The absurdity of athlete worship

I say this not to defend Woods, but merely to point out the absurdity of expecting our star athletes to behave like heroes. The dictionary tells us that a hero is "a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal: He was a local hero when he saved the drowning child." What about hitting a golf ball suggests noble courage? Woods is not a hero. He is a product of pop culture mythology that has become incredibly adept at manufacturing fame.

We live in an era where our star athletes — and our celebrities in general — are treated as our cultural elite. We yearn for a connection to them. It is the height of absurdity that so many people actually feel let down by Tiger's infidelities, just as it always struck me as bizarre when public hoards gather outside their homes of recently deceased celebrities, sobbing uncontrollably (think Michael Jackson or Princess Diana). Somehow, we have come to value our celebrities so much that we feel an actual sense of personal connection to them — even when we've never met them.

The danger is that we have come to admire celebrities more than real heroes. To be sure, Woods has done a disservice to his family — but only to his family. He does not owe us anything. The real issue is not, as so many people seem to be wondering, whether Tiger Woods can once again be a great role model. It is how our society has so conflated celebrity with greatness that we came to view him as a role model to begin with.


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