So, Tiger Woods is back, bigger than ever, to play at the Masters tournament next month.
You can almost hear the gasps of excitement across the country. Will Tiger win the customary green jacket at Augusta National and at last shut up his nettlesome critics?
Will he miss the cut, on the other hand? Does he still have enough competitive fire to thwart the other professionals who are anxious to put him in his place?
What's lost here is actually something more profound than the world's greatest golfer trying to mount an epochal comeback on the links. What really matters here is that Woods has become an unwitting symbol of the tragedy of how someone can become a symbol.
Woods has permitted Madison Avenue and his corporate sponsors to let him forfeit his sense of humanity and focus only on pursuing money and fame. This is what happens when a celebrity believes in his or her media hype and loses all perspective.
Woods allowed himself to pursue the status of topping Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Woods' athletic peers in terms of getting the biggest and the most endorsements.
Woods was so hung up promoting beverages, workout clothes, and everything else under the sun that he overlooked what happens when people view you as the symbol of what you have achieved. Woods needed a reality check — and, unfortunately, it came in the most humiliating fashion: a public scandal.
It turned out that Woods couldn't do whatever he wanted, that he was not bulletproof and that he had to face certain responsibilities. This sort of thing has become more commonplace in America, as the media become ever-more powerful and conspicuous in our lives.
It also afflicts politicians — just ask John Edwards.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column. Click here for his latest column.
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