The Stupidity Of Maintaining A Cleancut Image

Up until last week, Tiger Woods came across as one of the least rebellious athletes in the world.  Aside from a speeding ticket eight years ago, there have been no drug issues, no arrests, no violence, no criminal convictions, no jerky behaviour of any kind.  Then, The National Enquirer ran this story.  Shortly thereafter, the golfer crashed his SUV around 2:30 one morning.  Initially, it was nothing serious.  Woods only suffered minor injuries and damaged a neighbourhood fire hydrant as well as a tree.  Then TMZ offered context.  Reportedly, Woods and his Swedish wife, Elin Nordgren, had been having a serious argument regarding the revelations in The Enquirer story which ultimately led to the accident.  Not too long after that, more allegations of adultery surfaced
Although there has been far too much mainstream media coverage of the matter (which means less reporting on The Middle East, government corruption and actual crime; you know, important stuff that affects us all), the whole sordid tale does offer one important lesson for those hoping to achieve some kind of celebrity in the world of sports and/or entertainment.  Never misrepresent yourself as an angel.  Eventually, you’ll be found out and it could cost you in more ways than one.
Woods comes from a long line of famous people who learned this lesson the hard way.  OJ Simpson, Chris Brown, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Mel Gibson are just a handful of examples.  How the unimportant revelations about his personal life will affect his exceedingly lucrative athletic career remains uncertain.  The truth is it shouldn’t.  He’s not going to jail and he’s already paid a fine even I can afford (although TMZ reports he may be ordered to pay additional fines for the damaged hydrant and tree).  Let me put it this way.  When was the last time you saw Michael Jordan pitch Nike on TV?  What happened to Bill Cosby hawking for Kodak and Jell-O?  Their cash-generating good guy images were never the same after their infidelities became public.
The idea that you need to pretend to be this unblemished hero for your country in order to achieve the most success is nuts.  (Just ask Michael Phelps.)  At the end of the day, Tiger Woods is famous for hitting a dimpled white ball into a series of holes with a series of clubs.  So is John Daly.  The difference is Daly doesn’t pretend to be a saint and couldn’t if he tried.  When you think about it, it’s amazing how Woods was able to keep his indiscretions out of the glare of the increasingly unethical media for as long as he did.  But as an aside, what was he thinking texting, emailing and voicemailing the other women in his life again and again?  Was he too arrogant or deluded to think his dumb actions wouldn’t catch up to him in the long run, especially when he has this vulnerable good guy image to protect?  It’s hard to have sympathy for such a foolish man who stands to lose so much.
Like Daly, guys like Jack Nicholson and Howard Stern have never had to worry about having a soiled reputation.  Nicholson’s long thrived on being a lovable bad boy with the devilish grin which has served him well for decades both in the movies and in real life.  Stern’s long career in radio has been traditionally devoted to dissecting both the good and bad qualities of his controversial personality, much of it fodder for comedy.  Unlike Woods, neither pretended to be above temptation or build their whole "brand" on an unrealistically wholesome image.  In fact, for all his numerous flaws, Stern’s remarkable willingness to frequently reveal the darker aspects of himself (which led to his ongoing decade-long devotion to intense Jungian therapy) has completely eliminated the very need for a more positive image.  For better and for worse, that sometimes irrational but often very funny guy on the radio is a real person, not a phony, sickly sweet caricacture.  And believe it or not, there’s more good than bad there.
As always in situations like this, I have sympathy for the wife and kids.  They didn’t do anything wrong here and deserve much better treatment than they received.  As Woods digs very deep into his fortune to figure out a way to prevent more damaging details from surfacing, he ought to let go of the idea that his actions go against his values when, for the last few years, they perfectly embodied them.  Whether he admitted it to himself or not, he knew what he was risking. 
If only he had Nicholson’s rep.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, December 6, 2009
12:42 a.m.
Published in: on December 6, 2009 at 12:42 am  Leave a Comment  

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