The transgression of a celebrity can be worth a thousand sermons. A lot of the gossip on the Internet and in the tabloids is cheap and irresponsible, but accurate dishing on the failures of the rich and famous usually has a bracing effect on society.
No longer are the prudes limited to the pulpit, the classroom or the dinner table. The young as well as the old find instruction in the consequences of the behavior of Tiger Woods. It's impossible not to feel his pain of a suddenly lonely life, of golfing on the driving range at night, before supping on cold cereal. Nobody appointed Tiger a role model, but he enjoyed fame and glamour as the refreshing antidote to the bad boy athletes high on steroids and ego. He enjoyed his carefully cultivated family-man image.
Santa knows who's been naughty and who's been nice, but even Santa would find it hard to find out who's been a hypocrite. Hypocrisy, as depicted in the Middle Ages, is invisible to all but God. The hypocrite has been depicted as both the archer and the mark. Mastery in sport or work does not necessarily translate into mastery of the self.
With only a touch of irony, columnist Frank Rich observes in The New York Times that Tiger ought be Time's Man of the Year because he's emblematic of America's ability to mythologize heroes (and leaders) while avoiding even a fleeting skepticism of what's beneath the surface of our personal biases. This observation is less about morality than about habits of mind forged on the left and the right by political spin.
"Though the American left and right don't agree on much, they are both now coalescing around the suspicion that Barack Obama's brilliant presidential campaign was as hollow as Tiger's public image -- a marketing scam designed to camouflage either his covert anti-American radicalism (as the right sees it), or spineless timidity (as the left sees it)."
The analogy is inexact because Obama's political contradictions have never gone unnoticed. They were all a matter of public record and have been amply scrutinized by his critics. He was never in hiding from either the left or the right. The right was quick to pick up on his relationship with William Ayers, the unrepentant leader of the radical and violent Weather Underground.