A 2:25 a.m. driveway accident on November 27 unveiled a new Tiger Woods to the world.
Meet the once-proud Tiger — a beast who now eats crow with painkillers. Who knew it would come to this? We were simply worried. But there was genuine fear and trembling in the business and golf world that a precious brand may have suffered severe lacerations, or worse — hurt the brand itself by a freak car accident. Tiger hit a tree and a fire hydrant in his neighbor's yard with one of the family's black Cadillac Escalades. His image, however, hit a brick wall. And even before all the facts surrounding the wreck were known, it bore the red stamp of suspicion and became the catalyst for a new season of scandal.
From the song "12 Days of Mistress," to late-night laughs, to the Chinese reenactment of the car wreck, the list of Tiger-in-the-woods satires is long and getting longer. But how long is the memory of the public? Based on many a blog comment there seems to be a 50/50 split of opinion between men and women. Is this much air time really warranted? Yahoo was boasting big Internet business thanks to this scandal. They cite the spectacle of a legend in a coffin versus 12 hot Barbie babes and phone sex. In this case it is sex over death.
It is a media bonanza for the moment. But the irony is that while children of a lesser media are reaping major benefits, giant networks have backed away from airing primetime Tiger ads, which have not been seen since November 29. That does not mean that the brands are backing off. No, au contraire, advertisers are not crying foul just yet.
Revelations of last month may be new to observers but are all-too familiar to his wife Elin, who may be returning to Sweden for good. Wives and girlfriends are not the “last to know” as they are often portrayed by films and TV soap operas, rather they own intimate insider information. They often marry or date a man and cross their fingers that they will not stray or be unfaithful to them. Talkers mention how beautiful she is or how much Tiger had to lose. Beauty is not a vaccination against husband cheating or emotional and physical abuse. Where do people get such notions? Beauty and symmetry do play their role in physical attraction and chemistry, they are appetizers and not the main course.
In matters of the heart however, race plays no role. But in the court of public opinion it is all about race. When does it become about race? When the man or woman reaches the stratosphere and floats above the crowd. They make their mastery of the medium look easy. But that is not the only reason Tiger and other stars become fodder for late-night satirists.
Some blacks early on questioned Tiger’s judgment in marrying out of his culture, race and country especially if this does not have a happy ending. Doubt is not the real problem for a man with Tiger’s high profile — but flaunting an untouchable status is. Even though the Woods’ men have a proclivity for white women over black women, this fact alone does not seem to be driving the anger towards Tiger’s moral failures. So, racism plays a small role in the media fervor for this tale.
The real drama here is deception. If the public feels that they have been screwed by a carefully crafted clean image that never existed, then it is curtains on this drama. The people will pull the plug and the endorsements will eventually follow this self-proclaimed sage to his natural conclusion: premature emigration. Suspicion and hypocrisy are driving the anger 300 yards down the fairway at Tiger Woods breaking his marriage vows so openly.
Tiger now needs a big shovel to dig him out of this deep sand trap or he will be hawking Viagra and jock straps instead of billionaire athletic ventures. The problem for endorsements that are worth a whopping $110 million a year is the separation of Tiger and the brand. Tiger’s personal brand is bruised but the question remains: will this translate into lost revenue for Tiger? Even if he loses a few million he will not grace the soup lines any time soon. And according to economists, other wannabe Tiger employers simply cannot afford the price tag, now or ever, unless his stock becomes seriously devalued in 2010. The Gatorade endorsements ended just before November 27. And Tiger’s interest in Nike is over-the-top. He put Nike on the map. In some cases, like Nike, he is the brand and they are standing by their man.
In my opinion, Jack Johnson, the legendary boxer, had a private life and public transgressions that stirred worldwide vexation on par with Tiger Woods’ indiscretions. Johnson was more famous for dating (white prostitutes) and marrying a white woman than he was for his heavyweight medals. Johnson used and abused his white wife in a time when it was verboten and taboo for a black man and a white woman to marry or to fornicate. The white world wanted to ensure his defeat so erected “The great white hope” because Johnson made and lived by his own set of rules.
However, in this day and rage of instant apotheosis, Jack Johnson by comparison is a lesser planet in a solar orb. Tiger's rants and arrogance on and off the golf course have likewise deranged his image among African Americans. He said he is not black, but a "cablinasian." And black golfers and regular folks simply became fed up with Tiger and his aloofness. While self-definition is admirable, it is only as valid if others validate it.
My opinion came down on the side of racism and jealousy. What would weaken that argument? If the maelstrom was gender-driven, then it becomes less logical in a world that is yet color struck. The credible anecdotes bolster female outrage and incense while men are in the “get over it” column.
Tiger’s prowess and domain is golf. He is on top of the world. But if his ship has “Titanic the unsinkable” engraved on its hull then we have seen and cried over this movie before. Great men often sewed seeds of self-destruction at night when everyone else was asleep. But with some water and sun the seeds germinated and eventually came to light.
The world may be shocked and Tiger's image tarnished, but one person is not surprised: Elin Woods. She knew she married a girl magnet and did so with her fingers crossed behind her back. But when a man or a woman takes a marriage vow to forsake all others it is meant to be taken seriously, even if only temporarily.