out in public, when the simplest of trips becomes a behavioral swordfight because well meaning fans starved for a brush with fame behave irrationally. Lately, just as irrational has been Tiger’s invisibility; a global hero and maniacal control freak who panicked and didn’t have a clue whether to fight or flee when held accountable for serial bad behavior by an angry, petite wife barely two-thirds his size.
Watching the wreckage of Tiger’s Thanksgiving PR nightmare, I cannot help but pity him. And I fear things shall worsen before improving. They often do for people who surround themselves with spin-doctors who think a self-inflicted harpoon wound to an icon’s integrity is just another game. No worries, boys, the money shall gush. It always does. All we have to do is play the game.
Tiger could have “manned up” but instead let the mess spiral into a global humiliation. I flew to Singapore a few days after the story broke. It was front-page news there, too. The whole world pities the fool, as Mr. T used to say.
It’s too bad Tiger didn’t run track for my old coach. If so, he’d have known what to do when he got caught with his pants down: He’d have pulled up his britches before he started running. He might want to try that. And buckle ‘em tight.
Ocean Palmer saysDecember 26, 2009 at 12:26 pm
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Until Tiger gets squared away with who he really is, deep down inside, he’ll always struggle with his personal life. I remain very concerned for his long-term well being based on what his wife called a very strong dependency on prescription painkillers.