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Blog Posted in avatar   Steven Z.K. Nickels's Blog

Tigers fall too

By Steven Z.K. Nickels
Posted Feb 23, 2010 in Sports
While I watched Tiger Woods' press conference last week, I was struck by a few things. First, Tiger appeared a shell of his former self. The Tiger Woods we had all watched dominate his sport over the years to become the greatest golfer of his time, arguably one of the greatest athletes of all time and by far the wealthiest athlete of any sport in history - with a net worth of around one billion dollars - had fallen.
The Tiger Woods that appeared at the news conference that we knew would have to take place sooner or later looked shaken and stunned to be addressing his catastrophic personal failure and the shattering of his self-imposed private empire in front of the spotlight of the world. I suspect however that Tiger knew in his heart-of-hearts over the years that that day of reckoning for his behavior would come at some point in time. If he did not believe that, he was naive beyond belief.
Did he think, being one of the most well-known and recognizable figures in sports, that his secret would remain just that - a secret - forever? I cannot believe that. What has happened to Tiger can really be explained, in my opinion, by the simple fact that he had the money and fame beyond most peoples wildest dreams and he began to believe that he was invincible. That has happened too many times over the years with too many people.
Was addiction Tiger's problem, be it sexual or some other vice? In the sense of the therapeutic definition of "addiction" I don't believe so. His addiction was more likely addiction to fame and fortune and the grandiose self-worth that one in his place comes to believe more and more with each year of adulation, winning and financial riches.
The narcissistic behavior that he displayed that eventually brought his house-of-cards family man persona come crumbling down last Thanksgiving has likely been known by his family, close friends and confidants for some time. It always is. And likely he has been warned, counseled and chastised by those same people that his behavior had to stop before what happened - happened.
Tiger is likely a changed man now. But, as it is so many times, he is likely changed because of one thing - he got caught. And his world came crumbling down. It happens everyday to thousands of people, but we don't know most of them. Because they are not famous, or rich, or at the top of their sport. It is what some people refer to as "hitting rock bottom." People do not change many times until they hit rock bottom. Ask an alcoholic who is sober now. Ask a drug addict who is clean now. They can tell you all about it. About hitting rock bottom and about changing their life. In that way, I suppose that Tiger's contrite demeanor at his news conference did resemble that of an addict. But too many times people want to blame a lack of morals, displayed by infidelity, deceit and total disregard for the sanctity of marriage and blessing of children on "addiction." To do so is a disservice to real addicts and the lives that are destroyed by a true disease.
As a fellow human being, I feel sorry for Tiger. Very sorry. But I feel much more sorrow for those around him who are suffering from his failure. His wife, his children, other family members. The game of golf will go on no matter what happens to Tiger. It's all those around Tiger who will suffer the most with this for the rest of their lives.
And I am not naively "casting stones" at Tiger for his behavior. I have seen addiction over the years, up close and personal.
Wealth and fame can never assure happiness or contentment. Tiger said that his faith is Buddhism. I hope that his belief in that faith helps him find comfort and true healing.
No matter who is a lion - or tiger - in life, they can fall too.

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