Bunkers and Boundaries

I didn’t want it to be true. 

I thought Tiger Woods was one of the good guys. After all, he worked hard at polishing his image in order to convince the world he was one of the good guys. And that polished image earned him over $100 million last year.

Woods might still be a good guy. When the media began publishing stories from women who were being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for copies of their text messages and voice mails, though, I knew that the rumors about his infidelities were likely to be true. 

But finding out the truth behind the rumors fails to answer one more important question: Is it any of my business?

A quick browse through the comboxes of online articles related to Tiger Woods’ “transgressions” is a revealing study of the conflicted soul of the American people with regard to celebrity sin and scandal. Most people with opinions on the matter fall into three categories:

The Jaded

These are the folks who assure us that “everybody does it” and today’s media heyday will soon be a forgettable blip on the enormous radar screen of Woods’ career. He will soothe his wife’s wounded ego with a colossal diamond ring, rearrange their pre-nuptial agreement in her favor by several million dollars, and by next week, we all will have moved on to fresher tales of celebrity indiscretion.

While it’s true that even the most scandalous stories are short-lived in today’s fast-paced media, does that mean we should shrug off the sin of adultery? Even if it were true that “everybody does it,” would that make infidelity any less scandalous and destructive a sin against the family?

The Respectful

The respectful commenters are thoughtful types who point out that we all make mistakes and that every human being has a right to some measure of privacy. The level of scrutiny modern-day celebrities endure is inhuman, they argue. Woods failed to live up to his commitment to his wife — not to us. This is a private matter; we need to back off and leave Tiger to sort out his personal life on his own.

Truthfully, I am not worried about Woods. I’ll let God, his wife, and his lawyers take care of him. But I am worried about his children, who are the silent, unmentioned victims of this scandal. And I am worried about other children — including my own — who look up to him.
I rushed to change the channel last night when my boys turned on their beloved ESPNews, because I don’t want to have to explain what “sexting” is. This is what Tiger Woods has brought to my living room. 
Someone who embraces hero status in the eyes of young children and causes public scandal does in fact owe us something. He owes us an apology and some form of explanation that what he did was wrong. I’m not sure Woods’ half-hearted, cryptic internet “apology,” sandwiched between tirades against the media, quite did the job.

The Unsympathetic

Finally, there are those who argue that what celebrities gain in dollars and renown is their “pay” for giving up any claim to a private life. Woods sold his right to privacy to the highest bidder, they tell us. He has been paid, and it’s silly for him to complain about the deal he made now.

I am not convinced that this is the deal most celebrities make. In fact, in Woods’ case, fame followed his pursuit of golf. Would any of us argue that Woods should have more carefully considered the price of fame before aiming to excel at a sport in which he is exceptionally gifted?

Even if some celebrities are willing to sell their right to privacy in return for fame and fortune, their “deal” does not negate the human right to privacy and our obligation to respect it.

What’s more, I think we all should more carefully consider the “deals” we make when we consume modern media — on our televisions, our phones, and our computer screens. 
While I still am not sure just how much of the Tiger Woods story is my business, I do know that the media has done its best to make every bit of it my business — by putting it in my face around every corner. And I have allowed them to. 
The media has made all forms of salacious scandal their business, too. It is a profitable one for them, but one that costs the rest of us more than we might think. If a man as wealthy and connected as Tiger Woods cannot buy himself any kind of privacy, I think it is safe to say that there is none to be had.


Danielle Bean, a mother of eight, is Editorial Director of Faith & Family. She is also author of My Cup of Tea: Musings of a Catholic Mom (Pauline 2005) and Mom to Mom, Day to Day: Advice and Support for Catholic Living (Pauline 2007). Her blog is a source of inspiration, encouragement, and support for Catholic women of all ages and life stages.

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