Redefining Our Relationship With Tiger Woods

A year after the infamous post-Thanksgiving debacle, the golf great is taking stock and recrafting his image. Judge if you must, but we could all learn something from his travails.

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We can only imagine what Thanksgiving was like last year in the Tiger Woods household, which since then has shrunk from a family of four to a bachelor pad. A National Enquirer story on Woods and New York cocktail hostess Rachel Uchitel had hit newsstands the day before, but it hadn't garnered any attention.

And it might have remained just another juicy rumor from the National Enquirer if Woods hadn't crashed his Cadillac Escalade into a tree beyond his driveway at 2:25 a.m. on the morning just after Thanksgiving. His wife, Elin, bashing out the SUV's back windows with a golf club didn't help matters, either.

That incident was the beginning of the end for Woods' carefully crafted, squeaky-clean image. In its aftermath, he suffered a severe outbreak of alleged mistresses, entered therapy for sex addiction, lost several major sponsors, watched his wife file for divorce and endured his worst year on the golf course.

Just like that, Thanksgiving and Woods were inextricably linked in people's minds, likely forever.

But with the one-year anniversary upon him, Woods hasn't left his narrative to others. He embarked on a media blitz recently, penning a reflective essay in Newsweek, appearing on ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike in the Morning Show and recounting the past year in an Associated Press interview at the Australian Masters. 

Cynics scoff and deem Woods' actions as disingenuous attempts to curry favor and regain corporate sponsors. Image experts and PR professionals had a field day dissecting his initial response to the crisis, and the same is true of his current approach. Mike Paul, of MGP & Associates PR, told USA Today that Woods is "failing miserably," partially because he "absurdly" refuses to discuss details of the crash and its aftermath. "We're interested," Paul said, "but we're not getting the facts that we want."

Undoubtedly, some folks won't be satisfied until Woods outlines the sequence of events that preceded his crash last Thanksgiving. Others want more information about Woods' mistresses, including an idea of when he became a serial philanderer and how he concealed his activities. And some former fans probably will never believe that he's changed and will never forgive him for busting their bubble of adulation.

So Woods was wrong when he wrote in Newsweek, "Everyone has probably heard more than they ever wanted to about my private life." But the essay's title -- "How I've Redefined Victory" -- was a dead-on accurate primer for living life beyond the golf course, or whatever your field.

Whether single or married, we can all take something from Woods' experience and use it to reflect on ourselves. "My life was out of balance, and my priorities were out of order," he wrote. "I made terrible choices and repeated mistakes. I hurt the people whom I loved the most. And even beyond accepting the consequences and responsibility, there is the ongoing struggle to learn from my failings."

He's digesting a difficult lesson, one that's not uncommon but that rarely plays out in such public fashion. Yet his cool, detached personality leaves him open to critics who equate the lack of visible emotion with a lack of honesty. For whatever reason, there's an expectation that he should open up (and break down?) to show us he's truly sorry and truly changed -- something along the lines of a session on Oprah's couch.

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