With a black father and an Asian mother, Tiger Woods was at a disadvantage in the assimilation process because he did not fit into either of the established ethnic groups. However, he did not remain a victim of the situation. Tiger pursued a career as a professional golfer in an environment that “once lay under a snowdrift of white men that seemed beyond melting” (Crouch 450). In other words before Tiger’s rise, golf was a sport for white men. Since his professional career, he has successfully attracted thousands of new fans and multiplied the money invested in the game (Gittings). Tiger Woods revolutionized a traditional white leisure activity (Crouch 450). His career has continued to flourish with notorious achievements in this decade alone (Tigerwoods.com). With this success, Tiger proved he was bigger than the racial confines that underlie American culture by perfecting a skill that would allow him to surpass all boundaries. Tiger’s ethos revolved around becoming the face of golf without the skin color to match the rest of his image. After Tiger’s double life was scandalously exposed, Tiger was able to adopt an ethos which embraces his native culture.
In order to succeed in golf Tiger adopted the persona of an American family man. He attended tournaments with a clean cut appearance and maintained an identity of good sportsmanship throughout the competition. This identity stretched beyond his career into his private life with his efforts to protect his family’s privacy (CNN). He understood that being a celebrity entailed extra hassles from the media and greater public, but he did what he could to deal with these issues himself instead of leaving his family prey to their invading curiosity. Companies such as EA Games, Golf Digest, and Nike Golf began to notice his amiable image and sought to intertwine his reputation alongside their company’s (Tigerwoods.com). An image of this is evident in the photo of Tiger’s smile fashioned into a Nike swoosh.
Image credit: screenshot from WalterGolf
The captions also convey the extent of Tiger’s success. They attempt to reason why Tiger participated in the Buick Open. Each option is a respectable rationale for participating; there are not any options that suggest a negative persona. Tiger’s admirable body image also falls into favor with the public opinion. The proof of his rigorous athletic practices are the physical appeal that it has produced.
Image Credit: Screenshot from The Washington Post
Tiger continued to develop his ethos with the creation of Tiger Woods Foundation to help “young people achieve their dreams through education (CNN). Not only had Tiger assimilated successfully into the American culture, but he had risen to a level so high that American enterprises and the American youth wished to be associated with him. Assimilation into a foreign culture occurs when an individual becomes a part of the “different groups that make up the nation need and attract and influence each other” (Crouch 447). They partake in the “great intermingling of cultural influences that comprises the American condition: the fresh ideas brought forward in our folklore, our entertainment, our humor, our athletic contests, our workplaces, and even our celebrity trials and political scandals” (Crouch 446). This process begins by finding a niche within the American way of life where the individual can contribute ideas from their native lifestyle to the great shuffle of American culture. For example, Mexican, Asian, Irish, Italian and Eastern European ethnic groups have contributed to the cowboy culture, cuisine, dance, music, slang, Broadway shows, films, popular music, and spiritual practices (Crouch 447). When he began his golf career, Tiger developed an ethos which conformed to the acceptable social behavior of the environment. This was good in that Tiger was able to contribute to the world of golf, but overall it was bad because he did it at the expense of his native identity.
In Late November, Tiger’s squeaky-clean reputation came into question for the first time ever. Tiger’s car accident on November 27th revealed the magnitude of Tiger’s true identity before the unsuspecting public eye. Once all of the accusations had been voiced, his mistresses were in the double digits and experts wondered if Tiger Woods was addicted to sex (Pinsky). Tiger, in full view, brought society to question his true character and future in golf. Since Tiger was not able to uphold his American family man persona, the public debated whether or not he would now be able to succeed further in the leisure activity of white men (Crouch 450). Such speculation challenged Tiger’s success at assimilation into the American culture.
Tiger’s reputation as an American family man is forever tarnished because of the way he broke the trust in his marriage with Elin. Because of this, Tiger’s career began to crumble beneath him. Tiger’s sponsors decided to phase him out of their advertising regimen because they no longer wanted to be associated with his identity. As his identity was being stripped from him in the events unfolding, Tiger’s ethos shifted from the archetypal American family man to a man of his true heritage. Tiger articulated this shift in his public apology saying he “follow the path” back to Buddhism. Tiger’s spiritual engagement with Buddhism was largely concealed from the public, but has been an active part of his life since childhood (CNN). In returning to the identity he was raised by, Tiger is making another attempt at integration into American society. This time he will not fall subject to the “conquest of one culture by another” (Crouch 446). Instead he will mesh the best of what he knows; bringing the Buddhist idea of eliminating the “craving for things outside ourselves” with parts the golf expertise from his previous ethos. This integration has subtly manifested itself to Tiger’s external image by way of a bracelet.
To conclude his public apology Tiger hugs his mother, a symbolic seal of the reunification he wishes to accomplish.
Image credit: Screenshot from CNN.com
Tiger’s ethos, as he developed throughout his public apology, embraces the traditions of his culture. Tiger has rejected the persona that conformed to the dominant identity of the golf environment and adopted a new, integrated one.
Assimilation as a whole can be seen as a problematic practice. Those who see assimilation as strictly the dominant culture suppressing the subordinate to the point of “destruction of true identity” tend to frown upon the idea (Crouch 447). Individuals who seek to fit in may assume new characteristics to conform to the majority which brings them to retract from their roots. Fragmentation of an individual in this sense would surely connote an adverse process. However, the idea of assimilation at hand is the idea of a creative compilation of the best aspects of every culture: a melting pot of characteristics (Crouch 446). In this sense Tiger’s undertaking is a favorable aspiration.
When the Tiger Woods scandal came to the public’s attention, the undercurrents revealed a motive of acceptable racial assimilation. Such underlying thoughts are particularly relevant to the white hegemony of golf, which is why Tiger was seen as failing to live up to the expectations at hand to such an extreme point. However, the affair was a positive revelation that freed Tiger from his conformed ethos and allowed him to establish an amalgamated ethos of the best aspects of each the cultures he knew.
CNN. Tiger Woods' Apology. CNN. TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse. 18 Feb. 2010. CNN.com. Web. 2 Mar. 2010.
Crouch, Stanley. "Goose-loose Blues for the Melting Pot." Seeing & Writing 3. By
Donald McQuade and Christine McQuade. Ed. Alanya Harter. Boston: Bedford /
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Gittings, Paul. "How Tiger defined golf in the Noughties." CNN. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. , 28 Dec. 2009. Web. 2 Mar. 2010. <http://www.cnn.com/2009/SPORT/12/17/golf.decade.review.woods/index.html>.
Pinsky, Dr. Drew. "Is Tiger a Sex Addict?." The Joy Behar Show. CNN. 17 Dec. 2009. CNN. Web. 4 Mar. 2010. <http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2009/12/17/behar.drew. pinsky.mxf.hln?iref=allsearch>.
"News & Features Archive." Tiger Woods. MLB.com, 2010. Web. 2 Mar. 2010. < http:// tigerwoods.com/ >.