Glen’s Latest Column:
By Glen Meakem
As Published in The Pittsburgh Tribune Review
December 20, 2009
Tiger Woods’ fall from the pinnacle of wholesome role-model stardom has generated nonstop conversation. Sordid jokes blanket late-night television and water-cooler discussion.
But in a country where more than half of all marriages end in divorce and 40 percent of children are born out of wedlock, where athletes, politicians and Hollywood stars are frequently caught in extramarital escapades, why is its most successful athlete’s serial adultery so shocking — such a source of anger and derision?
Tiger was a positive role model like no other, whose golf achievements were made possible by a rare combination of talent, hard work and emotional toughness. Through his marriage, family life and public temperament, he appeared to embody honesty, integrity and loyalty.
Tiger’s devoted parents filled his upbringing with love, discipline and coaching. As a pro after attending Stanford University, he became the world’s best golfer. In his late 20s, he married Swedish former model Elin Nordegren, who looked and acted like a real-life Cinderella. He appeared devoted to his wife and the two children they soon had. And Tiger, whose father was black and mother was a native of Thailand, seemed to inhabit an ideal multiracial — even post-racial — world. More than just a role model, he seemed the best of us all.
Unfortunately, people who put themselves on such pedestals often fall. One can only imagine the temptations faced by Tiger, who no doubt was not perfect. So whether it was an out-of-control libido, simple hubris or something else, tragic character flaws caught up with him. He indulged, tried to cover up and fell.
Other high-profile cases suggest Tiger and Elin will divorce and their children will be raised in the kind of privileged but broken home so familiar in America. Tiger will date other women, make a moderately successful golf comeback, do public penance through charity appearances and have a professionally, if not personally, successful life.
But from Tiger, this just would not be good enough. America is filled with broken families. Tens of millions of moms and dads put their own pleasures and happiness above their children’s welfare. It would be too much for America’s No. 1 wholesome role model to act the same way.
I hope Tiger will recognize the leadership opportunity he now has and follow a different course. On his Web site this past week, Tiger stated he would suspend his golf career to focus on his family and on being a better person. I hope this is sincere, not just public relations. I hope Tiger will beg his wife’s forgiveness and seek reconciliation — even if he has to chase after her to Sweden this Christmas.
I hope he will be sincere and she will forgive him. I hope they will be loyal to each other for the rest of their lives. This will not be easy, but I hope they will put their children first, do the hard work to rebuild their marriage and keep it together.
I sincerely want to see Tiger, Elin and especially their children have good, fulfilling, happy lives. More importantly, I hope Tiger and Elin will set an example. We all know the hard truth — the damage done by the American family’s breakup to our children is so pervasive that it threatens our society’s stability and success. It is time to put our children ahead of ourselves. Let’s hope Tiger can lead the way.