“The one thing they love more than a hero is to see a hero fail, fall, die trying. In spite of everything you’ve done for them, eventually they will hate you.” – Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin, Spiderman (2002)
Tiger Woods was a hero. Seated alongside sports legends like Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan, he dominated the sport of golf to a level never before seen. He was on track to smash seemingly every record. It wasn’t a question of if, but when.
In the eyes of the media, he was the perfect man. Not only was he a shining beacon of athleticism, he was the epitome of intelligent – respectful, well-spoken and a great interview. But it didn’t stop there. A bi-racial man of both African and Asian descent married to his Swedish supermodel wife Elin Nordegren, he was portrayed as a cultural symbol of racial harmony. He was someone everyone could look up to. He was something we needed as a society – a unifying symbol that someone of any political, ethnic and religious background could get behind. Tiger Woods showed the world that through the merits of hard work and persistence paired with God-given talent can have you rise to the top no matter who you are and where you’re from. He was loved by all, a hero.
2010 was the year of reckoning for Tiger Woods. Following a suspicious November 2009 car accident, it was revealed that he had been having affairs with a seemingly endless parade of women on the side. Like the flip of a light switch, Tiger Woods went from one of the most beloved figures in American history to Public Enemy #1. The media coverage was relentless. Tiger Woods’ affairs were the lead story practically every day, with a new woman coming out of the woodwork to tell her story seemingly just as frequently. Woods went from being portrayed as a God to the Devil.
The fiasco culminated with not just the destruction of his marriage, but the destruction of his career. His sponsors pulled out faster than a speeding bullet, and Tiger went into hiding for awhile. Years later, he attempted a comeback, but his golf game was never the same. We can hypothesize countless reasons why, be they mental, physical or a mix of both, but I can steadfastly say the Tiger Woods of the 2000’s is gone forever.
Fast forward to this past weekend, and Tiger is back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Found asleep at the wheel and under suspicion of DUI, the Tiger Woods we see today looks more like a horror story than the love story America used to have with the golf pro.
While Woods claims that alcohol was not involved and that he rather had “an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications,” the damage that has been done to this man since 2009 has been absolutely terrifying.
What can Tiger Woods teach us?
Tiger Woods’ fall, deserved or not, can serve as a warning to all of us. The driving theme behind his story is that actions have consequences, and nobody – no matter how rich, talented and beloved – is immune to these consequences.
Tiger had the potential to be more than a legendary sports figure. Given his attractive personality and excellent public speaking skills, he could have had a storied career as a broadcaster following his eventual retirement from professional golf. Taking this path, he could have continued to be a beloved role model for the rest of his life.
Instead, he chose to pursue the path of lies and infidelity. The damage done is far greater than any physical injury could have produced. Now, his very image is forever tarnished, and he will go down in history as one of golf’s greatest disappointments instead of one of America’s greatest heroes. All he had to do was stay true to his family and put his integrity first. It’s just that simple.
Clearly, the negative press has had a tremendous impact on Tiger. To be treated as one of their greatest heroes for many years, then to suddenly become one of their greatest villains – and having the lowest points of your life pasted on the front of every form of media worldwide – is something few of us could bear, let alone recover from. Despite any injuries Tiger has suffered over the course of his golf career and during his 2009 car accident, I would bet the media coverage since 2010 has had a far greater negative impact on his athletic performance. Golf, after all, is more of a mental game, and the damage to his mental state is likely severe.
Learn from this story. Think this can’t happen to you? Think again. Just ask Justine Sacco, an average young girl who managed to destroy her life with a single tweet. Her story can be found here: How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life.
If both Tiger Woods and a completely anonymous Average Jane can be ruined, so can you. Always operate with integrity, keep your word and police your actions. Understand that anything you do, say and write can find a home permanently in the public eye, and you can go from a nobody to an overnight sensation if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. This doesn’t mean live in fear, but it does mean you need to police yourself on social media and in public. Before you post any online commentary or upload a picture or video of yourself, ask yourself, “Is this how I want the world to see me?” Before you throw a public tantrum in front of dozens of onlookers with smartphones, ask yourself that same question.
Operate under the guise that anonymity no longer exists, because it doesn’t. It could save your life.All information found herein, including any ideas, opinions, views, predictions, commentaries, forecasts, suggestions or stock picks, expressed or implied, are for informational, entertainment or educational purposes only and should not be construed as personal investment advice. I am not a licensed investment adviser.