In my youth — which was some time ago — I suffered a major disappointment from Albert Einstein: I heard the mathematical genius play the violin and he wasn't very good. It had not occurred to me that mastering relativity had nothing to do with mastering Mozart. But I believed, as most Americans do, that a national icon must, ipso facto, be an icon in all things.
On that premise rests a great system of endorsements that has created of Tiger Woods a billion-dollar athlete. After revelations that his excellent performance did not extend to his extramarital relations, he is in some endorsement trouble now. Tag Heuer, the Swiss watchmaker, for one, is, as they say, reviewing its relationship with the much acclaimed but now much criticized golf star. Accenture has announced that Woods is "no longer the right representative" under the circumstances of recent weeks.
Woods is not the first idol to disappoint us by revealing feet of clay. There have been the Olympic champions exposed as having been on steroids. Apart from athletes there are the womanizing politicians. It is as though fame confers some entitlement to bend the rules. There are those like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. John Edwards, both of whom betrayed sick wives for other women. Not to mention Presidents Kennedy and Clinton, both of whom were revealed to have had extramarital relations.
The case of Tiger Woods is a cautionary tale. It is a caution against hero worship, which television, and now the Internet, have converted into a commodity for sale to the highest bidder. Woods may live down his disgrace. Maybe he will even make money endorsing products again. But is it not time that we hailed our masters for what they master and leave them off the pedestals?