Tiger Woods – Truly An “American Hero”? Investigating The Evidence
by Brian Willett
If everything was right in the world, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem’s life would feel a lot like a Kit-Kat commercial right about now. Why? Because after his comments in response to Tiger Woods’ press conference Friday, everyone should have just one request for Finchem – give me a break.
Finchem noted that while there was a tiny amount of anger over Woods’ scandalous behavior, America is basically just sad to see “an American hero” fall. An American hero? Give me a break. I know Finchem is the PGA Tour Commissioner, but surely even he realizes that Woods is simply ridiculously good at golf, but not someone who should be earning Congressional medals and a day of remembrance. Or perhaps not. While many Americans are occasionally enthusiastic about parading out yellow ribbons and honoring true heroes such as soldiers, it seems that a lot of people have lost their perspective completely.
But maybe considering modern America’s twisted values system, Woods IS an American hero. After all, the country is clearly obsessed with celebrity, material possessions, bad music, and a ton of other things that aren’t worthy of the worship they receive. Given this atmosphere, a professional athlete that also happens to be a womanizer might just be an American hero. Could it be? Let’s let the evidence be the decider (sorry W).
Exhibit A: Athletic Prowess
There’s no question that Tiger Woods is a dominant athlete. Woods has won 14 professional major golf championships and 71 total PGA Tour events. While evidence suggests the golfer’s career is far from over, Woods already holds a number of the sport’s records. Woods has been awarded the PGA Player of the Year award 10 times – more than any other player in history, and has more career major wins than any other active golfer. In other words, this guy is good. But is that enough to be a hero? In America – sure thing. In this country, championship teams earn the right to close down cities and have parades, and athletes that break the law often get off with little more than a slap on the wrist. That’s not all, though. Athletes are also paid obscene salaries, far more than those performing other vital tasks in society – teachers, doctors, police officers and firefighters, for example. America runs on entertainment, and athletes provide a lot of it. So yes, being an elite athlete does suggest that Woods is an American hero.
Exhibit B: Wealth
In America, money is the master. Why else would corrupt executives bankrupt their companies and ruin the lives of their employees just to line their own pockets? In this country, if you have money, you just matter more than the average person. Money is the key to publicity – just ask Paris Hilton. It also offers opportunities to make more money; Donald Trump’s wealth is the only reason he was made the star of The Apprentice, through which he could pad his bank account and ego in front of millions of viewers. If Trump didn’t have money, it’s unlikely anyone would want to put up with his obnoxious attitude and bad hair. But does Woods’ wealth qualify him as a hero in this respect? The answer is yes, without hesitation. In 2008, Woods was the highest-paid professional athlete, taking home around $110 million from endorsements and winnings. Woods has also led the PGA money list during nine season, which is a record. By virtue of his wealth, and America’s obsession with money and the people who have it, Woods can be classified as an American hero.
Exhibit C: Marketing Man
America’s love affair with money often spills over into another category – materialism. While being rich is good, having lots of stuff is better. Americans are undoubtedly obsessed with name brands and shiny new possessions. Even Americans that aren’t wealthy gladly parade around in clothing that proudly displays the name brand on the front, almost to the point that it seems Americans just want to be walking advertisements. In this category, Woods is once again way ahead of the game. The golfer’s endorsements almost keep him as busy as golf – Woods has had endorsement deals with countless companies: General Mills, Nike, General Motors, Titleist, American Express, Gillette, Accenture, TAG Heuer, Gatorade and Electronic Arts, to name a few. In fact, Woods is so marketable that he’s essentially a brand unto himself – in December, Advertising Age even named Tiger Woods the “Buzziest Billion-Dollar Brand of the Week” (1). So if America is obsessed with material goods, and Tiger Woods has managed to blur the border between product and person, then by this country’s standards, Woods is an American hero here as well.
Exhibit D: Driving an SUV
If there’s one thing Americans love, it’s a status symbol. And in recent years, Americans have found a truly American symbol of status – the SUV. SUVs instantly announce that one is a VIP because the vehicles are massive, loud, expensive and driven by celebrities. Even better, SUVs are expensive – which indicates that the owner is probably rich – and guzzle gas like nobody’s business – which indicates that the owner is too awesome to care about climate change, environmental damage, or the fact that he or she is pouring money into the hands of terrorists with every trip to the gas station. But Tiger Woods doesn’t just drive an SUV, he endorses one, for Buick. That means that the car maker finds Tiger so aligned with the SUV culture of being extravagant and uncaring that he’s worthy of becoming a symbol of the vehicle. So for being a human representation of America’s favorite vehicle and being embraced by SUV culture, Tiger qualifies as an American hero.
Exhibit E: Being Involved with Buick
No, you didn’t read that incorrectly. While Buick doesn’t have as much cachet as say, well, pretty much any other brand of vehicles, this car manufacturer has an interesting connection to American heroism. Allow me to explain. If you’re a typical American who hasn’t had a lobotomy recently, you probably associate Buicks with one thing – oldwhite guys. And that’s precisely my point. Old white guys are annoying, yet ubiquitous in America. Old white guys can basically do whatever they want in public, and everyone just accepts it because they’re part of the biggest old-boy club in America – the old white guys club. Country clubs and corporate boardrooms are crawling with old white guys. The majority of American politicians are old white guys. In a sense, old white guys are America. And while Woods clearly is not an old white guy, having an intimate relationship with Buick – official car of the old white guy – is the next best thing. And rest assured, most of those old white guys running the show behind the scenes think of themselves as heroes. So thanks to his old white guy-ness, Woods is an American hero in this regard as well.
Exhibit F: Being a Womanizer
Yes, Woods is being criticized for his infidelity. But if you look at the rest of American culture, you’ll find that being a womanizer is often looked at in a favorable light. Don’t believe me? Listen to pretty much any rap song released within the last decade, and you’ll find that the million-dollar hit features someone bragging about what a pimp he is. TV shows such as The Bachelor also adopt a similar position toward the one man, many women standard being acceptable. And then consider the fact that Hugh Hefner is one of America’s richest men, all because he parades around with young, scantily-clad models and brought pornography to the average American male. Clearly, America has issues respecting women – and so does Tiger Woods. Yet another match.
Though there are doubtlessly many more reasons why Woods is an icon in the eyes of the perspective-impaired American public, the aforementioned reasons provide a convincing enough case to back up PGA Tour Commissioner Finchem’s claim. While on the surface Woods appears to just be a mild-mannered, elite golfer, his unique set of attributes make him a hero in America’s eyes. Considering all of this convincing evidence, I guess I stand corrected. Maybe it’s time I schedule a press conference – I owe America an apology for doubting in one of its heroes.