Saturday, December 5, 2009

Is It OK To Scrutinize Tiger?

If you've been within 50 yards of a TV, computer or ham radio in the last week, you know the greatest golfer of the last 20 years, Tiger Woods, has gotten himself into a bit of trouble. And by a "bit of trouble" I mean that he is accused of having two affairs as well as being in a possible domestic dispute with his wife (connecting the dots, the dispute would most likely be regarding the affairs). Following the lead of other philandering high profile celebrities, athletes and politicians before him, Tiger offered a nebulous apology to his family and fans, despite not ever actually naming the transgression for which he was apologizing.

So Tiger is apologizing, and if he isn't going to tell us why, we can only assume it is regarding his rumored adultery. From this two schools have of thought have sprung. The first is "Leave Tiger and his family alone, we all make mistakes and nobody should have their personal life on display for the entire nation". The second is "OMG, this is America, tell us every dirty detail!". While the former argument is certainly more noble, the second is without a doubt what is going to happen.

So the question is "Is it OK to scrutinize Tiger?". Should we let him handle this domestic issue privately or is it ok for the public to learn any news that may become available? The answer is actually surprisingly simple: It's ok! So what makes it ok? First off, Tiger is a celebrity by choice (as are almost all athletes, actors and artists). He has chosen a high profile life in exchange for the fame and fortune of being one of the world's elite athletes. If the intense media scrutiny ever became too much or too invasive, Tiger could have simply walked away from golf. After all, nobody really gives a fuck if David Duvall (the #2 golfer in the world a mere 10 years ago) or an accountant in Pennsylvania is cheating on his wife. So just the act of being a professional athlete opens you up to more public interest (as Jayson Williams or Rae Carruth would attest), but there is another reason why it is ok for the public to have interest in Tiger.

Aside from being a professional athlete, Tiger Woods has openly accepted the role of celebrity and has used his celebrity to influence the America consumer for his own well being. Since he has come onto the PGA tour, Tiger has used his persona to invite himself into your living room to pitch Nike golf shoes, Buick automobiles, American Express, Gillette razors and many other products. Without going into an advanced class in advertising, the basic premise is "hey Tiger is a good guy and a winner, I should buy this product that he supports". Now the important part of this argument is that Tiger is a winner AND a good guy. He has used his squeaky clean personal life, his cool demeanor and his hot-ass Swedish wife to convince the American consumer that you should buy the products that he supports because if you do, you can be just a little bit like Tiger...a winner. In exchange for using all aspects of his persona to endorse a product, Tiger profited obscenely.

Being a celebrity has a cost. That cost is public interest. Tiger seems like a smart guy and surely he had to have known that as he accepted endorsements the public would become more interested in him. Woods freely chose to accept this public interest in exchange for huge endorsements. Unfortunately for Tiger, when you trade your persona for millions of dollars, you trade your entire persona: good, bad and adulterous (the argument of whether or not that is fair or right is open to debate, but there is no debating that it is the way it is). Tiger willingly made this trade and now has to live with the scrutiny.

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