As I was mainlining my daily Olympics fix today, there was one sport I couldn't avoid, no matter how many times I changed the channel--The Tiger Woods Repentant Sinner Marathon.
It was like some demented Groundhog Day movie playing over and over again, with the faces changing from his to Clinton's, to Ted Haggard's, to Spitzer's, to Sanford's. The contriteness! The guilt! And sometimes the wives popped into the scene, barely holding back the urge to bludgeon so clearly etched on their collective faces. It's all such soap opera, such high school meanness, and more than anything--the chance to feel self-righteous at the expense of yet another poor idiot who got caught doing what most people get away with doing.
I felt I was being thrust into the private life of someone I don't know, will most certainly never meet in my life, and could care less about other than as a cultural phenomenon surrounding a game I care even less about. I needed a bath to wash away the feeling that part of the cultural morass called America, still keeps a foot in medieval times where public hangings and spitting on adulterers in stockades was good, clean fun for the entire family.
I also saw it as a clear example of how religion unearths and propagates the most demented side of human beings. This charade of public humiliation we've come to expect as part of the punishment for actions that don't affect us personally, are none of our business, and should have been left back in high school with the rest of the immature crap we were expected to grow out of one day.
But we unfortunately live in a time where anyone who has been caught operating outside the rigid guidelines set by others for everyone but themselves, can never hope to regain control of his life without the public confession, the throwing of himself at the feet of the masses and begging for forgiveness.
We've collectively formed the Church of the Self-Righteous Asshole by refusing to change the channel, turn off the TV, stop reading the tabloids when THE SINNER takes the public humiliation podium and begs for our forgiveness.
We the judgmental congregation wait with stones in hand for an act of contriteness that might fall short of the sin. We listen, we condemn, we gossip, we chatter like a bunch of moronic crows in the hope we can throw at least a couple of those stones, that we can draw a little blood, that we can be the ultimate judge of someone else's life.
But the sordid truth is the only wrong the sinner can do is fail to entertain us, for that is what other people's private lives have become to many of us--a pathetic and cheap entertainment. We devour the details. We swallow the stories, the backroom gossip, the speculations. We know more details about some lame-ass celebrity than we do the members of our own families, and we can't wait to share them over and over again as if each tidbit were worry beads for the terminally stupid.
It makes me question how much we have actually evolved as a species when crap like this takes up so much of our lives.