Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Lesson Learned

I noticed recently that the Golf Writers Association of the America selected Tiger Woods as its player of the year.
I assume that means “player of golf.”
At any rate, I mention this because I wrote something a while back and have been sitting on it, wondering if and when I’d submit it. The Tiger Woods story triggered my decision to do so, and here’s why: In his mea culpa regarding his marital meanderings, Tiger Woods said, “I convinced myself that normal rules don’t apply.”
He may well have been speaking on behalf of a generation of talented, young male athletes, who are too often taught by parents, teachers, coaches and many others that the normal rules don’t apply to them either.
I say this based on a piece by Andrew Smiler, a North Carolina therapist and author of a book about promiscuous young male sexuality. He examined several incidents where seemingly popular, likeable boys did insidious things, usually to not-so-popular, not-so-likeable, powerless girls.
How does this happen, Dr. Smiler wondered. How do otherwise good boys behave like beasts?
Well, here’s how, he concluded.
• Mom and dad are fans, not parents, so when grades sag, they blame the teacher. He gets in trouble at school, they bail him out. It’s not his fault. The rule isn’t fair. The policy is arbitrary and capricious. He gets in trouble with a girl, well boys will be boys.
• Teachers and administrators fail to enforce rules. He curses a teacher, doesn’t do his homework, flunks a test or a course, well there’s always an escape hatch. As they say, the teacher knows the rules; the student, the exceptions.
• He is surrounded by servants and sycophants, hangers-on who coddle, protect and clean up after him. In some schools, they’re pep or spirit club members. In others, they’re groupies. Either way, he’s treated like royalty.
• His narcissism is constantly stoked. He’s late to class, gets caught sneaking a smoke between classes, rips a toilet out of the bathroom wall, takes a jab at some kid in the hall, well maybe he’s just having a bad day. There’s always a coach or a counselor to smooth things over. He might end up running a few bleachers. If worse comes to worse, he might scribble his name on a letter of apology someone else wrote.
• His parents feed off of his celebrity. Perhaps mom and dad are socially connected anyway. Maybe they’re chummy with the police chief or the mayor or even a state representative or two— people who are in a position to pull strings, make phone calls, make problems disappear.
• He gets whatever he wants when he wants it. Hot wheels. Cool clothes. Five hundred dollar headphones. Access to the liquor cabinet and free weekends devoid of nosy parents who may wonder but won’t ask what’s going in there.
• He’s raised to believe that men are men, and girls are just girls, and anyone who attempts to bend or straddle the line is inferior or weird and thus worthy of whatever comes their way. This is particularly true for sissy boys and misty-eyed girls.
• He’s taught to choose his victims carefully, preferably the weaklings, the chemically incapacitated, the mentally or socially impaired. If caught or confronted, he knows the system will blame the victim. They asked for it, after all, and they got it.

And so, this is how otherwise nice, likeable, popular boys come to behave despicably. In so many cases, they’ve been taught — and they’ve learned — that the normal rules apply to saps and nobodies, not to them. After all, they're heroes.