Monday, November 30, 2009

Tiger's Tale

Up until now, Tiger Woods has enjoyed an almost spotless reputation in the sports media. Beyond his obvious golf success, he has projected the image of the happy and dedicated family man ... which has no doubt helped him become the most marketable and successful endorser in sports history.

All of that may come crashing down in the wake of Tiger's problems over the Thanksgiving weekend. As you no doubt know, Woods mysteriously crashed his car early Friday morning, running over a fire hydrant in the process. According to Woods, it was simply a misfortune and he credited his wife with pulling him from the wreckage by breaking out a window with a golf club. But the tabloids told a much different story, claiming that the accident was related to an extra-marital affair that Woods' wife uncovered.

Tiger Woods has always accommodated the media, but this time he's staying very quiet. Woods has refused three opportunities to explain his role in the accident to police, and aside from this comment on his web page has also not talked to the media. Not satisfied with his explanation, or with the scanty details from a neighbor's 9-1-1 call, police may now be getting more forceful in looking for answers.

Aside from potentially ending Tiger's value as a sports endorser, the episode once again brings up the question of the private-public nature of the celebrity-sports athlete. Does Woods (or any superstar athlete) have the right to use the media for fun and profit, but then crawl into the bunker (pun intended) when things turn bad? Should the sports media respect Tiger's pleas for privacy? I would imagine almost all of us have done something dumb at 2:30 in the morning that we would rather not see on the front pages.

Today's sports media are a double-edged sword; not quite as sharp as the one in Hebrews 4:12, but still pretty dangerous. Celebrity athletes love the spotlight, love the attention, love the fame and love the money media attention brings. They also have to realize that they have the sword of Damocles hanging precipitously over their heads. It is a sword sharp enough to cut off a Tiger's head.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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11:13 AM  
Blogger Corry Cropper said...

I have a colleague who is convinced Tiger wanted this to come out... either because he was sick of living up to an impossibly high bar of moral rectitude, or because he wants to reinvent himself as a John Daly-esque man of the people. The latter is probably not a good strategy given the golf demographic, though.

Tiger has been dragged through the mud. Perhaps rightfully. But pointing to him as the symbol of hypocrisy (see Frank Rich's OpEd) misses the point. The point is that his corporate sponsors should be looked upon as the hypocrites in this scenario. They heaped expectations on him and now are dropping him when they have nearly all engaged in unethical business practices that have hurt many more people than Tiger's infidelity.

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