More Ethics Lessons from Tiger and His Friends

The fact that a story is tabloid fodder doesn’t  mean  it can’t carry ethical wisdom along with its titillation content. As the number of alleged Woods mistresses continues to climb ( fifteen, the last I checked, but that was three hours ago), the Woods saga is casting light on more ethics issues than most. Such as…

  • An Exception to the “Fever Pitch” Principle?

In the romantic movie comedy “Fever Pitch,” a woman (Drew Barrymore) demands that the love of her life, played by Jimmy Fallon, give up his life-long obsession with the Boston Red Sox (the love of his life) to preserve their relationship. Just as he is about to sell the Fenway Park season tickets that have been in his family for decades, however, she stops him, having realized that a true love does not make a loved one give up something he cares about deeply.

It is widely believed, however, that Woods’ wife Elin has delivered Tiger an ultimatum: prove his devotion to her and the family by quitting golf, or get ready to write a big alimony check. Already, she has been criticized for insisting that Tiger “give up what makes him Tiger.” But this isn’t  exactly like “Fever Pitch.” Tiger’s infidelities have called into legitimate question whether he really does care about his family, and his wife is not unreasonable or unfair to insist on more than just an apology and a renegotiated pre-nup. True, Tiger now has to give up two things he loves—-golf, and voluptuous porn stars, escorts and lingerie models. Still, as in “Fever Pitch,” the operative message is “grow up, or hit the road.”

I strongly suspect  the ethics lesson that will ultimately come out of Elin’s demands is a different one: you can’t save a relationship of trust, like a marriage, with threats, coercion or extortion, all of which undermine trust themselves. Threats might keep the legal union intact, but not the relationship.

If it’s any consolation, I’m pretty sure Drew and Jimmy were doomed too.

  • What doesn’t excuse an adulterous affair?

24-year-old Jaimee Grubbs (Woods paramour #2 or #3, depending on who’s counting) took the early lead in the competition for “Most Ethical Mistress” by offering an unqualified apology for her involvement with Tiger. “I couldn’t describe how remorseful I am to have hurt her family and her emotionally,” she said.

Meanwhile, another Tiger Girl, Vegas cocktail waitress and lingerie model Jamie Jungers, announced that she saw no reason to apologize to Elin, and in the process provided an encyclopedic list of rationalizations, lame excuses and clichés for future mistresses to memorize and vow never to utter, because they are completely invalid. Here is her entire statement as she told “Us Magazine” that she didn’t owe anyone, including Tiger’s wife, any apologies for her liaisons withthe golf star. Her rambling staement is broken down by section, with my comments:

“I feel like that’s his– that’s his business. Comment: His “business” was cheating on his wife, and you were his business partner. That makes it your business too, kid. Take responsibility for your actions.

Everybody makes mistakes. Comment: Tiger’s multiple affairs were quite intentional and with full knowledge of what he was doing. Calling habitual infidelity and dishonesty “mistakes” is itself dishonest. If she means her mistake of sleeping with a married man: okay, people make mistakes, and are obligated to apologize for mistakes that harm other people. What’s her point?

This wasn’t something that I did yesterday or a month ago or a year ago. This was years ago. I was younger. Comment: We are still accountable for our misconduct, whenever it occurs. Based on Jungers’ statement, it doesn’t sound like she has changed very much, either.

And I’m not saying that what I did then was right. But– I’m certainly not gonna say that it was wrong. Comment: Huh? This raises the rebuttable presumption that she doesn’t know the difference.

I believe everything happens for a reason. Comment: Sure—God wanted her to sleep with Tiger Woods. I’m sure it was part of some grand cosmic plan. This is using religious faith as a cynical excuse for bad conduct—about as low as one can go. Furthermore, even if we accept the dubious proposition that the affair “happened for a reason,”—other than the reason that Tiger Woods has the integrity and self-control of a gerbil—that doesn’t have any bearing at all on whether Jungers owes Elin an apology. Her reasoning suggests that apologizing for anything (since “everything” happens for a reason) is unnecessary.  Interesting theory! But sooo stupid…and unethical.

And– no, I– I don’t– I don’t believe that I owe her apology– an apology. I mean, I– I’m sorry for everything that’s going down. And what may happen to … their kids’ future, you know? But no, I don’t– I don’t believe I owe her an apology. No.”

Comment: Wow.

  • The Worst Defense Ever.

Sports columnists have really disgraced  themselves making excuses for Woods, but Doug Brown, a former pro football player who writes for the Winnipeg Free Press, was up to the challenge of topping them all. Here was his wisdom on the matter:

“We don’t know what it’s like to be Tiger Woods and we can’t judge him because we don’t know how we would behave in a similar environment.”

This is about as ethically obtuse as one can get.

I do not have to know if I could resist the siren song of Victoria’s Secret models throwing themselves at me, while I had billions to spend on the road and my wife and children were at home trusting me to fulfill my ethical obligations and duties to my family, to know that what Tiger Woods did was wrong, because I also know that if I did the same thing, it would also be wrong. Indeed, judging Woods’ conduct is a crucial part of setting standards for my own conduct.

Brown is talking unethical nonsense. A coward is capable of recognizing and saluting heroism. A murderer can still accurately state that for another person to kill is wrong. Where did the idea come from that only saints and perfect human beings (that is, nobody) can make fair assessments of the bad conduct of others? Brown gives us a hint at the start of his first sentence: “Before we cast the next volley of stones at Tiger Woods…” Ah yes, the Bible story of the adulteress, the favorite tale of miscreants everywhere. The story, however, isn’t about judging others, but about the folly of killing them rather than offering them redemption and forgiveness, especially since you might need forgiveness some day too. The story doesn’t mean, and has never meant, that we shouldn’t make judgments about what is right and wrong, even if it involves setting standards that we might have a hard time meeting ourselves. I don’t recall anyone advocating that Tiger ought to be stoned to death.

What Brown is really saying in his fatuous column is this, I believe: I, Doug Brown, would do exactly what Tiger Woods did if I had the opportunities he did, and I don’t want you judging me.

Well, too bad, Doug. What Tiger Woods did was dishonest, irresponsible, disloyal and self-centered, and if you think such conduct is ever excusable, then you are untrustworthy and unethical—just like him.

One thought on “More Ethics Lessons from Tiger and His Friends

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