Cheating on your wife is terrible. Driving under the influence of drugs is terrible. Attending numerous therapy sessions only to drop out and go back to your old ways is not a good sign, and neither is skipping countless arrangements that demand that you take responsibility for your actions. That being said, the mark of a champion is how they bounce back from hardship. Though he wasn’t the old, legendary Tiger Woods at this year’s Masters Tournament, the sports world should welcome him back and root for his success.
We should do so because of the example Tiger Woods sets. It is easy to label him as a cheating drug addict who took his platform for granted and doesn’t deserve a second chance. To some extent, this label is true, but it still doesn’t tell the full story. Before Tiger crashed his Cadillac Escalade in 2009, an event that seemed to be the beginning of his downfall, he was the world’s best golfer. His work ethic and passion for the game led him to win 14 major championships in 10 years, which is the second most won of all time. He carried the game of golf to a point where it was as popular as basketball, while also netting corporate sponsorship deals with big companies like The Gatorade Company, Gillette, TAG Heuer, and, of course, Nike, Inc. This was a man who took full advantage of his talent and was succeeding at the highest level. Off the course, Tiger and his father have used their platform to create the Tiger Woods Learning Center, an organization in Anaheim, Calif. to provide underprivileged youth a grade school education. The Center has multiple classrooms and media facilities to provide courses in science, technology and language arts. Since its opening in 2006, the Woods Learning Center has expanded to Washington D.C. and Philadelphia, even adding in golf courses to promote the sport to inner-city kids through the Tiger Woods Foundation.
Secondly and more importantly, the label of “cheating drug addict” doesn’t give Tiger any chance to bounce back – it simply brands him as an infamous American sports tragedy in the same category as O.J. Simpson and Jerry Sandusky. In reality, Tiger has bounced back. Today, he is a devoted father to his two children and is back playing the game he loves. Clearly, the turmoil of the past eight years has changed him, and he has come out on the other side a better person. Tiger’s example sends a message that can be taken to heart by many young people – even college students: That mistakes you make in your personal life don’t have to be your end-all be-all, that there is always room to self reflect, make changes and come out as a better person. If Tiger can do it under the microscope of the sports world, so can anyone else. This willingness to get his personal affairs in order, get back to his golf training, despite a multitude of lower back injuries, and play in the Masters is something that should be admired, not just pushed aside because of past transgressions.
Opposers of this point of view may argue that Tiger Woods is only coming back to save his image and protect his ego. In other words, that he is not sorry for his actions; he is sorry he got caught. I don’t think this is true. Tiger Woods has always ranked in the top five in terms of earnings by athletes. He could have easily retired for good, never shown his face again and lived off his millions in his Florida beach house. The sports media world would forget about him and go back to covering Lebron James and Lavar Ball, and I wouldn’t be writing this article because it would have no relevance. By choosing to come back, he is making the difficult choice. He is biting the bullet and fighting back to return to his old, legendary form. He is not only admitting everything he did wrong, he is striving to improve himself for his own sake, not anyone else’s.
Tiger Woods finished one-over par during this year’s Masters, an anticlimactic, relatively disappointing finish. But the fact that he got to this point, after eight years filled with infidelity, injuries, drugs and a tarnished reputation, is something we should respect him for. He’s not back to form, but he’s certainly here to stay.