Tiger Woods: The Downfall of a Sports Hero or the Emergence of an Imperfect but Really Good Golfer?

Tiger Woods, the once “perfect” sports hero, has proven that he is human and, thus, far from perfect. His actions appear to have repetitively violated the sanctity of his marriage and have caused great pain to his wife. Infidelity violates trust, undermines commitments, and shatters hearts. Sadly, picking up the pieces of a marriage after one partner violates the bonds of marriage is often impossible. The deception destroys the spark that served as the glue and the marriage dissolves. No one can fault Mrs. Woods if she done with her marriage.

Tiger and his wife certainly have many challenging days and weeks ahead of them. This is a private matter. One that does not belong on the golf course, in the newspapers, or on the front cover of the gossip magazines. This being said, we have not heard the end of the Tiger Woods scandal. Tiger Woods was “perfect” – and now he is flawed. There is a lot of “material” here for the media to analyze and interpret and spin. And we will be fascinated by it. Sad – but true.

One of the things that I have heard a lot over the past few days is how sad it is that all of our great celebrity heroes get caught in not so flattering situations – even the perfect Tiger Woods. For the past several weeks we have been reading the Book of Genesis which tells the story of our famous patriarchs and matriarchs, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Rachel and Leah. These men and women are seen by many as the epitome of righteousness. They are our biblical heroes, ancient role models that still have much to teach us. What many fail to realize, however, is that our patriarchs and matriarchs are very flawed. They were part of a very dysfunctional family. They often made very poor choices and behaved in less than flattering ways. Yet, they still hold a very important place in Judaism and other religious traditions.

The Torah teaches us that our biblical heroes are far from perfect. They sin. But, somehow, they seem to learn from their mistakes, pick up the pieces, and move on with their lives. Just recently, we read in the Torah as Jacob comes face to face with his brother Esau. The last time these brothers were together, Esau wanted to kill Jacob for stealing his birthright and taking everything from him. Now, however, things have changed. We witness a peaceful reunion as Esau no longer holds a grudge against his brother and Jacob has paid the price for his deception. Thus, the Torah teaches us that heroes are not perfect, rather they are individuals who work to overcome their flaws and, because of this work, become better, although imperfect, human beings.

So, Tiger Woods is far from perfect. Does this mean he can no longer be a sports hero? This depends on how he handles himself in the weeks and months ahead – not on the golf course – but in the privacy of his own home and in the depths of his heart and soul. He has a lot to repair. For Tiger’s sake and the sake of his wife and children, he needs to start by showing his family the respect that they deserve.

No matter what Tiger will be able to accomplish at home, he will not be able to recapture his perfect image. It is gone forever. But, as our tradition teaches us, perfection does not make us a hero. Rather, how we rebuild what we ourselves have destroyed – this is what determines our heroic status. If he is able to respectively resolve his private life, Tiger will need to regain the trust and respect of his fans. This will not necessarily be done on the golf course – but in the way he publicly addresses this issue and guards the privacy of his family. The rebuilding will be slow – but if done with sincerity, care and compassion, Tiger could very well follow in the footsteps of our flawed patriarchs and matriarchs and reemerge once again as a hero. Only time will tell.

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