One of the saddest things about the world today is that some people would sooner see stars fall than shine.
It’s an unfortunate bi-product of a culture that demands we “name ‘em, shame ‘em and blame ‘em”, and preferably in 140 characters or less.
The reaction to the latest scandal to engulf Tiger Woods has been as clear a demonstration of this as you’re likely to see.
No sooner had his police mugshot found its way online than meme generators went into overdrive, whilst the rush to judgement would have put the accelerating power of a Bugatti to shame.
“He has brought this on himself." I've heard that a lot this week.
Others on the bunkered Facebook page have been less kind.
“He just can’t stand not being in the headlines.”
“No sympathy. T**t.”
“He is done. Stop giving him airtime.”
Many poked fun at his dishevelled appearance and, of course, there were the predictable ‘jokes’ along the lines of driving never having been one of his strong points. Remarkably, somebody even attempted to draw a parallel with OJ Simpson. Go figure.
There was some genuine concern for his wellbeing but not much.
Then something incredible happened. Dash-cam footage of his arrest was released and ridicule gave way to sympathy, worry, shock.
There was anger, too. Anger that media outlets, us included, had shared the footage. Let me address that. When the world’s most instantly recognisable golfer is arrested and that footage is made available (note: we didn’t ask for it), we’re not doing our jobs if we don’t share it. We’re a golf media brand. It’s incumbent upon us to report the off-course bits as well as the on-course bits, the bad bits as well as the good bits. Do we like it? Not all the time, no. But, to quote the man himself, it is what it is. It’s the job and objectivity in reporting the news is a large part of what, in my opinion, makes us credible.
You’ll also notice we passed no judgement. We didn’t mock. We didn’t scold. We didn’t force anybody to watch. The video doesn’t auto-play on our site. We just shared what was already (and, in my opinion, wrongly) out there. We did our job and did it properly.
I wasn’t happy about the video being released. What others saw as the price Tiger has to pay for his public profile, I saw as unnecessarily voyeuristic. Titillation for titillation’s sake. I support dash-cam recording in principle. It exists to legally protect those making the arrests as well as those being arrested. But when there is no suggestion of impropriety, why does it need to exist in the public domain?
My colleague Bryce Ritchie may have the answer. He suggested that releasing the video gave people a better understanding of the gravity of Woods’ current situation. Seeing is believing, after all. A mugshot doesn’t tell you much. But that footage? It makes it abundantly clear that Tiger is a guy in need of help and, yes, deserving of our sympathy.
He really is.
For most of his career, Woods has been admired more than he has been popular. He perfected the art of being introverted, bringing an almost anti-social approach to practising. And as for signing autographs? Not today, thanks.
He brought a level of single-mindedness to his profession that seemed to say, ‘Watch me if you must but don’t get in my way’ – and he got away it because he was brilliant. Few complained. Those who did did so in hushed tones.
The sex scandal changed everything. It was like taking off Batman's mask to find the Joker underneath.
Then the sex scandal happened and his mystique shattered. We (fans, media, sponsors and peers alike) realised that the image we had helped Tiger to cultivate had been a sham. It was like taking off Batman’s mask to find the Joker underneath. We weren’t just duped. We were complicit. And things were never the same again. The voices of dissent grew louder and more confident. The church established in his name – The First Church of Tiger Woods – was dissolved. Disliking him ceased to be sacrilege.
But does all of that make him undeserving of sympathy? No.
I don’t know the start of Tiger’s problems, far less the full extent of them. All I know is what I’ve seen and read this week. I know as much as you do. And it makes me sad. Really, truly sad.
I don’t want to be writing about this. “Tiger Woods wins record-breaking 19th major”. That’s the story I’ve wanted to write for the most part of my career. Instead, here we are. And it sucks.
I could speculate about what I think is wrong with Tiger. I could try to psychoanalyse what compels a man to go for a drive, on his own, in the early hours of the morning. But I won’t. Guessing doesn’t serve any purpose.
Instead, I’ll continue to watch it all unfold. In spite of myself, I’ll be fascinated and I’ll wonder and I’ll draw my own conclusions. Above all, I’ll try to remember that, 14 majors or otherwise, success, fame and fortune or not, this is a guy in a bad place and I’ll try to be sympathetic.
Considering all he has done for the game, whether selflessly or selfishly, I think Tiger has earned the right to expect that from us.