Just when I thought Tiger Woods and by extension golf had taken the worst hits they
could take, someone pointed out this
story in the Los Angeles Times.
It was written by Dan Neil, the newspaper's Pulitzer Prize-winning automotive columnist
who for some reason was weighing in on advertising, offering his advice to any
sponsor having anything to do with golf.To wit:
It doesn't matter if you're backing Davis Love
III or Ernie Els or Vijay Singh; save your money. Honda, Deutsche Bank,
MasterCard, Shell, make a break for it. For the immediate future, the branding
opportunities of professional golf have been utterly vacated by l'affair d'tigre. Tiger Woods was and
is the sum and whole of the game. He was and is the purest, most unalloyed
product of the sport and culture of golf. And when all that is golf was cooked
in fate's crucible and poured down this young man's gullet, the result was the
perfect player who hasn't breathed an honest breath in years, a jerk -- Joe
Francis with a 400-yard drive. Tiger's failure is golf's summary bankruptcy and
Camelot fell when Lancelot sinned against the
realm. Same deal here.
Get out now, sponsors. The golf brand has been
Now, I am not an expert in advertising, or in branding,
or in corporate imaging.But I have been around the block once
or twice, and I believe that Dan Neil's
analysis of the situation is overwrought
to the point of being apocalyptic.
This whole Tiger
Mess is indeed a mess.But it
doesn't spell the end of the PGA Tour
and it certainly doesn't mean the end of golf as we know it.
For one thing, Dan Neil's assessment of the situation and of the state of the game
make me think he is not a golfer nor is he a long-time golf fan.To me, he comes off like some Johnny Come Lately to golf, one of the
folks who did not know the game existed before Tiger and doesn't see how it can possibly survive once he retires.
You and I know different.
has brought a certain cache to the
game, and he made it hip in some
quarters where it wasn't before, and he has grown the TV ratings.But Tiger is not all there is to golf.
Watching him play is one thing; playing my own game is infinitely more
enjoyable.So, I'm willing to bet
the game will manage to muddle through for another 400 years once Tiger is gone.
For another thing, if there is one thing we Americans like more than seeing the
high and mighty get cut down a notch or three, it's seeing them admit the errors of their ways, grovel for forgiveness, then undertake the slow, uphill slog toward redemption.
Actually, this might be a good place to note that
I am beginning to feel the stirrings of, well, Tiger-Bashing
When the news of his truly reprehensible behavior
first broke, I was as angry and disappointed as anybody.As the mistresses multiplied, I became
more and more incredulous.How could he do this?How could this guy be so duplicitous and untrue to the image of Mr.
Perfect that he worked so hard to create?
But after three-plus
weeks of relentless battering by the tabloid,
gossip and mainstream media, I find myself almost feeling sorry for the
guy.What he did was rotten to the
core, but he didn't kill anybody, he
didn't steal from Little Sisters of the Poor, he didn't
provide safe haven for Osama bin Laden and he didn't sell out his country.
Getting right with his wife is going to take some
work, assuming she is even willing to give him a chance.Good luck with that.
As for getting
right with the rest of us, if and when he decides to come back, demonstrating
a little humility and flawed humanity will go a long
way.If he will just lose the Superman
Complex and remove all pretense that he is invincible, invulnerable
and immune, Tiger can begin to win back his squandered support and good will.
The days of looking up to Tiger are over;now, people
just want to look him in the eye and
trust what they
To listen to Tim Finchem
during his annual end-of-the-season conference call with the media on Thursday,
you'd think this whole Tiger Woods
thing is nothing for golf to worry about.
"I think the doom and gloom
needs to go away and frankly is misleading to our fans," said Finchem.
Surely, the commissioner
must be looking at different polling data than the rest of us.What I keep reading is that, in the
history of polls, no public figure's popularity has fallen faster or further
Not to be a doomy and gloomy, but as Tiger goes, so goes golf Ė at least PGA Tour golf on TV.
I don't believe for a minute
that what is going on with Tiger
will affect the number of rounds I play this coming year, or how many sleeves
of balls I buy or whether I take a golf vacation.But I do believe that what's going on with Tiger will affect the number of people
who pull up a chair and watch a golf tournament.(Hint: If Tiger's
not in tournament, the number people watching drops precipitously).And I do believe that what is going on
with Tiger affects how sports fans
and corporate America view the game.
If you ask me, Finchem is
whistling past the graveyard.Who
knows what the commish is saying to the boys in the
back room at PGA Tour HQ in Ponte Vedra, or whether
the whole place is in full-blown panic mode.But on the conference call, Finchem came off like cheerleader-in-chief, professing to be unconcerned
that the star quarterback just got
carried off the field on a stretcher.
