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DIANE PHILLIPS: Why we love to see the Tiger roar again

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Diane Phillips

By Diane Phillips

I first noticed this strange phenomenon when working at the National Enquirer and its sister paper, the now-defunct Weekly World News. We humans are like passengers. When a new celebrity or sports hero appears on the scene we climb onboard, celebrating their talent, commenting as if we were experts on their particular skills. We watch them perform, applaud for them.

But if their rise is too meteoric, we sense injustice and wait for the crash and when the predicted train wreck happens – and it almost always does – we jump off that train of support so fast we hardly leave a trace of our love behind.

Oh, what a shame, but you could see it coming, we tell ourselves and our cocktail party acquaintances, establishing our keen ability to have seen the crack in their armor before the rest of the adoring world noticed. Maybe their nose was too red from snorting or they twisted their mouth in a funny way. Maybe they missed that hoop shot from afar or the high note they always got before. Maybe they were just cocky and thought they could get away with cheating on a spouse and their cockiness led to carelessness and suddenly their spouse is the one we are sympathising with.

Our hero of yesterday is exposed to the whole world and we say, “See, could have told you so, was just a matter of time.”

We are so disgustingly smug. But why?

I spent an inordinate amount of time over the years – a few minutes here, a few minutes there – wondering why we ride the rise and fall and rise again of someone we have never met with such intimate connection. We take their journey personally. More to the point, why do we feel the range of emotions we do when a star skyrockets to the highest highs, descends into the depths of hell and, struggling, soul bared to the world, pulls himself up again and becomes the hero we first admired?

Through all the minutes that I have given to the quest for this tiny bit of understanding the strange human phenomenon of following the rise-fall-re-birth of an icon, here is what I have concluded.

We admire talent. We want to see it rewarded but when the reward is too fast, too great, we resent it. Sure, we know that sports and entertainment stars command insane salaries and perks. We accept that and try to justify it to some extent but it is where we begin to separate from the humble talent we first “discovered” when their salary probably more closely aligned with our own.

Our connection is greater in the beginning because a) they are not famous, b) they are more like us, and c) we feel like we helped discover them, our applause helped pave the road to their success. We were in on it early. If they keep performing well like a Kobe Bryant or Eli Manning or Shania Twain, we remain fans for life even though they become less like us.

Nothing is likely to shake our confidence in them because they are not just stars, they are steadfast humans. We continue to have that in common with them. Like us, they are working hard for their money. They are like us, just more talented, so we side with them, we, the passenger, stay on their train and go along for the ride.

But when they have all that fame and fortune, which we are happy to give them, and they blow it like a Michael Phelps or Tiger Woods, we jump off that train shaking our heads. “How could they?” we ask. They had it all. They had everything anyone could ever ask for. They were at the top of their game. They had fans who all but worshipped them and they threw it all away for a little oxycodone like Heath Ledger or weed and alcohol like Phelps. How could he want more when he had eight Olympic gold medals, we ask? Or the man who is probably the greatest golfer of all time, a man whose smile and clean-cut good looks looked back at you from hundreds of magazine covers and newspaper front pages, how could he have wanted more than he had and risked everything for a fling or more?

Our resentment coincides with disbelief. Our feelings are like those of a woman scorned. We trusted them and they betrayed us. We are no longer fans.

It is never about them. It is about how we feel about them relative to us. At every stage, it is how we identify with them and when they blow it and throw it all away, we think if we had what they had, we would never have done what they did. We disgorge them like yesterday’s soggy cereal. Done, done and done.

Then, we let them pay the price and relish when they pay it in public. This endorsement cancelled, that series suspended, a contract not renewed.

Yet, in the end, we are a forgiving people and once that celebrity has paid what we consider enough of a price and we believe they learned a lesson and will be good stars, icons and golfers going forward, we will ride their train. We will be the passenger who goes along for the journey again. Our faith is restored, our trust a bit shaky but for the most part, we are back in their corner because they are right back with us, starting from the beginning, more like us as they were when we first met them.

Success that follows failure is the sweetest success of all. That’s why when Tiger Woods won the PGA Tour Golf Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta last Sunday, breaking a five-year winless streak, fans went wild. They screamed and shouted and swarmed him on the course as he strode the greens following his last shot, arms outstretched making a perfect Y of his body.

In homes, golf clubs and restaurants around the world, those hoping for a comeback jumped up and down, bellowing The Tiger Roars Again. One sweet success wiped away years of headlines about his mental and physical condition. The Tiger was back and that was all that mattered. In my house too.

Comments

bobneville 3 years, 10 months ago

you are right, it has been said that over 4 billion people left the planet when that last ball sank.(that is. jumped up off the ground)the tiger is back ,hail to the king.in a interview god explained to the reporter the reason he cannot come back to earth ,was because he had knocked up a jewish girl ,and had to run out off town fast,cause they were still looking for him.ask to explain tiger woods,he said he did nothing, the boy is just good.but like his good friend david ,have trouble with women.thats when the trouble starts.

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