Tiger’s so-called comeback gives pause. What defines a “defining moment?”

March 22, 2010

Redemption. Another defining moment?

Tiger Woods is making his “comeback” at the Master’s golf tournament in April. I’m not sure comeback is the right word, but for Tiger it’s probably the right move. Getting back on the course is where he can do the most to repair his battered public image. His private life is another matter. Lord knows it must be wearisome dealing with his issues, let alone an angry, disappointed wife. We reap what we sow.

During a segment on ESPN, the reporter read from a letter Woods wrote to course officials after winning his first Masters in 1998. In it, he’d written –and I paraphrase: “Playing at Augusta, I left my childhood behind and became a man.” The reporter then deftly added, “Tiger now will return to Augusta and try to become the man he aspires to be.” Again, I’m paraphrasing both individuals. Here’s my point. For Tiger Woods, setting foot on that storied golf course will represent two defining moments in his remarkable life, both relating to “becoming a man.”

Have I ever had a defining moment? What about you, Gentle Reader? Tiger Woods was the first African American and youngest person ever to win the Masters. I get why that’s a defining moment. For us regular folks, however, defining moments are perhaps a bit more ambiguous. Do they even exist at all?

Most men view losing their virginity as a passage into manhood. I wonder. My first foray into the pleasures of the flesh was definitive only in that I got from point A to point B…sort of. Though incredibly romanticized by popular culture, I’m guessing sexual initiation is far from a defining moment for most of us, including women. Ironically, sex proved to be Tiger’s destroyer not definer.

So what is a defining moment? Hallmark would have you believe that certain dramatic events fit the bill: getting married, having children, anniversaries and so on. I don’t know. Those things are pretty great but, alas, they are not the same as winning the Masters. And for one simple reason: anyone can do them. As joyous as it is getting hitched and having babies, it’s also mundane. These events represent big changes in a person’s life but they are not defining moments. Unless…

Unless they become transcendent. For example: a parent dies leaving behind young children. I think it’s a defining moment if one of the kids steps up and takes over that role. If nothing happens other than a funeral, shared tears and the hiring of a nanny, I’d argue that this is merely the circle of life.

What about in one’s professional life? A lot of people think winning the Kelly Award for best print campaign in America was my defining professional moment. It certainly was pretty cool, especially given my father and brothers were there, two of them competing for the same prize! But what did it define, exactly? That I got lucky?

Is it possible creating the campaign was more of a defining moment? I don’t know about that either. For one thing I had no idea how big the campaign would become at the moment of its creation. Perhaps the defining moment took place before creation or winning of any prizes, when my partner and I elected to embrace a piss-ant brief when no one else in our agency, or any other agency Kraft contacted, would. Maybe that’s it!

On the other hand maybe all of the above are examples of defining moments. After all, they do involve decisions and/or choices, which arguably changed the recipient’s life forever.

Yet, is it wrong to expect defining moments? Life itself is a defining moment. If one leads a good, meaningful life he or she won’t require a defining moment of redemption.

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4 Responses to “Tiger’s so-called comeback gives pause. What defines a “defining moment?””

  1. tracy said

    I think too many people want defining moments to be dramatic and to come with a flashing neon sign or swelling music. The reality is, thousands of things, big and small, maybe even on a daily basis, occur that shape who and what we are personally and professionally. I don’t mean to minimize experiences that shake us to the core or cause a sudden and radical shift in worldview but, when you said “life itself is a defining moment,” that was it, pure and simple.

    It’s just not as easy to pin down, doesn’t necessarily make for as neat a story.

  2. Defining moments by definition reveal character. Standing in front of a tank in Tianamen Square would be one. Going home from work early to be with your kids rather than work on a newspaper ad might be another. But there is always a consequence to your actions. The ad awards I’ve won reveal very little of my character in reality. There was very little consequence to be winning them or not.

  3. SRP said

    Good comments Jim & Tracy.
    We are in non-violent agreement!

  4. SRP said

    Bit of a surprise. Tiger shoots new commercial. Already.

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