The folly of idols

I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children. I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I've done, but I want to do my best to try.

I would like to ask everyone, including my fans, the good people at my foundation, business partners, the PGA Tour, and my fellow competitors, for their understanding. What's most important now is that my family has the time, privacy, and safe haven we will need for personal healing.

After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf. I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person._ _Again, I ask for privacy for my family and I am especially grateful for all those who have offered compassion and concern during this difficult period.

--from Tiger Woods' website

Once again, I am led to wonder about a culture that makes role models of ordinary human beings for the silliest of reasons. Tiger Woods is undoubtedly a superior golfer, but let's be absolutely clear about one thing: it means he has the ability to hit a small ball with a large stick and send it in a particular direction, chasing it into a small hole, hitting it fewer times than most others require to achieve the same result. Nothing more, nothing less. He has been very fortunate in that he has been able to parlay this ability into a lucrative career, and it's certainly nothing that I can do, but perhaps you will forgive me if I find this less impressive than, say, finding the cure for polio or devoting one's life to teaching 7th graders (which surely should qualify one for canonization).

Nevertheless, we live in a society that likes to put people on pedestals, essentially setting them up to fail, then we are surprised to find out that they have feet of clay like the rest of us. It isn't just popular culture, either; the leader of my church, Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America, said at his elevation to the metropolitanate that when it comes to bishops, "What happens to a guy? You put him on a stand in the middle of the church, you dress him up like the Byzantine emperor and you tell him to live forever." And then we're surprised when problems happen.

So when a pro athlete with a beautiful wife, millions of dollars in sponsorships and a jet-set lifestyle turns out to have violated his marriage vows, it becomes front-page news and fodder for all the tabloids and talk radio hosts, and everyone professes shock. Sorry, but I'm not shocked. Tiger Woods has been in the public eye for his entire life--his first TV appearance was on the Mike Douglas Show at the age of 2, putting against Bob Hope. He's enjoyed fabulous success, has played on the finest courses in the world, has traveled around the globe, and has been showered with obscene amounts of money while women were throwing themselves at him at every turn. And then we're surprised that problems happened--that he was less than perfect, that he turned out to be an adult male with a prodigious sexual appetite, that his squeaky-clean image was just that, an image. Oh dear, stop the presses.

And if this is unfair to Tiger Woods and those, like him, who find themselves the fallen idols of an unforgiving public, it's equally bad for said public. Focusing on the private peccadillos of our secular idols does nothing to improve the quality of our own imperfect lives, and we would be far better off giving him and his family the privacy and the time to put their lives back together. Otherwise, it's all just gossip, judgment, and condemnation, and we might as well be flogging ourselves, since all of those things are transgressions, and none of them are salvific.