Over the past several weeks while reading about the more serious news that has impacted our current society, I have also been reminded about the supposedly ongoing “problems” of golfer Tiger Woods. From online bloggers to columnists, sports analysts, public relation executives and opinion makers and pundits, there has been no shortage of discussion of Tiger Wood’s past and current predicament. It has been more than a year since Wood’s image of a multi-racial prince charming, phenomenal athlete, Cliff Huxtable-like admirable family man was blatantly shattered by allegations of chronic infidelity with not just one or two, but more than a dozen women. The mainstream media had (and still seems to have) a fascination with learning about the intimate details of Wood’s sexual history. For a person like Woods who was (and still is) an intensely private person, such unrelenting scrutiny into the most intimate details of his private life had to cause him a considerable degree of bewilderment and anger.
As someone who has an avid interest in popular culture, like many people, I found the Tiger Woods story interesting and worthy of news coverage at the time. In fact, he was a brief topic of discussion in the sports history course I taught last fall semester. However, I also believe that like any sensationalized scandal, that after a few weeks, the story had been exhausted and ran its course. There are stories and events that are worthy of acknowledgement as time passes such as the anniversary of the deaths of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986 and the horrific 9-11 tragedy of September 11, 2001. One could even argue that celebrity related events such as the O.J. Simpson verdict in 1995 and the death of Princess Diana in 1997 are worthy of reflection, but the “first anniversary of the Tiger Woods sex scandal?” Come on? Let’s get serious.
While Woods committed a serious transgression by breaking his marital vows and was justifiably criticized for doing so, does this sin translate into an event worthy of annual retrospective from the media? Opinions on how Woods has handled his crisis over the past year have varied. There are some public relation consultants who have nothing but praise for how he has dealt with the situation. Others are less impressed by what they have seen. These are the image repairmen (and women) who say that he needs to go “farther” in an effort to successfully repair his tarnished reputation. One public relation consultant went so far as to say that Woods has “failed miserably” in his effort to resurrect his tarnished image with the public given his refusal to further discuss the details of the night he crashed his luxury car into a tree, his extramarital affairs and its aftermath.
I would like to believe that race has nothing to do with the treatment Woods has received, but I would be less than honest if I said I felt that race was not a factor. Like that for Michael Vick (who actually has redeemed himself in the eyes of much of the public recently after serving prison time for slaughtering dogs), coverage of Tiger Wood’s private life has been tawdry, arrogant, carnival and in some cases, downright disrespectful and offensive. While none of us, athletes included, are above criticism regardless of who we are, the fact is that there does seems to be a more aggressive, ruthless and hostile coverage of Black male public figures. While Woods is certainly far from being a role model for morality, he is hardly the only man of any race that has been caught engaging in less then admirable behavior.
Can any of us remember Eliot Spitzer, former governor of New York, who was forced to resign his position for cavorting with prostitutes while waging a ruthless war on all forms of corruption when he was the state attorney general and Mark Sanford, soon to be former governor of South Carolina, who became deeply emotionally involved with a Latin American woman from Argentina and gave one of the most bizarre, surreal press conferences in recent history? (Go to Youtube if you want to see Sanford’s theatrics). Who can forget former president Bill Clinton’s peccadilloes? Former presidential candidate John Edwards’s manipulative, deceptive attempt to hide his affair and love child from the public? What about former Florida congressmen Bob Allen who was arrested in 2007 for attempting to solicit an undercover police officer offering him $20 for the opportunity to perform oral sex on the cop? Colorado minister Ted Haggard who admitted to smoking meth and engaging in sexual activity with a male prostitute? The list goes on and on. These incidents were classic examples of men behaving badly, sadly and arrogantly. They disgraced their image, embarrassed their wives, families, disappointed their supporters and became poster boys for BAD BEHAVIOR. While there was some coverage of their lives (Clinton and Haggard more than the others), I cannot recall any major media outlet revisiting the story more than a year after the fact. In fact, with the exception of Clinton and Edwards, after a few days, the media had moved on to other stories.
Some in the Black community have argued that there are many in people in the media who were resentful of the fact that all of Wood’s alleged mistresses were White and that while the fact that he was married to a White woman caused resentment in certain quarters, they reluctantly accepted it due to the fact that he was such a gifted athlete and larger than life figure. However, once it became public knowledge that he had gone on a wanton sexual spree with more than a dozen blue eyed blonde and brunette women, he devolved from a Sidney Poitier, type of figure to a Black, bodacious, oversexed, multi-racial Mandingo who was obsessed with fornicating with big breasted, curvaceous, sexually appealing White women. To a number of people in the Black community, (especially women), Wood’s behavior unfortunately legitimized the all too frequent assumption that far too many Black men once they attain some level of considerable distinction make the decision to ignore and in some cases, forsake Black women and, rather engage in romantic and sexual liaisons with White women. By doing so, these men perpetuate the myth that White women are more desirable. Given the fact that he was a married man, it would have been just as distasteful if Woods have been involved with a Black woman or any woman regardless of race. Adultery is unacceptable. Period.
Some Black media critics further argued that if all or even half of his mistresses had been Black, the media more than likely would have marginalized or ignored the story. The fact is that a number of Black women (though not as many as some psychologists, cultural critics and pundits would have you believe) silently harbored similar sentiments, yet largely kept their feelings to themselves. In fact, Black women, like many of their Black male brethren, were disturbed by what they see as a double standard in the treatment of Woods, Michael Vick and other Black male public figures.
Yes, Tiger Woods is multiracial or as he refers to himself, “Cablinasian”. However, many people still identify him as Black, especially his critics. Remember in 1997 when Fuzzy Zoeller made the snide remark about hoping that Tiger Woods would not choose “fried Chicken and watermelon” for the annual Masters dinner after his (Woods) victory at Augusta? Notice Zoeller said fried chicken and watermelon, not egg rolls and wonton soup, bagels, corn on the cob or some other ethnically identifiable type of food. Thus, it was clear how he viewed Tiger Woods.
The fact is that Woods’ most diehard fans solely interested in his athletic prowess and performances on the golf course have forgiven Woods for his past failings. In fact, they probably never cared about his life off the golf course, period. Rather, those who are obsessed with a voyeuristic appetite looking for any piece of provocative information that will detail the sordid, salacious and tawdry details of his private life are the people who are making such unconvincing arguments. In fact, most of these individuals were most likely not even fans of Woods, or the sport of golf for that matter.
Moreover, I would ask, what would be gained by Woods explicitly discussing his sex life, infidelities and other personal missteps with the American public a year (or even later) after the fact? Why would he want to cause more pain to his ex-wife, children, mother and family and loved ones? In fact, I am sure he does not want to reopen such wounds or further inflame them if they have not been fully healed. No sensible person would want to revisit such an unpleasant chapter of their lives.
To be true, there are those fans that looked at Woods as a clean cut, all-American family man and gifted athlete who they deeply admired. The fact is that he betrayed and shattered the Camelot image they harbored. They will never forgive him for it. They have washed their hands of him. He is persona non-grata.
As far as I am concerned Tiger Woods can keep his personal life to himself. His private business is just that, his own. With the exception of those perverse human beings who revel in schadenfreude, no one is better served by hearing any more information. For all those who are still interested in the salacious details of Tiger’s life more than a year later, it might serve them well to tend to their own affairs and get a life as opposed to waiting for the next irrelevant tidbit about his.