Tiger Woods and America

*originally written Febuary 20th, 2010.

If this were a year ago, Sarah Palin would still be Gov. Sarah Palin.
If this were a year ago, we wouldn’t be talkin’ about iPads.
If this were just a year ago, stories and blogs written about Eldrick “Tiger” Woods would more than likely be about golf.

But we’re in February 2010 now.

I don’t desire to write about Palin, or iPads, for that matter, (even though I wouldn’t rule either out for future blogs). But in light of yesterday’s apology/confession/statement(whatever) , I would like to share some thoughts on Tiger Woods’ mess of a scandal, America’s obsession with it, and how it relates to the sports world in general.

When we first heard about the car accident that started this whole firestorm, most of us were a bit shocked, and had hoped that Tiger was ok. The only thing we knew at that point, was that the world’s #1 golfer was in a serious car accident, and had substained some injuries.

What followed after the initial reports of the accident, would shake the PGA, the news world, and many Americans’ opinion of one of the most famous athletes in the world.

The trickling out of details about Woods’ extramarital affairs wasn’t just fodder for the tabloids and entertainment shows, it took over the mainstream media…I will get to more of that a little later. It’s easy to forget why people care about this in the first place. As a sports fan/follower, I have been an observer of Tiger Woods for quite a while now. The success of Tiger the golfer captivates even those who don’t watch golf on a regular basis….whether he is blowing out the rest of the field, or playing an extra 18 with Rocco Mediate.

While Tiger was out with an injury during the 2008-2009 season, an estimated average of 4.6 million viewers tuned in to those tournaments played by Tiger, compared to 2.4 million the following year, a drop of almost 47%, according to Nielson.com. The effect his absence has on the PGA tour is enormous, and his return to the tour will probably be one of the highest rated tournaments in the history of the sport. While this isn’t the only reason we care, it is one of the main reasons. But why ELSE do Americans care so much? This is a burning question for me.

I would be deceitful if I didn’t say that I am a fan of watching him play golf…not just because he is of African-American descent, but because he provides great theatre. From his reactions on the course, to his sometimes complete domination of the field, it can be riveting to watch Tiger do his work. So when I learned of Tiger’s affairs, I was admittedly, a little disappointed. How can a man who shows so much discipline in his professional life, show such little self-restraint in his personal life? Many people probably asked the same question, and we may never really know the true answer. What IS known is the amount of attention payed to this by people who don’t even watch the sport…people who don’t even watch Tiger PLAY.

Tiger’s 13-minute statement yesterday was carried LIVE by all the cable news channels, and ALL FOUR major broadcasting channels…Fox, NBC, ABC, and CBS….LIVE. Just the day before, a person intentionally crashed a plane into a building in Austin, TX, but instead, the networks chose to focus most of their coverage on the Tiger statement…before and after. The stock market dropped at 11:00 am est….the exact time Tiger started speaking. The market shot up after he was done. It seems as if a large amount of people stopped what they were doing to watch Woods give a statement that wasn’t even 15 minutes, and was not open to questions from reporters.

I suppose the logical conclusion to come to as to why people care, is because he is a married man, and had multiple mistresses. But is this really the end-all be-all? Are there other factors that contribute to the HUGE interest in this story? If Elin wasn’t in the picture, this probably would just be a tabloid story….but she is in it. As soon as these women started to come out, it became a mainstream media story…but should it even be that? The line between gossip/tabloids and sports was certainly blurred by this scandal, but I would argue that the line between tabloid media and mainstream media has been blurred also. Why else would serious news like the plane crash in Austin have been completely and I mean COMPLETELY eclipsed by Tiger Woods making a statement? Tiger Woods is NOT an elected official. He is NOT a Supreme Court Justice. He didn’t murder or rape anyone. I understand that he is one of the most famous people in the world, but he when it comes down to it, he is just a golfer. A golfer who is exceptionally good at what he does, and has made millions of dollars in endorsements because of it….but even some of those are gone now. He doesn’t owe an apology to any of us, and anyone who thinks otherwise is hypocritical. Why do I believe this?

As human beings, we can make some terrible decisions in life…whether it be lying, cheating, stealing, ect. Tiger Woods didn’t put himself up on some type of pedestal…we did. Tiger Woods never said he was a role model…but we automatically thought of him as such. As outsiders, we simply do not know everything that goes on in these people’s personal lives, so just because a person seems flawless, it doesn’t mean that it should be assumed that they are saints. It is ridiculous for anyone other than the people who are closest to him to say that they are owed an apology. To say that, or to question his contrition after the fact, is hypocritical.

The pop culture aspect of this story will continue to dominate the discussion until Woods makes his return to the tour. For me, it will be interesting how the people attending/watching will react to his return. Will the majority of the gallery cheer or heckle? Will most people watching at home be rooting for or against him?
I believe that the fascination with this scandal is indicative of how drama-obsessed this country has truly become. Why else would hard-news stories be overshadowed by a famous golfer making a statement? People were actually irked by the fact that Tiger wouldn’t take any questions after the statement…why? Do we want to know the who, what, when, where, why, and how MANY of Tiger’s affairs? Is it really our business? It’s almost as if Americans feel entitled to know these things, which is beyond me. There’s one thing I know for sure; people will continue to be glued to the screen, whether he is golfing or not; whether you are a critic or not.

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