Tiger’s not a role model for morality, he’s a sportsman

So, the First Church of Tiger Woods been disbanded and the sole pastor will be letting the web domain TigerWoodsisGod.com lapse. Telling us why, Pastor John Ziegler writes that:

The events of the past few days have revealed Tiger to be a serial adulterer, a blatant liar, and a selfish coward. While I am sure I will always respect his ability as a golfer, that was only a very small part of why this much misunderstood web site was created and why it became such a big part of my life.

As I have documented in my columns below, Tiger is clearly no longer deserving of being seen as a role model or a hero and he has needlessly squandered his unique potential to be a positive force in our country and the world.

This sort of attitude, albeit extreme, is a snapshot of the handwringing and moralising that has accompanied revelations of Tiger’s alleged infidelities.

But what exactly does it mean to hold a sports star like Tiger Woods up as a role model? Do you ask yourself before you act, “What would Tiger do here?” Or do you exercise every day, try to earn as much money as possible, hire an agent, try to marry a Norwegian nanny/model with a twin sister? What?

Sometimes there seems to be concern about the effects on children who idolise certain sports figures. Well, to put your mind at ease, academic studies have shown that children are quite capable of differentiating between the qualities displayed on the field of play and the foibles of a star’s private life. Furthermore, even knowing about a player’s transgressions did not detract from kids’ enjoyment of watching a display of a star’s playing skills.

Jason Walsh at Forth.com makes a valid point about sport and this idea of role models:

Sports stars are subject to an unusually nasty form of moralising. The fact that sporting organisations have begun to believe their own – and governments’ – propaganda about sportsmanship and the importance of sport as a means of encouraging physical fitness has allowed for the transformation of the sporting arena into a moral mud-fight. Both on the field and off, sportsmen and women face strident criticism if their actions fail to live up to the standards of the self-appointed moral police.

This view, in the case of Tiger, is countered by Roy Greenslade in the London Evening Standard:

He has made millions of dollars from advertising contracts and endorsements that have rested squarely on his wholesome image as a handsome, upright, clean-cut, respectful, hard-working and, until now, entirely scandal-free individual.

Nor can he claim, as others in his position have tried to in the past, that his status as a role model has been thrust upon him. He has openly embraced it.

“I think it’s an honour to be a role model,” he was once quoted as saying. “If you are given a chance to be a role model, I think you should always take it because you can influence a person’s life in a positive light, and that’s what I want to do.”

But the problem I have is that no one ever clearly defines what a role model actually is. After all, can’t Tiger just be a role model for golf and nothing else? Or do people expect their role models to exhibit Jesus-like qualities?

Whatever it is, here’s some free advice: If one of your sports star role models lets you down, just divorce them and get another – there’s plenty to go round.

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