In Nike's "Earl and Tiger" commercial, Earl Woods' voice told his son he wanted to know "what your thinking was...what your feelings are, and did you learn anything." In Newsweek today, Tiger tried to provide an answer to that essay prompt.
In the recording, Earl Woods' disembodied voice sounds like it's making a statement — a call to consider introspection and deep thinking — and not a question. There's no lilt. But Tiger seems to have heard the lilt and to have taken it as a College Board essay prompt. In Newsweek, he wrote a succinct 591 words about what he's learned since last year's incident, which of course then turned into a series of very bad revelations that effectively ended his marriage and ruined his public image. It may be the most honest expression we've heard from Tiger since news of his many infidelities broke last November.
True, there's a good chance that Tiger had nothing to do with this essay; that, like that awful "press conference" without questions last year, it's another mandate from his sponsors and drafted by his PR staff — but like his newly active Twitter account, it has his name on it, and it seems to contain some thoughtful personal examination, just like his father wanted.
Early in the piece, Woods references "that car accident" as well as "complex" pain and grief:
The physical pain from that car accident has long healed. But the pain in my soul is more complex and unsettling; it has been far more difficult to ease — and to understand.
He blames his sense of invincibility on golf, without articulating a sense of the correlation between golf and his fame:
Golf is a self-centered game, in ways good and bad. So much depends on one's own abilities. But for me, that self-reliance made me think I could tackle the world by myself. It made me think that if I was successful in golf, then I was invincible.
He talks about the joys of being a single parent, and redefining victory. Victory to Tiger 2.0 is mastering the art of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (butter first, Tiger!):
I'm learning that some victories can mean smiles, not trophies, and that life's most ordinary events can bring joy. Giving my son, Charlie, a bath, for example, beats chipping another bucket of balls. Making mac and cheese for him and his sister, Sam, is better than dining in any restaurant.
He acknowledges, indirectly, that he shouldn't have sent those text messages because text messages, even those without pictures attached, often get to the internet:
...there's no way I can dispute each lie without provoking more. Besides, everyone has probably heard more than they ever wanted to about my private life.
It's the essay's kicker that really shows that Tiger has learned a bit in the past year. "I'm not the same man I was a year ago," Tiger writes. "And that's a good thing."
See? He's learning. Ask any high school senior — thanks to Tiger, that "find room in your heart to one day believe in me again" line is so played out.
How I've Redefined Victory [Newsweek]