New Year--"Different Tiger"
Maybe it's the cold meds I'm gobbling but does it seem the Tiger Woods story just took a very strange turn?
"New" photos of the fallen golf star made the cover of the most recent "Vanity Fair". They show a bare-chested Woods pumping iron, with other pictures inside of Tiger going through various other lifting routines. They're far different than how we've seen him in the past, where he was never seen without either a golf shirt or a tux.
Thing is, the pictures are at least three years old. Why are they a big deal now? The story hasn't changed since 2009 became 2010--Tiger is still in the world's most public dog house, and the only thing apparently left to decide is the amount of the divorce settlement.
Being house-bound the last few days, I've been able to absorb some of the chatter about the photos. Some are saying they provide new evidence of the two lives Tiger actually led--the manufactured, ready-for-consumption family man who sold us Wheaties versus the vain, self-absorbed cad that we've heard about in recent weeks.
The question I'm still waiting to hear answered is, "What took so long for the pictures to go public?" It's not like someone secretly took them with a cellphone in Tiger's basement. He posed for them with a renowned photographer for a very, very popular magazine. Why did "Vanity Fair" wait until now to publish them? Wouldn't they have been just as big of a "get" three years ago, when the proofs were still wet?
What the pictures do is give us another chance to vent our frustration at being sold a bill of goods. You'd think we'd be over it by now, what with baseball's steroids scandal and any number of other celebrity flame-outs where supposed "family men" tumbled off the fidelity wagon.
Vanity Fair contributing editor Buzz Bissinger told NBC's "Today" show that Woods used his cultivated image to make millions of dollars off of us, and that we wanted to believe in him. Even though others did the same things, Bissinger says they didn't profit the way Woods did which is why the public's anger runs so hot. Woods, he says, made sure he never stepped outside of the cocoon that his marketing managers created for him: saying the right things at the right time, never revealing himself, never hanging around with other golfers. Bissinger says that insulation made him feel invincible and that the photos prove him to be narcissistic--traits that probably contributed to his downfall, and made him downright sloppy toward the end.
Woods joins a growing list of stars/athletes/politicians who sold us a bill of Madison Avenue goods, only to be exposed as a fraud. Some cheated their games. Others cheated on their wives. Is it their fault, or ours? What's the old saying: do me wrong once, shame on you. Do me wrong twice? It's not unlike the parents who complain about fallen jocks having let their kids down because their children considered the freshly accused superstar "a role model." As a parent, isn't it your job to be a buffer between your kid and their objects of affection, warning them that the person they're worshiping is human and may someday do something to prove it?
There's a reason "The National Enquirer" and "TMZ" do so well--there's an appetite for exposure, and the gossip media are voracious when it comes to exposing the dark sides of stars. P-R folks fought this battle for years in Hollywood, and it's only getting tougher now that there are so many outlets so eager to dish the dirt (and pay for it, too). Tiger's fall shows just how easily a well-crafted public face can crumble. All it took was a girl who felt wronged by one of Woods' sleep mates and 25 grand from a tabloid to explode a billion dollar empire. All of the marketing people, spinmeisters, and pre-cultivated good will he'd put together could stop the flow of muck that would follow. We may be angry, but we sure love a story about a hypocrite. Ask Gary Hart or Jim Bakker.
Tiger is a victim of his appetites, and we're victims of our own ridiculous expectations. Someday we'll learn that the people we worship are flawed to one extent or another. Does that make them wrong for not living up to our expectations, or leave us to blame for making the same mistakes over and over again?