Ed Driscoll

The Men Who Fell To Earth

“So what is it about Tiger Woods that makes his cheating so different from the usual”, Lisa Schiffren asks at the American Thinker, “that ten days on, the nation is still discussing revelations of conquests, trysts, payoffs, and physical injuries inflicted by a golf club?”

Jack Shafer, the Slate media columnist, spells out how this transpired. In the beginning, Shafer notes, Woods was your normal young, single, randy, skirt-chasing, heterosexual athlete. Then, almost overnight, he became a golf phenom, and

… for business reasons — Buick, Nike, Gatorade, Gillette, EA Sports, and Accenture being among them — Woods decided to exfoliate from his public image all things base, carnal, and even personal.

The Tiger Woods that was constructed for corporate consumption was spotless and smooth, an edgeless brand easily peddled to sheikhs and shakers.

Given how desperately we want to believe in a human god, it didn’t take much peddling from Team Tiger for us to accept Woods as a modern deity. With every new tournament victory, every new product endorsement, his divinity grew. His marketers made him a symbol of tolerance and brotherhood, and his father, Earl Woods, spoke gibberish about his son being a creature of destiny. Getting married and having children only added to Woods’ marketability. I’m divine and monogamous and the center of a happy nuclear family. And we ate it up. So now that the “real” Woods has been revealed … we’re embarrassed by the gap between who we believed Woods to be and who he really is.

The unusually sleazy reality, however true to our darker knowledge of human nature, is especially disappointing because of the wholesome image we’ve been sold for so long. “Modern deity” isn’t much of an overstatement. Even now, the same huge corporate effort that went into creating the billion-dollar nice-guy persona is hard at work trying to keep it alive — because if it dies, too many people stand to lose too much money.

Think about the heroic efforts to “save” Woods’ marriage. In addition to her prenup — which only “vests” after a certain amount of time, apparently the much-wronged wife will receive a huge payment — $55 million, according to some reports — to stay with him for another two years. That would explain why she hasn’t exited stage right. And the millions reportedly paid to many among the text-message-wielding, semi-pro women involved suggests the magnitude of everyone’s stake in reconstructing an image able to hawk corporate goods.

Nor was Woods’ behavior unknown — except to the public. In one instance reporters had photos of a “transgression”…committed in a church parking lot, no less. These journalists agreed to keep it secret — if Tiger posed for a cover story at Men’s Fitness Magazine — a cover that would sell huge numbers. Normally Woods wouldn’t have been available, since he had an exclusive contract with Conde Nast’s Golf Digest. With full understanding of the situation, Conde Nast allowed the rival cover because he [sic? — Ed] too profited from having Tiger remain an icon.

Note that this industry-wide coverup of Woods’ cheating (and apparently his personal nastiness, arrogance, and general non-cuddly nature) is not a small, secret plot by dedicated fanatics. Rather, it is a set of interlocking self-interests manifested in sustaining the pristine image of this one sports icon to keep cash coming in.

But enough about Tiger the man, who is, after all, only a golfer. Let’s move on to Tiger the metaphor. Because anyone with four functioning brain cells gets that if this comprehensive a charade can be sustained for a decade as Woods and those around him amassed billions, it can happen elsewhere. It can happen right in front of our eyes.

If I were watching the public’s disgust with the newly revealed Tiger Woods from an office in the West Wing, I’d be concerned. Because Barack Obama is about as completely manufactured a political character as this nation has seen. His meteoric rise, without the inconvenience of a public record or accomplishments, and the public’s willing suspension of critical evaluation of his résumé allowed his handlers and the media to project whatever they wanted to on his unfurrowed brow.

Read the whole thing.

(Via El Rushbo, who has his own thoughts on Schiffren’s article, particularly how it applies to President Obama.)

Update: Career metaphor alert? “A woman was transported to a hospital from Tiger Woods’ Florida home after firefighters responded to a medical call early Tuesday… ‘on advanced life support’ after firefighters received a call at 2:36 a.m.” As Ed Morrissey writes, “It’s hard to remember when an A-list celebrity with a seemingly endless reservoir of goodwill with the public managed to make such a hash of his image so quickly.”