You can't blame Finchem,
really.He has a league to promote
and a product to sell.We all know
he's putting lipstick on this pig of a situation.
If you listen closely, you
can hear Phil Mickelson's
stock going up.
Will Tiger Woods be back?Yeah.The only thing America likes better than a juicy scandal
is a good story of contrition and redemption followed by a return to glory.
Let's be honest here: Tiger didn't
lose his golf game, he lost his bearings, his moral compass.
Who knows whether his wife
can ever forgive him?And despite
what he says in his latest carefully-crafted statement, only Tiger knows
whether deep down he truly wants to try to salvage the marriage and live out
life so many of us figured he was already living.
Over the past couple of
weeks, there has been no shortage of columns, blogs and bloviating to the
effect that Tiger
owes the public nothing Ė
nothing other than the very best he can do on the golf course.Beyond, they say, he can demand his
Unless this scandal and
hiatus do irreparable harm to his game, Tiger will go on to rewrite golf's record
books, including eclipsing Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors.But superior golf ability alone is not why Tiger is
already one of the most famous athletes on the planet and arguably therichest.
He has amassed his wealth
not with his clubs alone but by creating one of the most respected, enviable
images in the world Ė the priceless image of an unrivaled, clean-cut winner.Without that wholesome image, Tiger makes
So, if he can live with
that, if he wants to return to golf and play out his career as a sullen guy
wearing the black
interviews, stalking away after every round of golf, then, yeah, he knows the
public nothing.But if Tiger wants
to restore any semblance of his old life, he owes not just his wife but his
fans an apology
and a some kind of an explanation.
Just as his wife must now
decide whether to find it in her heart to give him a second chance, so must his
that have financed his joyride .
This time around, no one is going to be quite as
As we watch the slow-motion
train wreck that Tiger Woods' life has become, I keep coming back to one
question:What is going through
his mind now?
Is Woods, who is always such a picture of
steely calm, control and determination on the golf course, curled up in the
fetal position somewhere, moaning over the mess he has made of his life?
Or does he somehow fancy
himself as something of a victim, as you might infer from some of the comments
in the statement he released last week?
Judging from the stake-out reports
from the tabloids, Tiger is not at his mansion in Isleworth, trying to repair the damage
he has made of his marriage.So,
where is he?Staying with
friends?Holed up in a suite in a
posh hotel?Has he taken refuge on
his yacht, which he aptly named Privacy.
Have his buddies, like Mark O'Meara,
Jordan and Charles
Barkley, rallied around him, offering aid and comfort?
His prepared statement
notwithstanding, is Tiger defiant and in the thick of plotting his own defense and return
to glory.If you want a sense of
what is likely going on behind-the-scenes in Camp Tiger,here is
a story written by an veteran of PR crisis management.
The more this story reveals,
the more it makes us all confront the reality that we never really people the
way we think we do?Having
witnessed the self-control and self-denial required by Tiger to get to where he got in golf,
it is almost inconceivable to see that he had little or no self-control in
other, equally-important, areas of his life.
It's not difficult to
imagine the sense of hurt and betrayal felt by his wife, Elin, but what about his mom, Tida?For such a strong and proud woman, the
profound sense of shock and shame feels must be unfathomable.And were he still alive, how would Tiger's father, Earl, being handling this?He predicted that Tiger's fame and his right to privacy
would eventually come into conflict, but could he have imagined this in his
It is also impossible not to
wonder how Tiger,
who has had 13 years to learn to live with his ever-increasing level of wealth
and celebrity, could possibly have been so naive as to wander so lustfully and
so afar, leaving a telltale trail of text messages and voice mails in his wake.Judging from his reckless behavior
toward the end, it's almost as he wanted to get found out.
Wherever he is, is it
possible that Tiger believes he can return to his old life, that he has the charm, the golf game
and the goodwill of fans to make this all go away?
In other words, can he make
us more or less forget, like Kobe did; or is his image forever in tatters, like O.J.'s?
For the past week, my
morning routine has been to vault out of bed, put on a pot of coffee, fire up
the computer and read the latest batch of TIGER CHEATS stories coming at us from all
Once I'm able to pick myself
up off the floor, I tap into my network of golf writer buddies scattered around
Like you, none of us can
believe this whole sorry mess Tiger has gotten himself into.It's not that we can't imagine Tiger would do such a thing; living the
life he has lived could tend to give one an over-developed sense of entitlement
It's just that being the control freak he is, we are shocked that that we was
so careless and sloppy about the whole thing. Very un-Tiger.
