Glenn Close going crazy in “Fatal Attraction” was a cautionary tale for any man considering a casual affair in the late 1980s. Today, the repercussions of Tiger Woods’ affairs should be enough to discourage men from cheating on their wives. When statisticians do their work on the subject, I’ll bet we’ll see a dip in the number of unfaithful male spouses for the years immediately after Tiger’s foolish philandering. This upswing in marital fidelity won’t be because men are going to worry about the money they might have to give up if their wives find out they have strayed. It’s not because of the possible effect on their children. It’s not because they might lose the woman they love if they get caught doing some free-lance mattress testing. No, what will terrorize millions of men about having an affair and getting caught is how this might affect their golf game.
There are an estimated 25 million men who play golf in the United States. For many of them, golf is like life and death, except more important. They spend thousands of dollars hoping to improve their score by one or two strokes. If you told them that their game would fall apart if they did something, they simply wouldn’t do that thing. Well, if Tiger is any example, their golf game would fall apart if they were unfaithful and got caught. It’s possible that Tiger could win the final tournament of the year, but even if he does, that’s only one tournament. I don’t think that’s enough to make the guy with the custom golf cart and the beer belly take his eyes off his wife now.
Most of us don’t know for certain what happened to Tiger this past Thanksgiving weekend. We know that in the middle of the night, Tiger smashed his Escalade into the fire hydrant near his driveway. Then his wife either attacked him with a golf club, or heroically used the club to smash open the window to rescue him. It all took place a few days after the National Enquirer reported that Tiger was having an affair, but I guess it’s possible she was in a rescuing mood.
For years, Tiger Woods has been a favorite in every golf tournament that he’s entered. So far this year, he’s 12th in scoring, 111th in greens in regulation, and 93rd in putts per hole. When an everyday golfer sees those statistics, his reaction has got to be something like, “That beautiful new neighbor would probably make me feel younger, but so would a new driver.”
Golfers have to feel that if the greatest golfer in the world has a game that’s fallen apart because of his compulsive couplings, the ordinary golfer probably wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference between his putter and his bag if he cheated and got caught. Today when millions of golfers tell their wives that the reason they were still playing after dark was because the course was crowded, they’ll actually be telling the truth.
Future Ph.D theses will try to answer the question of whether Tiger’s game suffered because he cheated or because he got caught. Even though some purists might point out that Tiger’s game did not fall apart until he got caught, I doubt that those who really care about golf are going to take that chance. They’ll do everything they can to avoid Tiger’s fate. If they have a subscription to the National Enquirer, they’ll cancel it. If they own an Escalade, they’ll sell it. If their house is near a fire hydrant, they’ll move.
Generally speaking, golfers consider cheating to be a terrible offense. The kind of cheating I’m talking about involves things like kicking the ball to get a better shot or not counting a stroke because they hiccuped during their back swing. This kind of cheating is totally unacceptable to golfers. And since they learned how to avoid cheating on the golf course, there’s no reason why they can’t learn to avoid it in the rest of their lives. From now on, when you think you hear a golfer say he wants to “play around,” what he probably said is that he wants to “play a round.”
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from “Sesame Street” to “Family Ties” to “Home Improvement” to “Frasier.” He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his website at lloydgarver.com and his podcasts on iTunes.