TIGER, WE HARDLY KNEW YE

I have been consistent – nay, insistent in my past reverence for Eldrick ‘Tiger’ Woods. There are at least ten essays in my files, discussing his past triumphs, struggles and impact upon the game and our culture. I continue to regard him as one of the greatest golfers ever to tee up a ball, arguably, the finest. Yet, can you imagine Arnie or Jack generating such headlines and headshaking as we’ve seen since the night of THE ACCIDENT? I’m not suggesting that either was simon-pure but neither ever gave me any reason to question their morality or judgment.

We can’t known what was discussed between Tiger and Elin before he took that brief and fateful drive…but the most chilling words I’ve heard in recent years are, “My wife is going thru my phone….” Boy howdy, that kind of disclosure offers little upside.

You know, I’ve long felt the underlying issue many had with Clinton was not that he was a philanderer. As I’ve written, fidelity is a function of any man’s options. No, I think what put people off is the perceived quality of his chosen partners. You’d think the most powerful man on earth would enjoy the company of mythical lovers; the kind poems are written about, novels inspired by, timeless lyrics composed for…but Jennifer Flowers…Monica Lewinsky…Paula freaking Jones? Are you kidding me? The likes of these would barely register as an 8…at last call!

It’s curious. No partner happily accepts the news of infidelity…but their rage seems somehow…mitigated when their rival has serious appeal. I’m not suggesting she’s happy to learn you’ve been wandering but the degree of rancor seems affected by the generally perceived attractiveness of The Other. Ever heard these words? (somewhere within the venom and invective), “SHE’S NOT EVEN THAT PRETTY!!” Like that somehow matters…like she could get her mind around the thought that you strayed with Ms. X. “Yeah, I guess if I were a guy, I’d want to tap that my damn self.” But Bill was porking…well, pretty much, pork. Apart from possessing a vagina, there seemed little to recommend any of his chosen fuck buddies, given the potential traffic stoppers we’d presume any such leader could command. JFK and Marilyn Monroe? Most people, male and female, say, “Hell, yeah!” Most can relate to that. Many can even applaud such a pairing, vows notwithstanding. But Bill will always be regarded as having sold his dignity for some pretty unappealing strange.

Similarly, I think Tiger would generate far more empathy and forgiveness, had he been paired with some legendary beauty, some equally gifted and celebrated siren. People would conclude, “Yeah, the guy cheated…and that’s not right. But damn, he found his soul mate and come on, doesn’t he deserve to follow his heart?” So maybe both the quality and the daily burgeoning quantity of his indiscretions are now the issue. We expect Fredo to bang cocktail waitresses by the pair…but a billionaire, a golfer without peer, a father of two beautiful children and married to his equally photogenic SWEDISH MODEL WIFE? I mean, isn’t that the frat boy ultimate coup?

I’m sorry. My affection for carnality approaches my past reverence for Tigers golfing skills. I’ve spent much of my adult life in similar pursuits (more than a few of whom were hostesses and waitresses) and I knew exactly what I was about. But I’m not famous or rich or a husband or parent. I’m not proud of my liaisons but they were sport…and I am an avid sportsman;)

Now, the day is still young. Tigers been rich and famous for some time now, and the bimbos continue to fall out of the woodwork. I’m sure he could have approached Wilt Chamberlain-like/Warren Beatty-like statistics, had he put his mind to it …(tho after a long day of golfing, my back is seldom up to the task of assuming intricate carnal positions). And given Tigers competitive nature, you just know he was committed to rocking that twinkies world. Last thing he wanted bandied about is, “Well, he was OK. Kinda passive, not all that energetic.” Hmmm. Nooo, that would never do. I’m sure Tiger wanted whatever buzz followed his assignations to be, “Oh, my goodness! Oh My God! He hit places I didn’t even know existed!”

Speaking of which, his behavior, for so many years with so many random partners suggests any number of people must have known about it. Given a life so celebrated and so closely scrutinized by the press, what are the odds it remained under the radar as long as it did? I’ve gotta presume a hell of a lot of people, whatever their reasons, chose to keep this sequestered. Seriously, at night his fellow golfers should first offer thanks to their chosen deity and secondly, to Tiger Woods for singlehandedly having elevated purses and events to the levels enjoyed today. I mean, at his own tournament fundraiser this past week at Sherwood Country Club (which he understandably did not attend, but has won four times;) the last place golfer received $150,000. Golf is what it is today, entirely because of the phenomenon of Tiger Woods. Preternaturally gifted. Obsessively driven to hone, transform, perfect a game that was already perceived as god-like. And he’s…cool. Young, good looking, multi-cultural, a resonant back story, a genius for the dramatic, on track to demolish the records of past greats, a PR wetdream….

