Monday, February 22, 2010

GADFLY: Taking Another Swing at Tiger

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 8:13 PM

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Tiger Woods' appearance before TV cameras to chant his mea culpa was, you must admit, more than a bit bizarre. Here was one of the most recognized faces in the world, one of the most successful athletes (and brands) in the world, one of the most admired, followed, emulated, praised, glorified, extolled human beings in the world doing the one thing nothing in his life up until that moment had readied him for: looking (much less being) humble. I'm sorry, but to my ears, the phonograph needle made an ugly scratching noise while that record was being played.

Nothing about Tiger, not his upbringing by a father who made him believe he was destined for one-of-a-kind greatness, not a sport that made him believe it didn't matter how often he threw a tantrum (or a club) on the golf course, not a sports media that apparently knew, but refused to report, that the public persona of the man and his behavior behind closed doors were two very different things, and not a fan base that made him believe he was “da man” or that every time he hit the ball it was destined to go “in the hole,” could have ever been conducive to convincing Tiger to consume the large slice of humble pie his handlers finally convinced him to eat in front of the world on Friday.

None of the clubs in Tiger's bag of tricks is labeled shame or contrition, so is it any wonder he seemed so uncomfortable during his “forgive-me-for-I-have-sinned” spiel that he had to read from a prepared script, or that in spite of the obviously painstaking preparations that preceded the carefully staged event, he still managed to mangle that reading?

If sincerity is measured in pained expressions, halting speech or well-timed, piercing glances into a TV camera, then yes, Tiger passed the sincerity test. But then again, every actor who is coached to deliver lines and communicate by body language that he is someone other than the person delivering those lines must pass the same sincerity test. That doesn't mean we don't recognize the actor is playing a role, rather than actually experiencing a transformative moment. Unlike an actor playing a role, we didn't have to suspend disbelief while listening to one of the world's cockiest personalities try to come across as self-deprecating, but it certainly would have helped.

And No, I, for one, don't believe that Tiger's hasty turkey-night retreat in his SUV, at 2:30 AM, shoeless, and insentient enough to require his wife to turn a “rescue” club into a double entendre wasn't the result of, shall we say, domestic intemperance, if not outright violence, immediately beforehand. Suffice it to say, there will be no Academy Award nomination forthcoming for best performance by a philandering superstar in a humiliating role for this going-through-the-motions appearance.

As for his plea for privacy, and the claim by many that his behavior is a matter strictly between him and his wife, my response is, nothing Tiger has done in his life since his father first finagled his two-year-old phenom's appearance on a national TV show, has been private, so why should anything since then be? You can't make yourself into the richest athlete of all time by creating an image of yourself, on the golf course or in the media, expect people to buy what you make all that money trying to sell them, and then claim that anything you do that gives the lie to that image isn't a legitimate object of public scrutiny, and yes, even scorn.

Tiger's demeanor at his coming-out event was as phony and contrived as was the staging he engineered to convince us otherwise. Did any of us really expect one of the hand-chosen people who played the role of audience at this event to blurt out (a la the State of the Union speech incident), “You lie,” during his prolonged apologia, or to hold up a sign (a la the PETA incident during the recent Westminster Kennel Club dog show) that read “faithful husbands rule?” I couldn't help but wonder how much money Tiger was responsible for putting in those folks' pockets. Suffice it to say, they were bought and paid for.

And so, too, were the shills who played the role of “journalists,” who, contrary to everything journalism is supposed to stand for, prostituted themselves by capitulating to Tiger's refusal to answer questions just so they could say they had been there.

Tiger's image-repair tour has now touched all the familiar bases. Apologize, enter rehab (not necessarily in that order) and, most importantly, claim to be born again. Just like every guy who gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar (or his you-know-what in the you-know-where), Tiger's declared rediscovery of Buddhism would probably be the least believable of all his efforts at redemption, were it not for the convenient fact that one of the tenets of Buddhism, unlike the religion touted by some as a pre-requisite for his redemption (eat your heart out, Britt Hume), is reincarnation. Sadly, though, for Tiger, the reincarnation he needs, namely a rebirth of respect and regard for him as something more than just a remarkable golfer, isn't likely to be the rebirth he gets.

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