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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Monday, February 1, 2010

“The mob is fickle, brother”

I was willing to let the Tiger Woods thing go – I really was. The world’s wealthiest athlete cheated on his wife, multiple times, and everyone is surprised? Am I willing to let Tiger’s infidelity go? Sure. He made a mistake and didn’t think he’d get caught. Am I willing to let the folks who rant and rave about his behavior and how morally reprehensible he is, get out of this right away? Absolutely not.

Listening to sports talk radio and ESPN –which has undergone a twisted transformation from a network highlighting the best of everything in sports, to an athletic-centric Us Weekly (Suffice to say, it’s gotten so bad I want to shot-put a large blunt object through my TV.)- I can’t comprehend the way some of these people have crafted their view of what an athlete or star should represent in our society. Since when have any of these people inherited the responsibility of being icons of morality and good judgment in our society? Because we bestow that upon them due to their natural athletic talent?

When I hear the public calling ESPN or a radio show, completely irate that Tiger has cheated on his wife, all I can do is shake my head. Not because I’m disgusted or because I believe Tiger is a terrible person. More pointedly –I’m neither surprised nor upset at his behavior…I almost expected it.

Let’s take a shred of perspective for a second. Look, when you glorify these athletes, place them on pedestals, raise your children to worship them, wear their jerseys and stand in line to get autographs, how is it at all reasonable to expect them to live and act the same way you do? These athletes, celebrities, and stars exist in a reality different from ours. Their everyday world is starkly different than ours.

And you know what? It’s 100% because we create, manufacture, market and sell that environment for them to exist in. Our behavior, our fanhood, is part of an obscure petri dish for the kind of attitude and behavior that these stars exhibit. Listening to blue and white collar workers, who pound the pavement every day making 50 to 80k a year, call in to vent frustration regarding the behavior is absurd. How disappointed they are and, “they should be a better example for the kids, it’s their duty, blah blah blah” –stop it. Just stop. If you want your kids to look up to positive figures in society, bring them up revering priests, prominent community figures who preach what they live or our countries heroes –not an athlete we glorify for their natural talent.

But you don’t bring your kids up to revere the best doctor in your city, do you? You don’t buy them an awesome set of scrubs with “Johnson” lettered across the back and then take them trundling into the OR so they can wave a foam finger and cheer when the surgeon successfully completes a frontal lobotomy, do you? You didn’t buy little Johnny a judge’s robe for his 3rd birthday and tell him you were taking him to the nearest Courthouse so he could see the best judge in the state absolutely tear that ruling up today, did you?

No, you buy him the athlete’s jersey and take him to the big game so he can be entertained. I think that speaks to what we value as a society. They have access to more money, power and spheres of influence than you do, so before we all clamber forward clapping and barking like a bunch of rabid seals about how they let the world down, pump your brakes and maintain that bit of perspective.

I watch all these guys rip Tiger for cheating and explain how they would never cheat on their wife, and what a terrible person Tiger is for doing that. They also aren’t jumping on private jets just for a lunch in London, meeting with companies who want them to endorse their product for obscene amounts of cash, and you sure as hell don’t have creatures that look like Alessandra Ambrosio tossing themselves at them like it’s a skeet shoot. Consider the kind of pressure, opportunity or temptation these people face on a daily, hell, hourly basis, and I can bet the tune would change about your relationship your wife Doris pretty quickly if you tasted it just once. In fact, if I was a degenerate gambler, I’d take the odds that the layman would do the same if he thought he could get away with it.

It’s a completely alternate reality, and one that 99% of the world’s population will never comprehend or experience. The fact that Tiger was cheating on his wife and didn’t maintain the squeaky clean image his PR team manufactured for years isn’t at all surprising. In fact, I’m shocked the dude kept his infidelity below the radar for that long. Am I condoning this behavior or saying these stars have the right to act with unabashed narcissism, in some cases bordering on sociopathic behavior? Absolutely not. Just ease up a little bit. We can’t even provide these people with the leeway any human being is rightfully handed: nobody is perfect and without flaws.

Stop with the snap judgments, grab a different lens and take a long reflective look. That’s reasonable. When did Tiger Woods ever claim to be the perfect role model for your child? Was it smart? No. But how we worship someone for their athletic exploits and if they slip up just once, we absolutely skewer that person, deserves a bit more reflection as a society. I guess the mob is as fickle as we seem.


Anonymous IME said...

First, I have truly enjoyed reading all the thoughtful posts on this site.

I'm not a golf fan so Mr. Woods never meant much to me personally. But I have to admit he is really cool. He's a black/white/asian/etc guy who broke the golf mold. That is meaningful to many of us. So the oddness of this 'story' and how it broke as captured our collective myth-making souls.

At first it seems like some sort of Icarus thing - the guy flies too high and the subsequent fall to earth is rather drastic, sort of like John Edwards (tho admittedly Mr. Edwards has fallen much harder and is way more creepy - and NO ONE ever bought cool sports stuff to wear proudly to school with Edward's name on it!). But I actually think that this is not just about a 'reality tv' culture kind of over scrutinizing Tiger Wood's life, this guy is royalty and people have always been fascinated with their royals. Just like the ancient Greek Gods and Goddesses, Royals are a badly behaved lot and so that is so much fun since we have to behave most of the time. And the times we don't behave we tend to lie about it. And mostly, we get away with those lies. So that makes this contemporary myth deeply, soulfully, interesting.

The thing that has really interested me is the money. OK, the guy is seriously hot, and all his women are super hot and the sex seems hot. But who profited from the illusion that this particular amazing hero golfer had a 'family man' image? Well, first, he did. Those sponsorships did not come because he had some sort of wild sex obsessed tabloid image. Then, I guess, his wife and kids partook of the profit too. But, THEN, there were the sponsors and the golf leagues (or whatever) and the ad agencies and the agents and on and on. All buying in - financially - into this myth of the perfect hero. Crafting the image onto him. That brought in the cash. And, interestingly enough, when 'the story' really broke it was the withdrawal of sponsorships by major corporations and their global money that made it a real story. His real crime was that he cheated on corporations who have invested heavily in his false image, which they created for him. The infidelity and injured wife (no one seemed to care about the kids) and the ever increasing number of super hot sex partners were all just getting the sponsor's interest and letting them know their mythological hero is a damaged commodity for them.

He is a damaged commodity only at this point. He'll be back. And his image will be even cooler. Not just the corporations, but we all are way too invested in this god/hero. Maybe he will come out of 'sex rehab' and we can all sniff after his every move to see if that rehab worked. And we can see if his wife will pull a "Media" and turn the kids against him and sniff after what kind of suffering heroine she will be. Vogue Magazine and the tabloids will love him even more.

And we will forgive him since we know we mess up just as much and so we can forgive our royalty hero mythological-amazing-living-flesh gods. Forgiveness feels good.

Still, the cynic in me says..... follow the money. It leads to the players behind the curtain.

February 5, 2010 at 2:10 PM  

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