Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tiger Woods: A Cautionary Tale For All American Men

I, for one, have heard enough about the trials and tribulations of Tiger Woods. What, exactly, is so shocking or surprising about this story? Well something is, but it isn’t exactly what you and everyone else seem to think.

Tiger, whose net worth was estimated by Forbes in October 2009 to be about 500 million dollars, is a man who made his first television appearance some thirty years ago as a nascent golf pro at age 4 on The Mike Douglas Show. By all accounts, this is a person who, like the tennis-playing Williams sisters, has been singularly focused practically since birth on one goal: to be the absolute best player in his chosen sport.

Just a guess from observing his demeanor and hearing his very controlled interviews (not to mention his painfully unrevealing “apology” press conference): Tiger is someone who probably had very little time for a social life growing up. Guy friends, girlfriends, and all that goes with that were likely shoved aside for early mornings hitting ball after ball after ball with his dad. Did he develop like a normal American teenager? Did he make out in the backseat of his car with girls with whom he went to school? Did he go to his prom? Did he ever just hook up? I tend to doubt it.

Spare me the bromide I have heard over and over that all of this is so tragic because Tiger Woods did what he did despite having “so much to lose.” Why are we being so politically correct about this? In my view, Tiger Woods did what he did because he had “so much.” He did it for the same reason that the dog licked himself: because he could. I believe that Tiger did what I would expect any younger man who sacrificed so much in his life to earn $500 million and who is constantly on the road would do: he invited women to keep him company, in any number of ways. He finally allowed himself to enjoy the spoils of his wealth after so many years of having to be so focused and controlled.

The real shock of the Tiger Woods tragedy is not that he cheated on his hot wife and broke up his little family. The real shock is that a man with so much wealth and notoriety even got married at age 29 at all.

This is someone who should have been making up for lost time, enjoying his well-earned freedom to do whatever he wanted wherever he wanted. Instead of getting married and cranking out progeny, Tiger should have been bonding with his best male friends. He should have been traveling places just because he felt like it. As a famous and successful man, he should have been having sex, with any and every woman he desired, all around the world, while being careful not to dole out any of his very valuable DNA to any woman who could take from him what he has worked so hard to earn. And he shouldn’t have felt the need to hide while he did it. This is not sexist; it is common sense, and one thing I cannot understand is that few men have stepped up in an empathetic way and talked about what men really think and would do if only they could.

The real truth about marriage is something that men who look like beaten dogs whisper to each other at Hooters, at strip clubs, at sports bars, at bowling alleys, and even over the cubicle walls at offices across America: marriage is for men who cannot afford to live parallel lives with hot women in expensive hotel rooms. It is for men who need someone to share the rent or the mortgage payment. It is for farmers who need more farmhands when they become too old to till the soil. It is for men who grew up too lazy to clean their places, and so, as a result, are willing to take on a 180-pound mommy stand-in who will clean it. Marriage is not for buff, famous, educated men who have 500 million dollars and the freedom to do almost anything they want.

The risk that today’s successful man takes in family court by marrying or by impregnating a woman simply isn’t worth it. Ladies, close your eyes because here comes the hardest truth of all: most married men in America are living with the best woman they can afford.

As boys, although most American men dream of driving Testarossas or Porsches or Corvettes when we grow up, the reality is that most of us end up driving Toyota Camrys or Corollas: not very stylish or sexy, but cheap enough to maintain and able to last a lifetime (oh yeah, and they don’t STOP no matter how hard you try to make them). Most men who dreamed of driving sports cars as kids are now married to a Toyota. And most would trade in that Toyota the moment they struck oil or won at Powerball.

The Tiger Woods story is more about women and advertising. After all, why did Tiger get married anyway? In my view, Tiger Woods got married and had kids because he thought that it looked good to the rest of us. Such a perfect life and a perfect family would only enhance his marketability to advertisers and to the women to whom advertisers kowtow. Now, is anyone going to argue that Tiger Woods, a man who lived a double life trying to make up for what appears to be a largely lost childhood, truly loved Elin Nordegren? You’re kidding, right?

Prenup or no prenup, a man who has sacrificed so much to become so successful should enjoy as a single man everything that he has worked so hard to achieve. He should not be giving away half of his fortune to someone with whom he has spent just a few years. He should not have to be hiding in hotel rooms, on yachts, or anywhere else. After all, the prime reason that men become successful, as doctors, as architects, as actors or rock stars, and, presumably as golfers, is to be able to get more and more desirable women.

The tragedy is that Tiger felt the need to create a perfect-looking life in order to make himself attractive to fans and to advertisers. Such a shame. He’s the greatest golfer of all time and one of the premiere athletes of our lifetime. What more did he need to project than that?

Tiger Woods had no business getting married or having any children at all so early in his life. And, if you are a successful young man in America who has worked so hard to get where you are, neither do you.