Sunday, December 13, 2009

Why Did Tiger Stray?

The announcement by Tiger Woods that he is taking an indefinite leave from golf is the latest chapter of a story about a man so universally admired before he crashed and burned among the accusations and now his admitting of having affairs with perhaps many other women. But the question remains: How could this have happened? This was a man who truly had it all — a fabulous career, incredible wealth, a beautiful wife and two beautiful children.

Before going further, I need to stress that this is not an attempt to justify Tiger’s behavior but is instead to try and explain why it may have happened. Granted, we do not know about the nature of the relationship with his wife, Elin since Tiger has so zealously protected their privacy. But Tiger does have a lot in common with other rich and powerful people who have been part of sexual scandals. And that gives us some clues.

So how did Tiger get to the pinnacle of the golf world? Of course talent has a lot to do with it but that by itself is not enough. To reach the pinnacle of any field whether it’s golf, or politics, or any other endeavor requires an incredible amount of drive and ego. People like this are certainly not like you and me. These people have an insatiable appetite for success and new conquests.

For Tiger, it was not just about becoming a pro golfer. It was about becoming the greatest golfer of all time. Unlike even most other PGA Tour golfers, it wasn’t about trying to win a major tournament or two sometime during their careers. It was about surpassing the all-time majors record of Jack Nicklaus. And despite all of his wins, his hunger for victory remains undiminished. Despite his wealth which may now be close to a billion dollars, he is still a money generating machine with not only his golf winnings and overseas appearance fees but also through his many lucrative endorsements. So when is it all enough? For many such people, there is no such thing as enough.

Presumably, Tiger when he was one of the world’s most eligible bachelors did just fine on the dating scene. But for many of us, that is not enough so we seek something more lasting in the form of a permanent partner and perhaps some children which is what Tiger chose when he married Elin. And for most of us, that is enough. Yes we have to choose one partner but we get something in return in the form of a loving and stabile relationship.

But for those who have this almost superhuman drive, is settling for one partner always enough? Why not try to have what they see as the best of both worlds which is to have the stability of a wife and children and also prowl for women on the side? Here for most of us, common sense gets the better of our egos. Important moral issues aside, for most of us, we know that if we cheat we will likely get caught sooner or later and suffer the consequences.

Surely the famous should know that they are far more likely to get caught getting into trouble in this age when a famous face can now be caught even on a cell phone camera. This is what happened to Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps when he inhaled from a marijuana bong at a party. And then there is the inevitable trail of E-mails, cell phone records along with text and voice messages to satisfy the hunger of the 24/7 news operations and gossip tabloids.

Making it even worse is that a wealthy public figure who engages in sexual escapades is especially vulnerable to blackmail or extortion threats as David Letterman found out. Anybody with a normal ego would know their limitations. But for those with such powerful egos, they can somehow assure themselves that even though most others sooner or later get caught, it won’t happen to them.

But no matter how much a man like Tiger wishes to stray, he can’t do it without willing accomplices. While there is understandable outrage at Tiger’s behavior, there appears to be considerably less outrage at the endless parade of women who are proudly boasting to the world about their alleged affairs with a man they most certainly knew was married.

Interestingly enough, instead of a married man being a turn-off for many women, a NYT blog by John Tierney,
Do Single Women Seek Attached Men? offers evidence to the contrary.

Now there’s experimental evidence that single women are particularly drawn to other people’s partners, according to a report in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology by two social psychologists, Melissa Burkley and Jessica Parker of Oklahoma State University.

Noting that single women often complain that “all the good men are taken,” the psychologists wondered if “this perception is really based on the fact that taken men are perceived as good.”
But more to the point…

To the men in the experiment, and to the women who were already in relationships, it didn’t make a significant difference whether their match was single or attached. But single women showed a distinct preference for mate poaching. When the man was described as unattached, 59 percent of the single women were interested in pursuing him. When that same man was described as being in a committed relationship, 90 percent were interested.

Again, this is not meant to justify Tiger’s behavior. But if true, this all goes a long way towards explaining how it could happen.

So now that Tiger has been caught, he now knows that he has to make a choice between philandering and keeping his marriage intact (assuming Elin doesn’t leave him). While leaving golf for a while to sort out their relationship may well be the best thing for them, Tiger’s insatiable drive to be the best golfer ever will never go away. Hopefully, Elin realizes this and won’t make it a choice between her and golf for too long.

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