Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Tiger Woods Mess

The biggest problem with the Tiger Woods media frenzy? It's that the commercial image we have of the golfer, carefully crafted over ten years by his sponsors, is a total sham. He was, and has always been a womanizer at worst and a regular guy at best -- not the family-friendly hero we've been told he was.

Charles P. Pierce, who profiled Woods for Esquire in 1997, giving us a glimpse of the real man, has updated his assessment. Here's an excerpt:
"I can't say I'm surprised — either by the allegations or by what's ensued since Friday's wreck. Back in 1997, one of the worst-kept secrets on the PGA Tour was that Tiger was something of a hound. Everybody knew. Everybody had a story. Occasionally somebody saw it, but nobody wanted to talk about it, except in bar-room whispers late at night. Tiger's People at the International Management Group visibly got the vapors if you even implied anything about it. However, from that moment on, the marketing cocoon around him became almost impenetrable. The Tiger Woods that was constructed for corporate consumption was spotless and smooth, an edgeless brand easily peddled to sheikhs and shakers. The perfect marriage with the perfect kids slipped so easily into the narrative it seemed he'd been born married."
Back in 1997, Pierce was in a limo with Woods when the golfer says to his driver, a former college basketball player, "What I can't figure out is why so many good-looking women hang around baseball and basketball. Is it because, you know, people always say that, like, black guys have big dicks?"

This is Tiger Woods. Brash, awkward, sort of a jerk. (The answer to his question: Women don't hang around golfers because golfers are not athletes.) As amazing as Woods' golf skills are, his acting out may be -- consciously or unconsciously -- a product of all the issues contained in that inappropriate question to his driver: race and sports, race and sex, race and golf. And add to that all of stresses of corporate sponsorship, and it was just a matter of time until he went nuts.

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