We are also not impressed in
his taste in mistresses. If he was going to give in to temptation, why not
cheat up, not down, with gorgeous movie stars who have as much to lose as he does if it ever
"Why go out for ground beef
when you've got filet mignon at home?" wondered Jeff.
Today, we turned our
attention to THE
We figure Tiger is
going to lie low for a while, even if the tabloids chew on this juicy bone of a
story for every last morsel.Then,
people will announce that he is going to do one and only one interview on the
topic of his 'transgressions' Ė after that, the matter is closed, so that
he can return to the business of repairing his marriage and family life.
If we're right, that
naturally begs the question of where this inevitable interview with
happen?With whom?What outlet?
Here's how I handicap the
Barbara Walters: The
longtime doyenne of the primetime celebrity confessional interview, she's not right for
this assignment.For one thing,
she's got no cred with the Tiger's fans, although, come to think
of it, I would pay good money to see that cheatin' dog
trying to get a word in edgewise on The View.
Golf Channel:Too risky for an
outfit whose revenue stream is dependent on being in bed with golf and with Tiger, with
the covers pulled up.If some
sacrificial anchor asked kind of questions America wants asked, he or she, or
the entire Golf
Channel, could find themselves stiff-armed by Tiger at every tournament from here on
out.Granted, Golf Channel is doing more good stuff
these days, but don't expect them to take a big swipe at the one guy in the
game they need to keep happy.
60 Minutes: I'd be surprised if producers from 60 Minutes
aren't already making calls to Camp Tiger. It would be a fastball into their
wheelhouse.But I don't think Tiger or
his handlers would go for it.Too
risky for him. 60 Minutes
is a legit news operation with a well-deserved, hard-hitting reputation to live
up to.No telling what kind of
ghastly text message or voice mail Steve Kroft or Scott Pelley might pull out of his bag of tricks while Tiger's on
camera.True, the late Ed Bradley
did plant a big, wet kiss on Tiger a few years ago, but with this fiasco, those days are gone.
possible.Problem is, even though
who's on the hot seat, this isn't really a sports story.Of course, if he said something good
enough, it could turn up on Top 10 Plays of the Day.Also, ESPN
has the same problem as the Golf Channel when it comes to taking swipes at a guy they don't
want to cross.
We're getting warmer.Imagine a contrite, humbled Tiger being
glared at by Gumbel over his glasses, for a segment
Sports, HBO's excellent sports series. Gumbel's got cred
with sports fans, and he's got some history with Tiger. Gumbelwouldn't torpedo Tiger but he would hold his feet to the
Oprah: Bingo! If Tiger truly seeks redemption, he must come
before the only Cultural Icon who truly has the power to lay her hand on his head
and grant absolution.Of course, Oprah
wouldn't happen do that until she had wrung every last unseemly detail and a
full confession from his sorry ass, followed by an indignant dressing down by
her (see Frey,
James) on national TV.C'mon,
really, will America ever be happy until Tiger has groveled at the Alter of Oprah?
I canít say with any certainty what Tim knew or didnít know. But Iíd be surprised if he knew anything. Out on the golf circuit, at least, Tiger travels in a cocoon of security that is almost presidential. He doesnít hang out with anybody in the media. In more than 13 years out there, I never once saw Tiger in a restaurant or in a hotel. By contrast, it was not uncommon to walk into a workout room at a hotel and see Vijay or others. And youíd see plenty of other players, including stars, out with their families or with other players and caddies in restaurants. But not Tiger. Word was he didnít even hang with other players, choosing rent a house, away from the action and far from the course.
After this whole thing broke, I talked with my golf writer buddies and we were all taken by surprise. I never had an inkling and neither did anybody else I talked to. One guy said that, for the first time, he heard idle whispers among the caddies at the British Open this year that something was going on. But that is not enough to base a story on. And I can tell you, no sports writer is going to do what the National Enquirer did, which is stake out Tiger with a video crew.
Itís not the media I wonder about; itís Tigerís inner circle of agents, advisors and friends. Who among them suspected or knew, or even enabled him to do was he was doing. From everything Iíve read, it sure seems like he got careless, even reckless, toward the end.
[12/6/2009 11:37:23 AM]
It looks like Rosaforte is covering the Q-School Tournament for Golf Channel. Amazing.
[12/6/2009 9:49:43 AM]
I understand their awkwardness but their readers are turning elsewhere. As they say, they have no "street cred." What about Rosaforte? He must have known about Tigerís philandering. How could he have not? The National Enquirer did 2 years ago but buried the story in return for Tiger doing a cover and story for their Menís Health mag. Now, the National Enquirer, TMZ and Radar have "street cred" and GD/GW do not. They will be relegated to a mag like "Golf Tips."
Iím going to watch the Eagles game now.
