It's only a letdown if you expected something better

By Tracee Hamilton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 10, 2009

You're upset about the Tiger Woods scandal, and I'm here to tell you whom to blame for that: Yourself.

Get over it. Seriously. I can't stand the piteous mewling of America when confronted with infidelity among the rich and famous and athletically gifted. How can anyone, in 2009, still be surprised by this type of a behavior?

If you were looking for Tiger Woods to be your mentor, your life coach, your investment banker and the shining light by which you live your life, then boy, were you kidding yourself. Do not look to celebrities for your value system. To paraphrase: Sycophant, heal thyself.

You say that you can't cheer for someone at, say, the Masters after you've learned he cheated on his wife. Really? That's the yardstick you use? Then one assumes that you've cut everyone out of your life who has ever cheated on his or her spouse, right? Your co-workers, your friends, your siblings, your children, even your own parents? No?

Okay, then you're telling me you hold a guy you've never met, whose chief role in your life is essentially that of genial salesman, to a higher standard than the people closest to you, the people you trust with your heart, your children, your secrets, your work.

(And even if you've never experienced infidelity -- or committed it -- firsthand, don't for a minute tell me you've never known anyone who cheated on someone else. That's almost statistically impossible. Either you don't know enough people, or you're kidding yourself. The divorce rate in this country speaks for itself.)

Why is it so easy to forgive friends and family their indiscretions, and so difficult to forgive a total stranger whose acts of betrayal literally have no effect on you? I would posit that the problem is yours, not Woods's. That's not to say he doesn't have problems. He's got plenty. But your offended outrage is not one of them.

He hasn't changed; he hasn't let you down. You didn't know him. You still don't. This is true of most celebrities: We see what they want us to see. We make judgments based on sound bites and talk show interviews. This is perfectly normal; just don't get your moral panties in a bunch when you find out you made a bad call. Admit you were wrong and move on; don't be a hypocrite.

If you like to watch Woods play golf because you've never seen anyone do it better, then what has changed from last Thanksgiving to this Thanksgiving? Nothing. He's still the best golfer on the planet. He can still put your butt on the sofa on a beautiful summer Sunday because you know, you know, that greatness might -- will -- break out at any moment. He can still get himself into difficulties on all 18 holes and find 18 ways to triumph. He can probably play his way out of this, the deepest sand trap of his career, as well. We'll see.

But Woods's talent and his morals are two different things. Clearly. The Woods who betrayed you, if you will, is not the fist-pumping force on the PGA Tour, but the guy who is selling you stuff, and making heaps of money doing it, with his smile and his charm. How good is Woods the salesman? reported in October that Woods had become the first athlete in history to earn $1 billion in his career. Only a fraction of that is purse money. Most of it is endorsements.

So if you want to express your outrage at Woods's behavior, that's the way to do it: Don't buy his products. Write letters to his endorsers. I don't think the private jet folks are worried about losing my business or yours, but what the heck.

I won't boycott Woods the golfer, but I probably will boycott Woods the Willy Loman. Not that I ever was much of a customer of Woods's products; I don't need Gillette razors and Buicks to live my life. I can tell time without a Rolex. I know there won't be any Woods-related golf shirts or hats under the tree this year -- sorry, Dad!

So far, most of Woods's corporate partners have stood by him. But they aren't using him. Bloomberg reported Tuesday that according to the Nielsen Company, Woods was last seen in a prime-time ad on Nov. 29, in a 30-second spot for Gillette. We might not see the guy in a commercial until next Thanksgiving, if then.

But then again, this is a funny country, and a forgiving one. One 60-minute tears-and-recriminations session on network television -- and think of the companies that will line up to sponsor that -- and this, too, shall pass. Admit it, if he seemed repentant and Oprah hugged him, you'd forgive him in a heartbeat.

I mean, it's not like he's family or anything.

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