Tiger Feeding Frenzy Reminds Me Of Nixon Quote
As I watched the panoply of media descending on the Tiger Woods story like a Saharan dust storm I was immediately reminded of a quote in which Richard Nixon standing before a picture of John F. Kennedy lamented, “when people look at you they see what they want to be . . . when they look at me they see what they are.”
I am not certain if this totally explains the duality of our seemingly insatiable appetite for stories of both herculean success and tawdry failure, but it does seem to reflect why we cheer for the underdog and applaud the decline of the mighty.
Having occupied the upper echelons of our societal scale between adulation and contempt, Woods has never been exposed to the downside of our imposed JFK-type expectations. It is in this shaded area of human fallibility where our “disappointment” and chagrin of being let down by yet another icon intermingles with our almost life-affirming satisfaction that Tiger is just one of us. What’s the old saying about trying to save a drowning man?
From an icon’s perspective, playing to the ephemeral shifting sands of public sentiment as we discovered in a two-part segment on leadership on the PI Window on Business this past June, is tantamount to trying to hit the proverbial moving target. In other words it is a no win scenario. This leads to an important question, does success and the corresponding access it provides entitle the public to judge the conduct of those we have deemed worthy of our praise by a different standard of measure? Of even greater interest is whether said standard of measurement is in reality based on a deeply rooted jealousy that simmers beneath the surface of our character in the form of why them and not me?
Think about it for a moment in the quiet and safe confines of our everyday lives. Something that isn’t available to Tiger Woods at the moment.
Isn’t there even just a slight possibility that we expect more of our self-appointed “icons” because we somehow feel that they have been given special gifts that we ourselves have been denied? In a way a sort of “punishment” that places an unrealistic, bigger-than-life burden upon them because they may excel in an area in which their rewards in a kind of twisted irony, are ultimately ones that we choose to bestow upon them? After all, if Woods’ “personal brand” was the same as Bob the baker or Harry the shoemaker, the competition prize money and endorsements that have made him a millionaire many times over would not be an issue.
In line with the scriptures “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” I do not believe that Woods should be held to a higher standard than the rest of us. In short, we the public are wrong to impose a different set of rules on anyone regardless of accomplishment or wealth.
Where Woods, as well as most people who live in celebrity’s bright light fall is when they align their self-image with the false standards of our artificial scale. This of course is the area in which the arrogance to which the media has been referring exists and with it the absence of belief in one’s own fallibility and vulnerability. In other words, Woods has bought into his own press clippings that has somehow obfuscated the fact that to both the public and himself, he is human. No more and no less.
So the question still remains, who is responsible and what is the next step?
Simply put, both the public and Woods are responsible for the skewed lens through which both we and he viewed his life.
We are responsible for creating a separate (and not necessarily even-handed) standard by which we have held him accountable. He is responsible for taking the bait of believing in his own omnipotence.
As for the next step, all parties should retire to their respective corners and take a good long look in the mirror and realize that our personal brands are mere flesh and bone in which perfection is an elusive mirage of unrealistic expectation. Perhaps then we will find the necessary equilibrium to applaud success without adoring it.