Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Spirit of the Game

It's agreed that little can be gained by debating the morality of Mr. Woods' extramarital dalliances, although it can be argued that to discuss the effects that these events have on the worlds of golf, sports, and popular culture, is of a different matter entirely.  That is the intention of this article.

All too often it seems we find (perhaps fairly or unfairly) our 'heroes' let us down, but for the many who golf, Eldrick has appeared to have fallen from an even greater height than most (for the record, I will no longer reference him as 'Tiger' as I believe its origin as a heroic nickname given by his father in honor of a military friend is one for which he no longer deserves.  His given name, Eldrick, or Mr. Woods will suit for me).  As easy as it might be to heap blame and shame, and follow those who will name names, I for one, will not join this game (OK, I admit to being a Theodore Geisel fan).  It is perhaps a more jagged dagger to simply witness the effects that Mr. Woods' decisions will have in relation to the sport for which so many play, enjoy, and follow.

The disappointment shared by people seems mixed both in its volume and direction.  One conclusion shared by Mr. Jack Nicklaus publicly was that this is a private family matter for Woods-Nordegren.  Fair enough, although surely Mr. Nicklaus is acutely aware that, as we speak, business decisions are being made that relate to the financial support of Mr. Woods and his family.  Granted, with proper management in place it would seem that Woods and his family should need not have concern for their financial legacy but the public damage brought about by the slow and painful removal of his prominence from products, events, and the sport of golf are an additional shame for which he should and must solely bear.

Many have already displayed the events following Kobe Bryant's extramarital story as a pattern for what will likely happen with Woods.  I sincerely hope this will not be the case.  There are various and sundry similarities certainly, but the fact remains that golf is a sport and profession that differs vastly from most any other (and for which Woods is most certainly aware) due to its core beliefs that are prominently written into its rules and for which the difference between other recent and infamous affairs by professional athletes becomes so illuminated. 

The Rules of Golf, from its very origins, display an inherent honesty, integrity, and fairness as the platform for manner of play.  It is often said that the Rules of Golf are also good rules for life and personally I find that to be accurate.  The very first paragraph by the Royal and Ancient of St. Andrews and the USGA, following the introduction to the Rules of Golf, sets one on the proper path and goes as follows: 

The Spirit of the Game
Golf is played, for the most part, without the supervision of a referee or umpire.  The game relies on the integrity of the individual to show consideration for other players and to abide by the Rules.  All players should conduct themselves in a disciplined manner, demonstrating courtesy and sportsmanship at all times, irrespective of how competitive they may be.

This is the spirit of the game of golf. 

So too may the spirit of the game of life.  To cheat or even attempt to skirt the rules of life should be as widely admonished and reviled as it is in golf.  Woods should expect little in the way of tolerance from the world of golf and its patrons and we in turn should show no leniency.  His penalty and sentence must be served for the good of all.  Woods knows the rules as well as anyone else and still elected to not apply the same integrity to his marriage and family as he has with the sport that has paid him ridiculous sums, in some cases to merely appear.

It is for this simple reason that any fan, company, or organization wishing to remove its support for Woods, can be assured that my full, unwaivering, and unabashed support, as a fan of golf and consumer of goods and services, will exist.  While that may seem a trifle in comparison to what legal or financial pitfalls await Mr. Woods, my integrity is of great value to me.  Moreso than Mr. Woods apparently.

PS: In acknowledgment of Woods' (and our) innate and imperfect humanness, and from one human being to another, my hope is that he will get good help in beginning to heal himself and his family.  Life does carry on and the extent of the damage is yet to be fully known, but should be worked through only with the caring and genuine aid of others trained to assist in matters such as these.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"I am not a role model"

In the wake of recent insinuations and allegations regarding Mr. Tiger Woods and his personal life, the "Where There's Smoke, There's Fire" crew have apparently been proven right.

I've recently recalled the Nike ad of the late 1980s in which 'Sir" Charles Barkley claimed "I am not a role model."  At the time I was a huge Philly 76ers fan (mainly because of my worship of Dr. J) and was both surprised and disappointed by the Sixers star forward's statement, as he seemed a perfect rags-to-riches, blue-collar candidate for hero worship.  It did cause a fair bit of discussion on the sports-related talk circuits as I recall.  Some argued 'yes' they are role models by virtue of their profession and privilege whether they like it or not, and others argued 'no' despite their self-promotion, professional athletes are still mere human beings.  In the end, as I recall, the general public was divided fairly evenly about this topic.

Now the squeekiest of clean athletes in recent times appears keen to apologize publicly for his "personal failings" which appear to be an obscured confession of what the media already appeared to surmise.

I am again surprised and disappointed at Tiger's apparent failings.  It makes me all the more certain now that Sir Charles was right - professional athletes are not role models.  As they are human, they are susceptible to many of the same issues dealt with by the general public and even issues about which the public doesn't have a clue.

It is often hoped by many that these people, who have extraordinary physical and mental talents, will somehow serve as a inspiration to the rest of us who would gladly exchange places with them, especially in regard to bank accounts.  We all seem to need some sort of guideline or example to follow to further our own lives.

To this I now must say, "bullshit".  Our lives belong to, and are the sole responsibility of us and no one else.  It is our own duty to be that example.

We all need to be our own heroes.  
We need to place high value and regard on the things that really matter in life - love, honesty, fairness, empathy.
We need to be the ones who try our best each and every day.

We need to discount the things which so often are promoted as valuable.  When Tiger's ability to hit a golf ball, or Britney's ability to sing and dance, or Robert Downey's ability to portray a fictional character is more highly valued than their ability to be the best father/mother/person they can, something is profoundly wrong.

I appeal to direct your hero worship to those who truly deserve it: those who work hard and with great personal sacrifice to provide for loved ones; those who've accomplished much with few resources; those who get up each day to help or protect others before themselves; those who place the good of the whole before the good of the individual; those who do what they can to make their own worlds better - little by precious little.
These are the true heroes of today and they are people you likely see everyday.

These are the people that deserve your ultimate respect and whom you should emulate.

These are the people who truly make a difference.

These are the people we should strive to be.