Copyright © 2009, 2015 by Jim Hull
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our sports heroes, averting our eyes to their faults. Tiger
Woods swore and hurled clubs, but others kept handing him
gimmes. Now that the dark side of his private life has
spilled out, everyone turns away, shocked. People will hate
him for awhile, as much as they loved him before. Both
reactions seem extreme. Tiger's a person who just happens to
be at the top of his game. And, yes, he thought that gave
him a 'bye on morality.
One thing troubles me about this entire affair (pardon the pun): the press is hounding Tiger to come out with details of his indiscretions. They assert that such confession will restore him to good graces, and that without it he'll suffer continuing public rejection. My concern is simple: this demand appears self serving. After all, whether it helps Tiger regain his life or not, it certainly adds to the news cycle! I've yet to hear anyone in media suggest the alternate theory -- that Tiger has already confessed, that we already know what happened, and that further details would merely harm others who ought to be left alone, to say nothing of the damage it would do to his case in divorce court. (In this country, even if confession is good for the soul, it's bad for litigation.) But then, watching Tiger's fortune get dismantled in court would make for a great news series.
It's true that Woods is a famously difficult interviewee: his answers to press questions tend toward bland soporifics. I don't blame the news services for feeling frustrated with him. But does he owe them more than he's already admitted? Tiger's December 11 mea culpa about his infidelity was a great press victory. Sure, he owes his public that much simple honesty. But more? Let's see: "I had a steamy night of sex with so-and-so, and we murmured sweet nothings into each others' ears while I forgot all about my wife." Detailing it would keep the press happily busy for a while, and it would make for great soap opera. But it would sully us all.
David Letterman admitted his indiscretions to head off an extortion scheme. A-Rod confessed about his steroid use because he was the last person to say publicly what the rest of us knew already. Celebrity confessions are, perhaps, about getting on the same page as everyone else, so that we can begin to trust them again. Tiger said, "I'm sorry; let me heal my family." That's a confession! But the media wants more from him. When they demand that he give out salacious details -- with the implied threat that the press will hound him mercilessly until he gives in -- it creates the impression of another kind of blackmail.
...One other thought: maybe Tiger should go back to Stanford and finish his degree. It would humanize him in the public eye as he studied hard, sweated the grades, ate in the cafeteria, dated a few coeds -- oops, too much.
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