The world’s top golfers returned to Augusta this year to compete in the famed Masters Tournament, with one glaring exception: Tiger Woods, who dropped out after having back surgery. Nevertheless, Woods dominated the headlines, which could all be summed up with, “Tiger’s Not Back.” For me, this begs the question:
Has anyone stopped to think that, deep down, Tiger doesn’t really want to be back?
I watched a video on YouTube the other day of Tiger Woods when he was two years old. Yes, two years old. He was on some Johnny Carson-esque variety show with his dad showing off his golf skills. It was adorable for a moment, and then it was tragic.
Do you remember when you were two? I don’t, most of us don’t. What I know for sure is that at two years old I had not invested hundreds of hours mastering anything beyond walking, eating and pooping, let alone an activity as complex as golf. The fact that Tiger Woods had tells us a lot about him today.
Why would a two year-old child master his putting stroke? Do we believe that he woke up one of those days in his first 700 days of life and said, “I’m going to be the greatest golfer in the world!”? We all know that’s not how it works. Every parent knows that two year-old children are constantly looking for attention in a seesaw of love and scolding. They are bundles of love, and whirlwinds of trouble, all rolled into one adorable little package.
To master any portion of golf at two years old means only one thing, Tiger Woods was taught that love came from being good at golf. His version of the seesaw must have been something like this: love for getting the ball in the hole and scolding for missing; a hug for practicing the game and a cold shoulder for behaving like the two-year-old he was. He was taught to adore golf by his father, he was programmed to the best; and the carrot on the end of the training stick was love.
We can all empathize with little Tiger, can’t we? Working really hard to get approval from our dads and coaches, striving to be the strongest kid, the fastest runner, the best baseball player, and on and on. We have all searched for the elusive external love through hard work and achievement. That’s Tiger, multiplied by that intangible multiple that separates getting the Presidential Physical Fitness award in sixth grade and being the best golfer in the world.
So little Tiger became big Tiger, just like little you became big you. And together we all carried forward the programming of our childhood. We all went on to become whatever we thought would bring us the most love, and so did Tiger. In Tiger’s case that meant being the greatest golfer in the world, ever – and that’s what he did.
He won a ton of tournaments, he was famous, his picture was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, he bought a big house, married a beautiful wife and had children – livin’ the dream, right?
Nope. That’s the dream for all us normal kids who won the sixth grade fitness award. Tiger’s dream was supercharged. Both versions of the dream were designed to deliver love, but Tiger’s came with a stratospheric level of intensity, stress, and pressure. He had accomplished the impossible and he needed an impossible pay off. He needed a level of adoration that no one person could provide, not two, or three, or four – EVERYONE had to love him or else all the impossibly hard work to be the best would have made no sense.
What did he do? First he and his team created a fairy tale character called Tiger Woods, the happy smiling guy in the Nike commercials with superman-like qualities – that Tiger had myth-like strength, focus, determination, AND was a GOOD boy who had made his daddy proud. He wasn’t just normal good, no he was the perfect boy, and the one all the dads would want as their son, the one all the mom’s would want their daughters to marry. He was prince charming with a nine iron instead of a white horse. In short, they invented the perfect man.
But that Tiger was a myth. It could not have filled his need for love. In truth, it must have made the hole bigger. The story of the perfect Tiger raised the bar, which was already set at the level of immortal greatness, to a new level … perhaps a level never seen before.
And then he did the unthinkable, right? He committed the greatest sin in the world. He burst our bubble.
A young prince, programmed to find love through greatness, rewarded with unimaginable riches, living in an impossible story of perfection – went out and sowed his royal oats. OMG! As quickly as Tiger had fallen off the proverbial white horse we all jumped on our high horses — How could he do that? Why I’ve never heard of such a thing ….
But we had, in fact, heard of such a thing. From Thomas Jefferson to JFK to Bill Clinton and many of you and me, we have, at one point, or another, given into our, well … maleness and slept with some person we weren’t supposed to. In Tiger’s case it was simply multiplied by that same multiple that made him superman versus the normal men we all are.
We all dreamed of getting the girl and living happily ever after, and then, at some point … cheated on her. Right? Come on, this is honest talk, not the bullshit mouth agape “I can’t believe Tiger did that” crap we all spewed in the days, weeks, and months that his harem of mistresses one by one got their ten seconds of fame. (I know the expression is fifteen minutes of fame, but Tiger had so many mistresses that they had to split the minutes into increments of just a few seconds, but they were powerful seconds because this was TIGER WOODS!) Whether it was while we were in high school or college or our early thirties like Tiger, we all did it. I know I did. Tiger just took it to another level, like he did with everything else.
Tiger Woods was trained to be a super-human, record-breaking machine, get the picture?
I know about now some of you are up in arms with where this is going. Turning my words into a giant excuse-making string of vowels and syllables in defense of Tiger Woods. Well, if you think that, just wait until you read the next sentence:
Tiger Woods did not let us down. We let him down.
Lemme say that one more time so everyone can hear it:
Tiger Woods did not let us down. We let him down.
Yes I said it. And to take it one step further, we keep doing it now with articles and posts and comments that preach as if the man owes us even more now.
Tiger, his wife, and his kids are the only players in the drama that counts.
The rest of us are simply accessories to the crime committed against a child named Eldrick Woods. We, this society, you, me, Tiger’s mom and dad, his agents and PR team, Nike, Buick, the PGA, every one of the women who slept with him and then ran out, hired a lawyer and popped up on TV crying, every man who worshipped the golfer and then pretended to be in shock at the news, every mom and dad who ever pointed at Tiger and told their child to be just like him, all of us, we all robbed a little boy of his childhood, made him into an impossible myth-of-a-man, set a bar that no human has ever lived into – and then when he failed, as we all knew he would at some point, we pulled the rug out from under him. We told the little boy who had spent his life searching for love that he was unloved.
That’s the crime in this story. And if I had to guess, that’s the reason Tiger is not back. Who in the fu#& would want to come back to that scenario? I wouldn’t. Tiger may keep playing golf, but until someone loves that little boy in him for a reason that does not include his Sunday scorecard why would he ever want to come back? The jig is up: Tiger knows there is no love at the end of the stick. His father is gone, we don’t love him, and golf … well, golf is just a game.
And that begs the bigger question, for which Tiger Woods is one super-human metaphor:
“Why do we do this to our children?”
Why can’t we just love them without all the extra, added-on bullshit? Why can’t we just sit at the little league game and have fun? Why do we have to make sports into some life-defining thing that’s it not? Sports are fun, they’re games, and there are lessons in those games for sure. But there is not love. Love comes from a father holding his son and saying, “I love you for who you are.”
And until we get that, it won’t really matter if “Tiger’s back” or not. We will keep creating little Tigers every day, all around this country, building them up and tearing them down. All the while the little child in us all just wants a hug and a simple “I love you, son” from our dads.
Big hugs of love,