This is a column in defence of excellence, sporting or otherwise and not in defence of the man who excels in a particular field.
Tiger Woods has skills that are very rare on a sporting field. Very few have achieved the kind of perfection he has on the golf course.
He is one of the genuine sporting greats to have walked this earth, comparable to a Maradona, a Magic Johnson a Federer or a Warne. It is their mastery over their sport which has made them iconic figures.
But does exceptional skill in a particular field make them immune to human frailties, where they are no longer capable of “sinning”?
The answer would have to be yes, if we go by the way the advertising world builds a sportsman to be a paragon of virtues, a role model whose “moral” fibre is so strong that he will never fall prey to temptation. It has to be yes when even the fans of these “idols” equate them with gods who can do no wrong.
Unfortunately, real life is far more unpredictable and some of the most outstanding achievers have had private lives which don’t make healthy reading. Woods is not the first and neither will he be the last whose outrageous dalliances have shaken the world.
When the world suddenly realises that a Maradona, a Johnson, a Warne or a Becker or many more greats like them have lived lives where women, cheating, betrayal are common occurrence, it somehow dismays their fans. But does it diminish their skills or our evaluation of what they have achieved on the sporting field?
Human existence is strewn with temptations and if the private lives of the majority are scanned, it will become impossible to find a person who has at some stage of his life not broken societal rules and not indulged in an “immoral act”. And when it comes to these young achievers, who become poster boys, the temptations are bound to multiply.
This is not to say that they should combine the role of a hunter with the hunted and care two hoots about their status as “role models”. Like everyone else, they should be responsible for their acts of misdemeanour and in the case of Woods, he will have to pay the price. But should that be at the cost of his ability on the sports field?
We in India always find it baffling that a society which we believe is amorous, has no compunctions when it comes to sexual relationships and where divorce is a norm rather than an exception, should be outraged at what Woods has done. Since is may be impossible to get into the skin of another society, let us leave it at that.
Given the “civilised” world we have created, no society will condone what Woods may have done but does that in any way make him a lesser sportsman? It should not deter us from marvelling at his having created a new idiom for his sport.