COLUMN: Tiger Woods' scandal proves he's human

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 12:31 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 21, 2010

Celebrity culture made Tiger Woods. And now, celebrity culture has eaten Tiger Woods.

It’s a great opening line, isn’t it? Except that celebrity culture, that ravenous beast that has chewed up peons with even minuscule amounts of talent, had nothing to do with “making” Tiger Woods. Tiger Wood’s innate Olympian ability — his preternatural golfing skill — made him the absolute superstar he is now. And I mean Olympian in the ancient Greek sense — Tiger Woods is modernity’s answer to Heracles.

Heracles, better known by his Roman name Hercules, was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman. In myth, he’s an authentic hero and demigod who conquered snakes in the cradle and performed a dozen labors (one of them was cleaning stables — no joke) before achieving 100 percent god status and earning a place on Mount Olympus and a goddess wife.

We humans like these kinds of stories, especially when they become flesh in the form of multicultural golf prodigies. I don’t even have to cite Tiger Woods’ many golf accomplishments, which include 71 PGA tournament victories and being the youngest Masters champion ever at 21 years old and the first Asian or black winner of a major golf championship. Tiger Woods is also worth, and I believe this is the technical financial term, a bagazillion dollars.

It’s interesting that revelations of Tiger Woods’ marital indiscretions are making the public question the axiom that all publicity is good publicity. Of all the people in the world idolized by celebrity culture, I would argue that Tiger Woods is one of the very few who have made it on pure (and freakishly inhuman) talent. Tiger Woods would have been a superstar without a vapid and image-driven, publicity-obsessed public to satisfy.  

And now, Tiger Woods (well, his reputation and image) are festering in the belly of the giant whale that is celebrity culture. He’s like Jonah now. There is no amount of money or genuine greatness to get him out of this one now that Tiger Woods has been revealed as a mere mortal whose impeccable public image was really one heck of a smokescreen and not a result of superior moral or ethical attributes. It’s a good thing Oprah is still on the air because if Jonah had to repent to God, I think we all know that Tiger Woods needs to repent to Oprah.

Intellectually, this Tiger Woods’ media debacle shouldn’t really affect anyone’s perception of his sporting accomplishments, which are the true source of his celebrity. Most of the people we call celebrities today are really just infamous — there is no merit to their "fame," just meaningless publicity which is translated by a media-anesthetized public as true distinction.

Tiger Woods is not that kind of celebrity.

By the standard of most great men, Tiger Woods is nothing special. Don’t they all seem to get caught stepping out on their marriages? Not that being extraordinary in some important realm excuses extramarital affairs or other moral failings, but it seems that everyone is so surprised that Tiger Woods is human. Despite the superhuman accomplishments, Heracles was part human, too.

Erin K. O'Neill is a former assistant director of photography and current page designer for the Missourian. She is also a master's degree candidate at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Nathan Stephens December 16, 2009 | 8:15 a.m.

Well said Erin, well said. Finally a journalist that has the common sense to see that Tiger is 'Only human' and 'born to make mistakes' a popular song once stated. I also find it interesting that the same people that would "judge" Tiger also use their company computers during work hours to get on social networking sites or even shop online. This is considered theft and is also a moral failing. Some people go 71, 72 or 75 when the speed limit sign clearly says 'speed limit 70.'(I am sure that any law enforcement officer can tell you several stories of how people try to justify breaking the law.) And while these may seem minor and insignificant, I can assure you that the God of the Christian bible that over 70 percent of Americans claim to honor, does not view their transgressions any different than Tiger's. Surprise?!?! Just for reference, Revelations 21:8: "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." So God does not see one little white lie and some great big terrible sin. No my friends we are all just as guilty as Tiger in the eyes of God. We all need to accept God's mercy and grace to get to heaven according to this tradition and belief. Isn't this what we are judging Tiger on? I am not condoning his behavior but neither am I condemning him because I am aware of my own shortcomings; after all, that is the meaning of humility.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin December 16, 2009 | 9:54 a.m.

Problem is, we don't apply the "he or she is only human" standard uniformly or equitably.

We tend to apply it based on celeb or political status.

What's more troubling in Tiger's case is the sheer number of women he's alleged to have bedded while married.

There's almost a socio-pathology in that, some combination of rampant narcissism and complete disregard, not only for his wife and family, but his fans, sponsors -- all the people who helped make him what he was, and relied on him to be cool.

And no, Tiger Woods' innate Olympian golfing ability isn't what made him the absolute superstar he is today. It helped, certainly.

But what really made Tiger Woods the absolute superstar he is today are all the people he betrayed.

(Report Comment)
terry bura December 17, 2009 | 12:08 a.m.

So what is it, is Tiger 6 , 9 or 10 times human in how many years of married life?

(Report Comment)
Al Franken December 17, 2009 | 10:34 p.m.
This comment has been removed.

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.