Tiger Woods – Redeeming the Man or Just the Brand?


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“Too big to fail.”

We heard that catch phrase was thrown around quite a bit during last year’s economic body blow.

“Sure, these banks and investment firms made financial decisions straight out of the Larry, Moe and Curley School of Management, but we have to pour ungodly amounts of tax payer money into their coffers because we just can’t get along without them! They are simply too big to fail!”

And so, the standard for rescuing a firm wasn’t the quality of the company, but its sheer largeness.

It wasn’t so much, “What do these companies do?” as much as “What would we do without them?” that determined the direction of the cash flow.

I couldn’t help but think the same philosophy is in full control of another bail out project.

But this time “Too big to fail” describes not the cash flow of a company, but the character of a man.

Unless you’ve been living in a root cellar, most of us are more aware of the trials and tribulations of Tiger Woods’ personal life than we would really want to be.

But more fascinating than the lurid details of Woods’ peculiar appetites is the systematic rehabilitation of his reputation.

By now we are all too familiar with the standard operating procedure that kicks in when a celebrity scandal hits.

A. Lurid photos – Either of a compromising act, the dreaded “perp walk” or an unflattering mug shot hit the headlines.

B. Failed attempts at containment by declaring, “I never claimed to be perfect!” or “Everyone does it! Who are you to judge me?”

C. Sudden check in to a “Rehab” facility.

D. Nearly sincere, carefully crafted “mea culpa” press conference – no follow up questions allowed.

E. Tearful confessional on a “Very Special Oprah” – featuring a sudden passionate concern for the impact of “the media” on the family that was strangely absent during the season of excess.

F. Back on stage, television, the batter’s box or the first tee at Augusta with a “renewed focus on the future” and a sense of righteous indignation if someone brings up the past.

If you are keeping score at home, Tiger is somewhere between “D” and “E” above.

“Oh, come on Scott! Aren’t you being a little cynical, a little judgmental? How do you know that Tiger Woods isn’t very sincere and on his way to being a new and better person?”

Possibly.

But not likely.

For the sake of his family I hope that Tiger Woods stint in rehab will result in a new and different life for him.

But here’s the problem.

Real change comes only from a new heart – and Tiger Woods reaffirmation of Buddhism at his press conference tells us that he has failed to take Britt Hume’s spiritual counsel.

Tiger Woods became the second most highly recognized man in the world because of  a carefully crafted public relations persona -Incredible athlete and man of solid values.

Here was a man parents pointed out as a role model to their children.

He had more than just amazing control over a golf ball.

He had class.

That reputation not only made Tiger amazingly rich, but also moved an awful lot of Nike and Gatorade.

In many ways, Tiger Woods became less of a man, and more of a brand.

And you had better believe there is an incredible vested interest in seeing “Tiger Woods the Brand” rehabilitated.

The man?

Well, if he does change, good for him.

But  if not, we will settle for a return to the image.

Do you see the real tragedy here?

Tiger Woods has come perilously close to becoming less of a human being and more of a commodity.

And a disposable one at that.

Don’t think for a moment that if he loses his edge or a new young prodigy starts winning the majority of Majors on the PGA Tour, that Tiger won’t be consigned to the “What have you done for us lately?” dust bin of athletic history.

That is why Jesus’ words are more relevant today than ever –

For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26)

Tiger Woods story reminds us all that there has to be more to us than what we do, even if we do it well.

It reminds us that skill, status or size of bank book doesn’t exempt anyone from the certainty of reaping what they’ve sown.

It also reminds us that our good name is the most valuable thing we own.

And once the trust others have in our good name  is damaged it is a long, tough road to win it back.

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