[12/6/2009 9:34:07 AM]
Golf Digest/Golf World are in a very awkward position. Not only is Tiger the engine that pulls golfís train, he has a contract with Golf Digest rumored to be in the $1 mil a year range, to do swing tips, etc.
Itís no surprise that the most aggressive reporting and the worst revelations in all this have not come from the golf press but from the tabloids. This is their bread and butter, whereas it is way outside the comfort zone of most golf writers.
Also, remember, once the dust settles and things get back to as normal as they can get, the tabloid reporters will have moved on to the next scandal, while the golf media will still be around covering golf and Tiger. If they destroy that relationship in the process of covering this scandal, it makes covering the rest of his golf career very difficult.
[12/6/2009 9:20:22 AM]
Donít you think Golf Digest/Golf World have been missing in action on this one? Where has Tim Rosaforte been? They must be highly embarrassed about their current issue with a photoshop of Tiger and President Obama on the cover and the story- "What President Obama could learn from Tiger Woods- and vice-versa" Absolutely amazing. Perhaps theyíre coming out with a special edition. Even their "Local Knowledge" blog has been relatively silent. I think itís a case of journalism malpractice.
Thank you for looking your wife and the world in the eye and admitting,
"Hey, I screwed up. I’m sorry."
No further details, no
further discussion in public is needed.Oh, yes, there will be plenty more discussion in the tabloids and on websites.In fact, if
it hasn’t already hit the newsstands, US
Weekly is about to pile on with details of mistress No. 2 and talk of mistress No.
For plenty of your fans,
however, the admission you made today is enough to restore a modicum of faith
in you as a man.Time will tell whether you can remain a
role model for the millions of kids
around the world you have inspired.What I do know is that as long as you stonewalled and remained silent
in the face of all the mounting, incriminating and supremely embarrassing evidence, it was as if you
were playing us for fools.
To err is human – and, man, oh, man, did you err – but to stonewall is to thumb your nose at anyone who might have it in
their heart to forgive you.
Now, let’s hope you and your
family, and your fans, can get on with the business of healing.
One final thing.Everybody knew you were a player, but who knew you were a playa?Where did you find the time and energy?How did you stay on top of your game
and on top of...ah, never mind.
might be stubborn and he might be arrogant, but he is not stupid.Which makes it all the more dumbfounding what he is doing right now.
It’s one thing to cheat on
your wife and make an ass of yourself doing it.Whether it happened in this case, I have no idea.But, hey, it happens -- it happens to ordinary people,
politicians, movie stars and rich, famous athletes.The one constant is our demonstrated capacity to forgive and forget.
What people will not forgive
and forget, however, is what Tiger seems to be doing now – thumbing his nose at the Florida cops,
refusing to cooperate with their investigation, essentially telling them to
read what he’s got to say on his website, like everybody else.
Bad, bad move.His slick, high-priced
lawyer might be advising Tiger that he has the legal right to do that, but he is doing
himself a world of PR damage in the process, smearing his carefully constructed
When it comes to crisis
management, PR consultants never waver in their advice: Get the bad news out there and out there
quick, take your lumps, then move on.
In other words, make your screw-up a
one-day or two-day story, whatever it is. DO NOT let it play out like a slow-motion train wreck in the blood-thirsty,
media environment we live in these days.Hey, they’ve time and space to fill and they will – with you or without you.
What Tiger is doing now makes him come off
like he thinks he is above the law, answerable to no one -- not even to the
cops -- immune to criticism and able to live quite comfortably, thank you, in
cocoon he has constructed for himself.
Four days into this PR fiasco
of his own making we are beginning to see a backlash, certainly in the general
media, and now even among sports columnists, who in the past mostly heaved
bouquets in Tiger’s
direction.Take a look here,
and especially here,
a delicious screed in which Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post accuses him of acting like
some kind of separate nation state, like the Vatican.Of course, the longer Tiger stonewalls, the worse it will
In some ways, this backlash
is not surprising.From the
earliest days of his career, Tiger let it be known that commanding respect and fear meant more to him than popularity.Let Phil Mickelson be popular.
The result, as Tiger is
now finding out, is that while we are all in awe of him and his golfing
abilities, he hasn’t built up a reservoir of affection and goodwill.
How ironic that in the brief
did release, he felt the need to point out that he is not perfect.Really?Isn’t that precisely the image he has worked so hard to project
for these years?
Personally, I hope this
imbroglio does not turn out to be the undoing of Tiger.He is a once-in-a-lifetime talent and not a bad guy at all who has a lot
more career ahead of him.Wouldn’t
it be nice if he came to his senses, did the right thing, then got back to the
business of rewriting golf’s record books.