by Roxanne Jones
(CNN) — I’m not mad at Tiger Woods, or Nike.
Those people who are up-in-arms that Woods has climbed back to his standing as the world’s No. 1 golfer and that he is no longer asking for our forgiveness are hypocrites.
“Winning Takes Care of Everything,” proclaims his most recent Nike ad, as a focused Tiger crouches in the background. When I first saw the ad, I thought: Wow, bold move by Nike. It’s an in-your-face, unapologetic statement.
Back in 2009, when Woods took his public plunge into disgrace by cheating on his wife with a long list of silicone-enhanced beauties, we criticized him for being a fake. We said he’d lied not only to his wife but also to his adoring public, who apparently thought he was a near-God. We said he was the role model for our kids.
But I never thought it was Tiger’s job to teach my son how to be a responsible, loving husband or father. That’s a job for parents. Of course, I’m not excusing his behavior, but I am not his judge. His wife and family — and Tiger himself — really were the only ones hurt by his actions.
Well, now Tiger is being real. He’s being honest with the public. We should be happy. He’s finally speaking his mind so there can be no question of what type of man he is today. And I say, good for him.
And good for Nike for standing by him through what was in the end just a personal flaw. It’s not like he’s Lance Armstrong, who used enhancement drugs throughout his career and sabotaged an entire sport for years. Woods did not have to give back his championships because he cheated his sport, his fans or his sponsors.
Don’t be mad at Tiger. It was never him we were disappointed in anyway. It was the cheating boyfriend or spouse who broke our hearts and split up our families. Be mad at the problems in your own personal life. Or, be mad at yourself. I know when I’ve screwed up, if I’m honest, the first person to be upset with is myself. Tiger has nothing to do with my life or relationships.
The Nike ad may be offensive to those who don’t quite understand sports culture, or work in extremely competitive environments such as sales, or Wall Street, and even politics. But in those worlds, nothing could be truer than “winning takes care of everything.” In those worlds you are only as good as your last big win.
How many times have we said to ourselves at work: “I can turn my career around with one success on my next project?” Or, “One win will make my bosses happy and all will be forgotten?” How many of us say to our kids who play sports: “Hang in there. All you need is one game-winning goal and that will change everything. Everyone will forget you haven’t scored all season.”
Winning does change things. Just think of Super Bowl Champion Ray Lewis, who the NFL calls one of the best men to ever play the game. Or former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel, who was a king for a decade, surviving numerous scandals until he was forced to resign amid NCAA rules sanctions. Tressel then went on to work for the NFL. Why? Because he knows how to win.
Does anyone think Joe Paterno would have lasted so long at Penn State among the allegations of child sex abuse if the football program was down-and-out? No, sadly, it was the winning and the big money that kept Paterno and others safe. Heck, even Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton reclaimed their status as kingmakers after personal disgraces.
We are a forgiving nation. For me, nothing is better than someone who can get back up and succeed after a bloody knockout. Tiger got back up. And I hope this time around he can relax, be himself and enjoy the game.
Editor’s note: Roxanne Jones is a founding editor of ESPN The Magazine and a former vice president at ESPN. She is a national lecturer on sports, entertainment and women’s topics and a recipient of the 2010 Woman of the Year award from Women in Sports and Events. She is the co-author of “Say It Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete,” (Random House) and CEO of Push Media Strategies.