What's New Tiger Woods?
Fading from View
Do you wonder what it might feel like to be an athlete who is so clearly in the spotlight that your personal life is known to nearly every American? And that in one moment of desperate conflict the personal side of your celebrity could come crashing down like a statue of a deposed dictator?
But what about the feeling of being as quickly pushed to the back pages of the tabloids that so ubiquitously scourged you less than a month ago, and now leave you behind as yesterday's papers to be carted out to the recycling bin.
How does this happen? Are those who are interested in such things so given to short attention spans that the very next scandal, whomever it involves, will spring ahead of your own nightmare so that you quickly understand that you are no more valuable in the public eye than the recency of the news you make - success or failure?
There have been so many fallen athletes in the last decade, that even the fate of Tiger Woods does seem to become just another story. These momentary heroes would never even obtain the limelight if not for the glamor our culture has attached to competitive triumph under rules of a game, and the media choices to cover whatever it is they choose to consider the most worthy of coverage.
How many great rugby players have you ever heard of who have fallen from grace? Then again, how many great rugby players have you every heard of? That's what I thought. Athletes like Tiger Woods, Mark McGwire, and others from the recent past, are still mortal.
That's a very important thing to understand - probably for them as well as you and me. While their achievements may end up carved on Claret Jugs and touted in buildings designated expressly to recognize fame, the feats of hall of famers are often no more notewrothy than those of the average, every day ballplayer, umpire, janitor or housewife. In the long run, we all meet the same fate.
But how does it feel for Tiger Woods? Never having achieved his extraordinary level of success, it's impossible to empathize. But their are a few things we can deduce. It's quite different for Tiger than it was this time last year. Fewer and fewer people will recall his recovery from knee surgery, or even that he had knee surgery now - and all of his great accomplishments are already losing their luster.
Tiger was the man to beat. Now, self-defeated, he is merely another man.
Yes, people will still recognize him wherever he goes. Some will want to show they are still fans, others will chastise him publicly. He will now have the chance to find out who his true friends really are - and if they are. He's likely to experience a sense of quiet and tranquility - perhaps loneliness and a sense of emptiness as well.
It's a strange place to come to. But now is when the Tiger Woods that will live on when his great gifts fade becomes what he really is - and may God help him - I hope it's a man with a deep soul, capable of reflecting on the whole of his life, and understanding how much more there is to eternity than just what he has done at the age of 34.