And all this time, like Fredo, he’s been banging cocktail waitresses. You know what? He’s a bright guy. He had to know that it was only a matter of time until this shit unraveled. I wonder if perhaps, somewhere deep down inside, he willed it. He wanted to be found out. He wanted off this God Track. I won’t even bring up pressure. Like with Jackie Robinson, none of us can imagine the kind of pressure this kid had dealt with from childhood. To carry the emotional, vicarious water for so many millions, in a sport largely nurtured by, enjoyed by and catering to the dominant White culture…well, that represents a burden I can’t even begin to fathom. So if all this was his way of blowing off steam and celebrating, I guess I can relate. I mean, how do you commemorate the kind of success he’s earned and enjoyed all these years? But if this inherently self-destructive behavior was his covert way of falling from grace and thereby, somehow relieving the incessant pressure to be great, to be dominant, to be legendary…I just hope he can find his way back to the prowess that keeps us glued to the TV when he competes.

David Duval now struggles to earn back his tour card. David Duval was once god-like on a golf course. He once shot a 59 in competition. He went thru personal troubles and lost his game. Utterly. Entirely. You’d try to understand how Duval, who was THAT gifted, might have his wheels fall completely off. Golf is a funny game. I continue to root for David, hoping he can regain the mental, emotional stability that carried him to the number one ranking on the PGA Tour, not so long ago.

I similarly hope for Tiger to find resolution to his conflicts….for he is clearly conflicted and has been, for some years. I don’t want to see him on Oprah or Dr Phil, offering up that public shaming we’ve come to demand of our fallen icons. The dissed wife sits nearby, the perp apologizes and asks for forgiveness. Fuck that. Coriolanus wouldn’t put up with that shit. Yes, you’re flawed, Tiger. I guess you’re human, after all. But what propelled him into history was less his physical gifts, singular tho they are. In all sports, there have been numerous athletes who were uncommonly gifted. Only a handful transcended to legend. In every instance, it was less about their physical prowess; it was about their mental toughness. Tiger, with all his skills, is simply the most mentally tough golfer we have ever known. Attribute it to his father’s training or his mother’s “genetic serenity” or something supernatural, his ability to focus in the moment, despite pain, fatigue, fear, adversity, pressure is what set him apart from all others.

My first thought after hearing of the accident, “May he please recover from his injuries…and play more golf”. For me, for all who revel in the display of excellence. My next thought was, “Gee, I hope he and Elin can work this out, they seem such an attractive couple and family.” My thought these days, “Jesus, I wonder how many more 5” bimbo heels are yet to drop?”

How does anyone recover from such public embarrassment, particularly someone who’s self-image is suddenly (and gleefully, sad to say) plunged into ignominy? That remains my question. I‘ve watched him successfully rehab serous physical injury. I’ve watched him retool a dominant game, intending (and succeeding) to achieve a yet more dominant game. But that’s all physical. Tigers edge has always been his mental will. If he resumes his success in the years to come, however long it takes, that may become the most compelling evidence of his greatness.

7 Dec ‘09

FAITHFULNESS: THEORY OF RELATIVITY

“A man’s fidelity is a function of his options”. Now that might sound cynical but people conversant with celebrity know it to be a blunt truth.

As I write this, Tiger Woods is presumably healing and weighing his own options. You probably have heard something about his recent dustup with wife Elin. It is surely embarrassing, on numerous levels but hardly surprising.

Throughout history, professional athletes, entertainers, political figures and others in the public eye have dealt with the spotlight and attention. If you’re a man, your high profile is catnip to the hoards of women in the world, some wishing to validate their own desirability or bag a well-off husband. When the spotlight dies and the money’s gone, more often than not, so are the camp followers.

These days, attractive women hope to capture a bit of that limelight and propel themselves into a career…and many have succeeded. Pre-nups or not, lots of professional hotties come away with a big payday and a TVQ of their own. You might call them golddiggers or sluts or party girls…or canny businesswomen;) A jock has his athletic prowess, an entertainer his looks or voice…and the women have good genes or good surgeons or both. Women use their assets as purposefully as do their male counterparts.

