tclakin

Looney Tunes

In Uncategorized on December 11, 2009 at 5:45 pm

I always thought I’d see Tiger Woods pass Jack Nicklaus. I always thought Tiger would retire into a billion-dollar sunset, the greatest who ever played the game. I always thought he’d outlast them all. I never – not for a second – thought I’d see Tiger Woods turn into his Frosted Flakes counterpart, Tony – a caricature, an absurdity. A joke. But it happened. And life for Tiger Woods certainly isn’t Grrreat anymore.

Strange, isn’t it – the level to which this once-glorified icon has sunk in a matter of weeks? From Thanksgiving through today, the life of Tiger Woods has taken more turns than an Augusta National green.

As the 6th and 7th – and now 11th and 12th – mistress popped out of Pandora’s Box, Woods morphed from the ultra-real, identifiable figure of the fallen husband into a complete and utter cartoon. It’s staggering just how far and how quickly he fell. Woods’ pristine image was in shambles a week ago. Today, it’s in danger of being forgotten forever.

Isn’t it?

Who in five or 10 years is going to look at Tiger Woods and remember the dorky, boy-next-door prodigy we all grew to love? Too much has come to pass, between the text message transcripts and the porn stars and the awkward, panicked voicemail. The life Eldrick has lived thus far is over. That much is clear.

But this, of course, begs the question — What happens next? Where does he go from here? Hell, where do we go from here?

A sit-down with Oprah, as Rick Reilly suggested? Nah, that’s no good. Who can take anything the guy says seriously now? And that’s not a shot at his infidelity, but simply a reference to the incomprehensible divide between his public and private realities.

How about a few more finely-worded statements, then?

Nope. No good. Presents the same problem as the Oprah interview. No scripted, PR wizardry is going to help him now.

So, what then? What should this guy do to recoup even a smidgen of his crumbling empire?

The answer is simple.

He should do exactly what he is doing: Nothing.

At this point, the 9-iron is so far out of the bag that Tiger’s best course of action is, frankly, to shut up and stay away. Sometimes the best PR is the also the easiest – ignore everything. That way, maybe soon – maybe much longer – we’ll all start feeling, well, a little bad about the whole situation.

Sure, right now you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who feels sorry for Tiger Woods. Clearly, the billionaire made his bed (or….something like that) and now he must lie in it. But – and this might be a leap – most of us are essentially reasonable people.

And isn’t it getting at least a little bit excruciating having a greenside seat to the continued airing of one man’s dirty laundry? Isn’t there some line here that we really don’t want to cross? The guy is an idiot – of course, that much is clear – but do we really want to dig his grave? Right here? Right now?

Maybe we should all stop for a second and think – as Tiger should have done – about his family. All this nonsense – every new picture, every new transcript, every new revelation – has to be just as embarrassing for his wife, Elin, as it is for him. Hasn’t she suffered enough? And anything he could say in the media would only add to the public flogging she’s taken already.

So that’s why Tiger should stay silent, and stay out of the public eye. Take care of things at home, and show up in the spring ready to go. Nothing he can say at this point will make this any better. But, if he just goes about his business – which is, lest we forget, being the greatest golfer in the world – then perhaps one day everyone might start to remember why we loved him in the first place.

Remember – Tiger Woods didn’t become Tiger Woods, global icon, by being some kind of Ward Cleaver, family-man superhero. He made a fortune – even from sponsors – because he was the greatest golfer any of us have ever seen. Don’t believe me? Think it had a little something to do with his airbrushed image? Wrong. Look at Ray Allen – by all accounts a devoted husband and loving father. He’s done very well for himself, but he’s no Tiger Woods. He doesn’t have a billion dollars in the bank. This is because, while he’s very, very good at what he does, he’s not the best.

Tiger Woods is the best.

And people would have purchased his razors regardless of his image. This is what all the media types, shouting from their soapbox about sponsors and ad revenue and all the youngsters whose hero is now a punchline …. this is what they’ve forgotten: Tiger Woods is a golfer. He’s not a sports messiah. He’s not Barack Obama. He’s not some kind of spiritual figurehead. He’s a guy who hits a little white ball a very long way and wins championships at a rate we’ve seldom seen before. Why he ever turned into this White Knight in the first place, I’ll never quite understand.

Many athletes are philanderers. In fact, many fantastically wealthy people, famous or otherwise, are too. It’s the nature of Having. When you Have as much as Tiger did, you can generally Have Whatever You Want. And, for many people, the temptation is impossible to resist. So, excuse me if I can’t understand why the Tiger story came as such a shock. All we ever knew about Tiger Woods was that he was really good at golf, exhibited an intense ultra-competitiveness on the course, hung out with Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley off it, and was terrifically boring in the media. That’s it. He didn’t tell us anything else. So why the surprise that another manically-driven, mega-rich athlete had trouble navigating reality outside the tournament ropes?

Michael Jordan drew the blueprint for this type of behavior years ago, and Tiger simply followed suit. He brought things to another level, for sure, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. But, fortunately for Tiger Woods, Jordan also provided the blueprint for how to get out of such a bind when the curtain finally falls:

Keep winning.

Look at Kobe Bryant. He had it just as bad as Tiger in the summer of 2003. When he was accused of sexual assault, his sponsors trampled each other fleeing for the door. And that includes Nike. But here we are, just six years later, and Mr. Bryant is back on top, smiling with his family and peddling sneakers once again. Why? Because he kept winning and kept amazing us and kept giving us sports fans what we all really want in the end – an escape.

So yes – life, for Kobe Bryant, is once again very good. Hell, these days you can even catch him on TV, as a puppet, jabbering away for Nike in goofy commercials with Puppet Lebron. If Tiger is smart, he’ll take note:

That’s the kind of cartoon you want to be.

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