Amid more public scandal, finding empathy for Tiger Woods

May 31, 2017

Your friend calls.
You can tell right away that something is wrong. Her voice is quieter. The words come out slower. She says she is OK, but she is horribly embarrassed. And she is retroactively scared, if that’s possible, because what happened could have been so much worse.
It was early morning. She was driving home. She doesn’t know exactly what happened, but all evidence points to her falling asleep at the wheel. She thinks it was from a combination of prescription medications. You know she has had numerous surgeries to fix back and leg injuries in recent years, but she has always stayed positive and sworn she would be herself again, even though you had your doubts.
Her car is a mess, and the cops picked her up and gave her a Breathalyzer. She blew a 0.00 because she hadn’t been drinking, but they gave her a DUI, which she deserved. She is just thankful that nobody got hurt.
What do you think?
* * *
Your cousin calls.
He says he is sorry he has been out of touch lately. He is sorry for a lot of things. He and his wife are getting divorced, and it’s entirely his fault. He was unfaithful. Repeatedly. He is too embarrassed to go into details, but this was a lot more than one night, and frankly a lot more than one woman.
He says this is entirely his fault. He has done a lot of thinking about how he has lived his life. His recklessness and selfishness have cost him his marriage, and he understands he has to live with that.

But he is still committed to being a great, involved father — and just as important, his wife is committed to him being a great, involved father. He can’t thank her enough for that. Whatever she thinks of him and what he did, she won’t stand between him and the kids. He believes he will be happier now that he is no longer living a lie.
What do you think?
* * *
Tiger Woods is probably not your friend. He is not my friend, either. But he is somebody’s friend, somebody’s father, and I’m wondering if it’s OK to think of him that way when something happens in his life. Is there room for a little empathy between the instant analysis and long-distance psychoanalysis? 

I can’t promise you Woods is telling the truth about accidentally mixing prescription medications. But there is a lot more evidence for that than there is of him being a drug addict, a lost soul or depressed because he hasn’t won a major in nine years.
You can connect this to the fire hydrant he hit in 2009 and the infidelity revelations that followed if you’d like. But understand: You are not connecting the dots in his life. You are just connecting tabloid headlines. You are viewing Woods as a character in a novel instead of as a 41-year-old injured golfer with two kids.

The reality is that, until this weekend, Woods appeared more content than he had for many years. He said he wanted to play at the highest level again, but if it didn’t happen, he was at peace with it. He talked about his kids. He touted his business ventures. He worked with his foundation. He still guarded his privacy, but he answered questions more patiently and openly than he did when he was the most dominant golfer in history. These are certainly not all the dots in his life, either, but these are the ones we saw.
There has never been a golfer like Tiger Woods. He didn’t just win. He mesmerized. He thrilled us like no golfer before or since. That feeling is gone, perhaps forever. Sometimes I wonder if we miss it more than he does.