"When is Tiger playing again, Daddy?”
I’ve heard that at least 10 times from my 6-year-old daughter since Tiger Woods’ night of car-crashing infamy last November. Abby’s had a special relationship with Tiger since she was a toddler. They share a birthday (December 30). At age 2, she’d ask to watch The Golf Channel before going to bed. She drew Tiger a get-well card when he had season-ending knee surgery in 2008. She’s riveted to televised golf coverage whenever the four-time Masters champion plays, and she tries to stand just like him – left leg crossed behind the right calf, left toe touching the ground, and leaning on a club with her left hand while standing straight up – when waiting her turn at the driving range. She worships the guy.
Over the last five months, I’ve gotten adept at avoiding this subject. I mean, what am I going to say to my little girl? “Well, sweetheart, Tiger got caught texting one of his 14 mistresses, and a lot of people think his wife got so mad that she cracked him in the mouth with a 9-iron while he tried to drive away. Now he’s in sex rehab for a while.” Hmm … I think I’ll take “I’m not sure” for as long as I possibly can.
“Daddy – there’s Tiger on TV! Is his vacation over yet?”
Speaking of wives, mine has always been a big Tiger fan as well. She got progressively bummed out after hearing tale after tale of Tiger’s exploits, and basically ditched him as a fan. She’s gotten just a little softened up by his convincing interview performances over the last two months, but she still thinks he’s a lout, and her fist-pumping, Tiger-cheering days are over. We’ve been joking that the first sign of Abby knowing something is amiss will be when she asks, “Why isn’t Mommy rooting for Tiger?”
Some of you are surely asking the standard question, “Why does your daughter idolize a professional athlete when there are teachers and doctors and police officers out there more worthy of her respect?” We get that, and Abby does understand that there are non-celebrities worthy of her admiration. She and her mom drop off Christmas cookies at the local firehouse, and she thinks her kindergarten teacher is the greatest thing since TiVo.
But Tiger was a boy scout! When Abby decided she was going to be a fan, I wasn’t going to get in the way. The way I saw it, she could have made a number of worse choices, like I did at age 12 with former New York Giants linebacker/cocaine addict Lawrence Taylor.
“Daddy, there’s Tiger. Is he crying?”
I guess I technically don’t have to tell Abby anything. The truth isn’t an option at her age, and lying to her isn’t a good plan, either. What’s the worst that could happen if this messy subject doesn’t come up in our house anytime soon? She finds out when she gets older? Or she sees golf on a corner TV at a classmate’s birthday party, and casually mentions to a grandparent that “Tiger Woods is my favorite golfer in the whole wide world, and we have the same birthday, and I watch him play with my Mommy and Daddy all the time, and he has two kids named Sam and Charlie, and … why are you looking at me like that?” Ugh – I hate this.
As a sports fan, this is easy to deal with. Athletes do this kind of stuff all the time, and while Tiger always seemed to be a fairly grounded guy, his behavior isn’t all that shocking. Maybe I’ll cheer for him a little less than I did before, but for the most part, I know that he’s a typical flawed, arrogant rich guy who thinks he can do whatever he wants. We expect this now, don’t we?
As the parent of a 6-year-old, however, I’m still confused. I don’t want to create confusion for her by steering her away from Tiger, but do I really want her to remain emotionally invested in such a sketchy character? Can I just let this run its course, or do I need to jump in and do something?
When Tiger wins The Masters by five strokes – and he probably will – I’ll be as amazed as I’ve always been by his shotmaking prowess. If he continues to win as a polarizing figure instead of the universally loved assassin he was before all this happened, he’ll become a LOT more interesting. Sportswriters will argue about him on roundtable shows, husbands and wives will have dinner party dustups when the guys start praising him again, and the tabloids will keep coming out with sordid stories and photos and text messages.
And my daughter will still be in the living room cheering, oblivious to the firestorm that surrounds her hero. At least for a little while longer.
Tiger’s playing this week, honey. And I’m still not sure what else to say.