Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Redemption of Tiger Woods

I'm a little late to the party, but certainly not shy about jumping on a bandwagon!


When Tiger Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the end of March, he reclaimed the #1 world golf ranking from Rory McIlroy. Woods last held the #1 ranking in October 2010 and fell as low as 58 in the world in November 2011. But in the last year Tiger has won a whopping six tournaments including three so far in 2013.

Tiger's form on the golf course has been awesome. But Nike found a way to bring controversy to Tiger's success. Shortly after he achieved his most recent victory Nike rolled out the following advertisement.


To be fair, it's important to first understand the back story. According to this article, "Winning takes care of everything." is something Tiger has used "at least since 2009 - whenever reporters ask him about his or other golfers' rankings." So basically, he's only referring to his ranking and his golf reputation. It's not possible to fault him on that front. Winning is certainly how you get to be the number one golfer in the world.

However, Nike is surely guilty of a double entendre with this ad. I imagine that only a small portion of the public recognises the original context of this quote. The vast majority of people seeing this advertisement will focus on the word "everything".

I suspect that close to 100% of sports fans know the reason for Tiger's fall from the top ranking in 2010. In 2009 Tiger's marriage dissolved after his serial affairs became public. Tiger took a break from golf as he dealt with these personal issues. This even included checking into a clinic to address a sex addiction.

After this dramatic fall from grace it has taken 3+ years for Tiger to climb back to the top of the golf heap. While anyone can admire his focus, discipline, talent and determination on the golf course, it's not easy to admire him as a person. The selfishness of his actions destroyed his marriage and irrevocably changed his relationship with his children. His immorality was not victimless.

So when Nike takes a statement made within a specific context and promotes it to the world, "Winning takes care of EVERYTHING" the superlative instantly brings to mind EVERYTHING, not just golf.

Of course, winning doesn't take care of everything. It doesn't restore trust in a marriage. It doesn't make Tiger more present in the life of his children. It doesn't make him more admirable as a person. Most importantly, from a Christian perspective, winning doesn't remove the sin from his life. Being the greatest golfer in the world at any given moment does not count at all toward gaining redemption in God's eyes.

The only "holes in one" that have eternal consequences are the holes hammered into Christ's flesh. My sin, your sin, and Tiger's sin were placed on Jesus.  Colossians 1:13-14 expresses it this way,
"For he [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
Our redemption can only come from accepting God's forgiveness through Christ. Our best efforts in golf or life will never result in full redemption. Tiger may reclaim the ranking, the headlines and even respect from some people, but none of it will be true redemption without Jesus.

Although most Christians will verbally acknowledge our dependence upon Jesus, many of us still seek redemption through our own efforts. Perhaps it's working on turning our lives around. Maybe we try to patch past relationships. Sometimes we think that if we pile enough guilt on ourselves God will respond to our remorse. Yet all of these involve something other than depending upon God's grace.

More Reading:
Here's another preacher's blog on the topic, that presents a slightly different perspective.
Here's another reflection by a sports writer that focuses on Nike's role. [some strong language]

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