Today, the business of attracting attention is enjoying a bull market; mostly because the masses vicariously enjoy the ascension of stars…almost as much as they relish the train wrecks that often follow such meteoric events. Now I’ve asserted that civilians have absolutely no idea what kind of choices or options are available to celebrities these days. Absolutely none. Many people have enjoyed a moment in the sun, however brief. Maybe you were once homecoming queen or won a talent contest or scored the winning goal….and for a few seconds or hours or days, you basked in the attention and approval. Now try to imagine that kind of reality 24/7.

Once you discover how little any of that attention has to do with you, it becomes less seductive but still…we all enjoy being liked. Some don’t really care why they’re liked, ‘just keep that attention coming’. Others become guarded, knowing how artificial and fleeting fandom can be, remaining close to those who were trusted friends before fame struck. And after a while, that surreal existence becomes one’s reality. You expect the gifts, compliments, special treatment, smiles, offers, perks…and I’m sure more than a few have struggled with depression when it ends.

Bear in mind that fan is short for fanatic;) In my years of public recognition, I’ve received an assortment of fan mail, gifts, intimate photographs and apparel. Men have pimped their wives or girlfriends out to me (a few successfully;) Women often freelance (their dates in near proximity), offering me numbers, hook-ups, quickies. I’ve had women look right thru me (I’m normally dressed in jeans and sneakers) and once they’ve ‘recognized who I am’ (someone they’d seen on TV or in a film) their energy amps up, they begin preening and posing and vying for my attention and approval. It’s totally calculated and mercenary and often quite entertaining.

At staged gatherings, aspiring models, actresses, wannabee’s are invited to ‘dress up’ the event…and they take full advantage of their opportunities…and so do the men. Why wouldn’t they? Wouldn’t most people? Wouldn’t you?

Before you rise up in indignation, consider my earlier stated premise: A man’s fidelity is a function of his options. I’m a minor player in the world of celebrity, so imagine the choices of a Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods or Jack Nicholson, hmmm? Just as every female icon has been desired and idolized by millions (Monroe, Bo Derek, Beyonce), every high profile man lives in the dream lives of countless women around the world. And when fans have the chance to interact with their Prince Charming, in the flesh, it’s all they can do to remember to breathe. Their hormones go wild – adrenaline and endorphins kick in and their life is suddenly exhilarating.

So any male celebrity who continually, successfully resists that kind of opportunity is uncommon…or gay;) Half of all marriages end in divorce and that statistical base is hardly dominated by celebrities. If ordinary Janes and Joes can’t manage to stay happily married, why would you expect those living in the high stress bubble of celebrity to be any more successful?

When I learned of Tiger’s ‘accident’, my first thought was dismay. “Please let his injuries be recoverable.” When I first heard his voicemail played, I was chilled by the words, “My wife is going thru my cellphone.” In this day and age, with multiple means of communication, it’s pretty tough to philander without leaving a trail. Wives who wish to remain wives learn to look the other way and not force the issue. Hell, people have been cheating long before texting and e-mails and telephones came into use. “I’ll meet you behind the barn after midnight.”

But the most damning reality today is the willingness of ‘the other woman (women) to go public with the affair (assuming they don’t shoot your sad ass first;) TMZ and countless other such businesses exist to display dirty linen…and checkbook journalism is alive and well in America today. The judgmental masses call for the sinners head, a wicked brew of holier-than-thou self-righteousness and schadenfreude. They tsk, tsk, tsk while chugging the daily disclosures of carnality.

So, evidently Tiger has been fishing in someone else’s pond. Frankly, it’d be a bigger surprise if he hadn’t been. He’s a man, he’s famous, he’s rich and he attracts attention wherever he goes. Even in today’s permissive world, his betrayal of ethical and moral standards was apparently unexpected. Tiger seemed upstanding, somehow ‘special’…and many transferred on him their own aspirations and expectations of what such success promised. “If I were rich and talented and married to a beautiful woman, I’d be sooo good.” Come on. What he did was not praiseworthy but it ain’t surprising.

His wife and children are beautiful. I hope their marriage survives this disclosure…but I dunno. Tiger wanted a family. He now has one. Time will tell. But to those who question why any man would seek comfort away from so beautiful a wife, I say this, “Show me the most desirable woman on earth…and I’ll bet I can find someone who’s tired of fucking her.” Now, that’s cynical;)

3 Dec ‘09