I am supposed to think that he’s a poor role model — that he’s an adulterer, that he’s selfish, that he’s a phony, that he behaves badly on golf courses, that he’s someone I wouldn’t want my son to emulate some day. That’s horses—-. I want my son to know that people screw up, that nobody is perfect, that you can learn from your foibles. I want my son to watch “The Natural” someday, hear Roy Hobbs say, “Some mistakes you never stop paying for,” and know that it’s not just words in a movie. I want my son to know that you haven’t lived until you’ve fought back, that you haven’t won until you’ve lost, that you can’t understand what it’s like to relish something until you’ve suffered, too. I want him to understand that it’s the 21st century, that we sit around picking our heroes apart all day, that we expect them to be superhuman at all times, that we get pissed off when they aren’t, that it’s hypocritical if you really think about it.
I want my son to know that great athletes are meant to be appreciated, not emulated. He can steal Tiger’s fist pump without wanting to become him. He can play Tiger’s video game without feeling like Tiger is his best friend. He can imitate Tiger’s swing without getting the urge to bed every cocktail waitress and model he meets. We should have learned by now that athletes aren’t role models in the traditional sense — they exist to entertain us and inspire us, and that’s really it.
If my son needs a role model, and he will, that person should be me. I don’t need Tiger to teach my child how to behave. I need him to teach my son that it’s fun to watch golf. Yesterday was the first lesson. There was a putt, and a roar, and a fist pump, and then my son screaming “Again!” Only Tiger Woods could have made it happen. It’s a gift.