by Jeff Skinner
Today starts day one of a new era for Tiger Woods. When Accenture announced that it was dropping Tiger as its main endorser it signaled a new phase for Woods and his team to deal with. This is the first time a sponsor actually left Woods because of his image. GM ended their association with Woods for financial reasons as bankruptcy loomed but Accenture’s departure was different. Accenture said Sunday the golfer is “no longer the right representative” after the “circumstances of the last two weeks.” Amen to that. Right now Woods isn’t the “right representative” for anything but lying and cheating.
How a man can fall so far so fast is amazing. Before the Thanksgiving crash, Woods was untouchable. He had risen to a place few men had ever been. He was a popular, powerful and influential as any politician, celebrity or athlete had ever been. He had cultivated an image that portrayed him as more than just the most dominant athlete ever. He was the hardest working man in sport. His ability to focus under pressure was legendary. He could intimidate players, fans and the press just by showing up. Off the course he was a one man conglomerate. Companies lined up to hand him millions for his image and the right to tie their business to his perfectly honed image. At home he had a devoted wife, two young children and lived a life most people could only dream about. We all bought it; we all thought he was as advertised. We all were wrong.
I was guilty of buying the myth. Like millions of golf fans I marveled at Tiger on the golf course. His skills, focus and his record combined to give him a special aura. As Woods chased down Jack’s major count, I wanted to see him at every major. I wanted to see this man who Earl Woods molded and claimed that he “would change the world.” I got my chance this year when I walked inside the ropes with Tiger at the Deutsche Bank Championship. During that time I was able to see the myth up close and in person, not just what the cameras show us on television. What I saw was the most determined and focused golfer on the course. I came away with an even greater respect for Woods after seeing him up close. He could execute the best shots no matter the circumstances and he wasn’t the robot that people thought he was. He smiled, laughed and interacted with the crowd: he was human after all.
Most of us had no reason not to accept the image that Woods had shown us. Unless you were with Woods when he was committing his “transgressions” we saw a man with few major flaws. The two biggest complaints about Tiger were his temper on the course (big deal) and that he was apolitical. I respected his refusal to get political because I can’t stand it when celebrities preach to me and well, I’ve been known to swear a little on the course myself. I bought Tiger’s image hook, line and sinker.
That’s what makes this betrayal so difficult to believe. Was it naïve to believe what we were told about Woods? Were we too anxious to want a hero, a superhero? Were we duped by Woods and his team? I guess the answer has to be yes. I was naïve. I wanted a golfing hero. I was duped. I actually believe people are honest and I tend to believe that what they are telling me is the truth. I have been burned by it before and I am sure I’ll be fooled again. But that’s my choice. I choose to live honestly and look for the good in most people.
Tiger’s decision to take a hiatus from golf and the spotlight appears to be a good move. If he actually is trying to rebuild his marriage and his family I wish him the best. However, who’s to know what the real reason for this break is. This could be part of the “Team Tiger Plan” to rebuild his image and take the heat off the biggest “cheater” in golf. After being burned by Woods in the past, how can we ever trust what he says again? Tiger will be back and he’ll probably be as dominant on the course as before. But from now on he’s just a golfer. He’s not a hero and he’s not a role model. He’s what we golfers dislike the most: a cheater.