Health & Medicine

Public's obsession with Tiger Woods says much about us

I thought carrying Tiger Woods' apology live on TV was ridiculous, so you can imagine what I think about all this hoopla surrounding his return to professional golf.

Will he win? Can he withstand the pressure? Will his wife be at his side?

And why are we so engrossed in the failures of famous human beings? Does that make our shortcomings, those of ordinary working people, justifiable or not as bad?

Come on now. Give it up.

Ever since that fateful night when Woods rammed his SUV into a fire hydrant, we have been more in tune to the unraveling of Woods' perfect image than to the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq.

First, the search was on for pictures of Woods, with the hope of showing at least a bruise on his face as evidence that his wife, Elin Nordegren, had clobbered him. We began to conjure up reasons why he hadn't been seen in public and were riveted by the absence of a wedding ring on Elin's finger.

Now that Woods has completed the first part of treatment for succumbing to sexual temptations, and now that he has made a public apology at a news conference to his wife, who deserved it, and for all of us, to whom he owes nothing, can we concentrate on something else?

He doesn't propose legislation that will affect us in some way, doesn't educate our children, and hasn't been our pastor, rabbi, imam or priest. He hasn't come up with a cure for cancer, a perfect health care bill or a solution for climate change.

Woods is an athlete, a performer whom we watch because he is highly skilled, the best at hitting a small ball with precision and might.

There are some who say that Woods manufactured a goody-two-shoes image that we fell for, and now he must pay for our stupidity.

The man hits a golf ball really, really well. We somehow expanded that to make him a man of high moral fiber and character. It was as if we were saying, "See, Tiger Woods is clean, so there must be some good in the world. Don't look at me. Look at Tiger."

Or worse, our lives are so dull, so empty that we were just sitting on the sidelines waiting for the next famous person to fall. Their failures are our entertainment.

We love to build them up to the level of religious figures and then are pleased to see them crash. If they fall and we're still standing, perhaps we appear to be better gods.

Look, I've lived long enough and have been shocked by enough people to know that none of us needs to look into the closets of our neighbors. We just might see something that resembles the objects we have secreted away in our own hidden spaces.

Those closets should be viewed only by people who love us enough to help clean them out.

I admit that I was surprised by the number of women who surfaced, saying they were intimate with Woods. The man's ability to compartmentalize the issues in his life is far more outstanding than his golf skills. If I tried to hide that many secrets, I would be a mess.

But I was not shocked that Woods, a mere mortal, had sinned. I am a mere mortal and I have sinned. My sin might not have been his, but it is sin nonetheless. I don't know any human today who hasn't sinned.

I am very pleased that Woods sought help, that he is trying to keep his family intact, that he has said over and over that he has a lot of work to do to heal the wounds he created.

That is worth celebrating.

That said, I seriously doubt that I will tune into Woods' re-entry into professional golf at the Masters on April 8. If the tournament end is near and Woods is in the thick of things, I might watch a spell. That's what I've done in the past, like so many other people who watch for any brilliant move he might pull off.

But I won't be watching to see whether he is troubled or humbled or contrite. I prefer to see those characteristics in the mirror.

We all need to find something better to worship than our fellow human beings. Woods, like each of us, is prone to sin. He is an athlete, not a president, not a spiritual leader or a teacher. Let's appreciate his athletic abilities while avoiding any urge to magnify his clay feet.

There but for the grace of God go I.