Feb 212010
Authors: Kevin Hollinshead

On Friday, the three major broadcast networks, every cable news channel, and ESPN interrupted regular programming to carry a live feed of Tiger Woods acknowledging marital infidelity. Then it became the top news story for the next 48 hours (public option revival, CPAC, Olympics and apparently deadly diabetes medication be damned). It will likely hang around for some time long past its welcome, much like the golfer’s former mistresses trying to extend their 15 minutes of fame.

Soon after Woods stopped talking, the incessant griping about his statement began: He wasn’t remorseful or sincere enough. He was too scripted, too robotic. He should have taken questions. He should have shed a tear or 10. His wife should have been there.

Crisis management experts flooded the airwaves in the aftermath, picking at every aspect of Woods’ appearance, as if explaining an autopsy report. The four-letter network even interviewed a body language expert, who proclaimed that Tiger Woods’ eyebrows would have moved if his apology were sincere. The wall-to-wall coverage has crossed into nauseatingly excessive territory.

This country’s media has slowly dismantled the wall between journalism and gossip over the last 20 years or so, and the coverage of Tiger Woods over the last three months serves as a solid example of this trend. This has resulted in the idea that the public is somehow entitled to answers about a prominent public figure’s private life, regardless of whether their own life is impacted by it at all.

It’s one thing for a politician to face a sex scandal. Those elected to office are public servants who are ultimately responsible to voters. Given the immense influence these people have over the lives of Americans, citizens have every right to question whether such behavior inhibits their ability to effectively govern.

But an adulterous athlete, however well known around the world, doesn’t owe an apology or explanation to anyone other than those close to him. While Woods was wise in acknowledging that he let those who idolized him down, he was certainly not bound to do so. People are free to not watch him on TV if they don’t like what they’re seeing from their hero.

It’s ironic that Woods was forced to show his humanity as he did on Friday because he is, by his own design, one of the least-accessible athletic stars in history. He was a meticulously crafted marketing machine, a corporate pitchman, a man determined never to offend a potential customer or sponsor by saying anything more controversial than which club he chose.

While he certainly gave as many interviews as any other athlete during his career, interviewers were wise not to ask questions in an attempt to shed light on who he is as a person. Before the scandal, he never discussed his family life aside from wedding and birth announcements. He even owns a yacht named Privacy.

Even Woods’ on-course demeanor has always been standoffish at best. He never signs autographs for fans by the putting green like his competitors do. His caddie is famous for yelling at fans. The closest any tournament attendee would ever see to a human Tiger Woods was the occasional f-bomb after a sliced drive.

For Woods, his prepared statement was a striking departure from his carefully constructed norm. He made no attempt to justify his behavior, nor did he cast himself as a victim of sexual addiction. “I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in … I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to,” he said.

In one of Friday’s stranger comments about Woods, ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi declared that “we will all remember where we were” when Tiger took to the podium and apologized for his infidelity. That statement may be the epitome of the disconnect from the bigger picture that fuels our collective obsession with Woods’ personal ruin.

Kevin Hollinshead is a junior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 2:18 pm

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