By DOUG GLANVILLEÂ Dec 26, 2009Â (NY Times editorial)
No one would have accused me of having multiple ladies on each arm when I was in high school or college. I was a diligent student, kind of nerdy, the son of a teacher, and as interested in baseball and computers as I was in girls. Still, I was told I had potential in the social department, if I applied myself.
But something magical happened before I had to do much work. I signed a professional baseball contract as a junior in college and went away to my first spring training as a member of the Chicago Cubs organization.
I remember returning to campus and, after appearing on a closed-circuit cable show to discuss my new career, having the attractive hostess offer to walk me home. Wow, that never happened before. Apparently, I had skipped a few of the steps to social acceptance, and before I knew it, â€œunapproachableâ€ and â€œwomanâ€ were no longer being used in the same sentence.
So what actually did happen?
Even once you enter the professional ranks, there is plenty to worry about. A baseball player on draft day is still miles away from the big leagues.
Soon after being drafted, I realized something profound: a lot of the work required to make it takes place off the field, and involves how you manage your life. I witnessed a few of my minor league counterparts blow their opportunities in part because they were trying to live the life before they had the life, burning the candle at both ends every night. If it wasnâ€™t for Phoenixâ€™s early club curfew, thereâ€™s no telling when players would have come home.
Because I had a few shells to bust out of, I put my toe in that party water, too. I was just 20 when I was drafted and it didnâ€™t take long to understand that a new kind of woman was interested in me: the sort of woman who in the past had stirred my insecurity. It was like a kid finding Batmanâ€™s belt in the lost and found. No point in giving it back until youâ€™ve tried all your new powers. But we forget to ask, will I be able to stop once Iâ€™ve tasted these powers?
Superficially, the new bar for women was set based on the physical: some sort of exterior beauty, along with fame, sophistication, wild-child possibility, flirtation with the dark side â€” all qualities and places I could hardly fathom until I entered the world of a pro athlete.
It didnâ€™t help that minor league players in spring training are in the same venues as the big leaguers. When the dayâ€™s training was over, the places to hang out were frequented by all levels of players, and even coaches.
As you climb the baseball ladder, your social confidence explodes. You receive the sort of attention you never did as an acne-ridden honors student. Quite frankly, it is addictive, and when you are in it, there seems to be no end in sight.
But it isnâ€™t rooted in good practices; itâ€™s more like, â€œflash your badge and they will come.â€ Your confidence is based on a pack mentality, strong in numbers. You can push aside the inconvenience of having to start a conversation â€” just by being in the V.I.P. section and offering tickets to the next dayâ€™s game, the conversation is started for you. If you have a well-connected agent or an entourage to find you a companion, you might not need conversation at all. At the very least, your newly acquired wealth can keep the drinks flowing to the point where you donâ€™t feel like youâ€™re trying to ask your first-grade crush, Michele Soleimani, to borrow her pencil.
The above dynamic grows exponentially, and before you can blink, your bad relationship habits are written all over the contact list on your cell phone.
So where can you end up?
Tiger Woods country.
In an athleteâ€™s environment, money can be its own pollutant; you can become desensitized to the significance of what it can buy. Typically, if a person spends hundreds of dollars on arrangements to pass time with someone, that someone would be important in his life. But when you have extensive financial resources, itâ€™s easy to send similar signals to people who are meaningful only for a moment. Even worse, you might only concern yourself with what it means to you. As the money flows in, so do the toys â€” cars, clothes, bling â€” and once in the stratosphere, a la Tiger, it is amazing how easy it is, if you are not careful and grounded, to start seeing women as another accessory in your life.
The pro athleteâ€™s world is self-centered at best. Schedule is fixed, practice a must, travel a given. Anyone choosing to share that has to get on board and fit in. It can get to a point where the relationship is strictly one-way (the athleteâ€™s way), and the other party becomes insignificant, more a prop than a true relationship partner.
If the player dares to take the next step â€” marriage â€” there will likely be a legal team at his disposal (via his agent) that can set up a prenuptial agreement. This negotiation is often dragged out for months as a way of seeing whether the future spouse shows an ugly side during the process. But itâ€™s a red flag for your relationship if you have to resort to such tactics to force the worst in someone, and the prenup becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, set up not just to distribute assets but to deal with an inevitable break-up or philandering. In fact, it might as well be seen as a pre-meditated agreement (I may do all of this dirt, so when I do and you want to leave, I still win because instead of half you only get a check for X dollars and one house).
Reducing a marriage to time, money and X is usually a bad way to start. But in the athletesâ€™ world, relationships can get crafted around their whims. The spiritual significance of an enduring commitment falls by the wayside, giving way to parameters and rules defined by the ego of the player, and maybe his legal and PR team. Although it doesnâ€™t have to be this way, relationships can become part of the world of glitz and illusions.
With that kind of unstable foundation, itâ€™s easy to see how someone like Tiger Woods could see his world come crashing down simply because he hit a fire hydrant.
Tiger Woods has been transformational for the game of golf in so many ways. That is indisputable. But he has proven to be just like every other figure who fell for the little guy with the pitchfork on his shoulder telling him, â€œItâ€™s all good, no one will know, you can get away with it.â€ But that little guy on his shoulder didnâ€™t tell him that in the real world, you donâ€™t get away with it because even when you are the only one who knows, that is enough to destroy you. It just will happen from the inside out.