I am not, let me say at the outset, an avid golf fan. I do, however, often enjoy watching the final nine holes of a tournament on a lazy Sunday afternoon—especially if Tiger Woods is in the hunt.
The media mania surrounding Tiger’s return from self-imposed exile after revelations of his seedy, sadly mortal sexual escapades causes me to ponder many things, not the least of which is the country’s constant preoccupation with celebrities and its insistence that said celebrities fulfill to the letter an unwritten code of ethics as figures who are unilaterally chosen to be role models for our toddlers. That goes double for sports celebrities because they do something—play a game—that is introduced to children at an early age. A philandering Nobel winning physicist never seems to make CNN or Fox News if he or she is caught swapping protons with a slut.
For all the gnashing of teeth and the stern finger shaking that takes place at the corporate and fan level over such tawdry, titillating tales of libido run wild, America almost always seems to forgive—or at least forget—the desecrator of our Puritanical code. Really? Yes, really. Ask Kobe Bryant—or the sponsors who dropped him when he was charged with sexual assault only to return when the “charge” was reduced to merely having an adulterous adventure—no more or less adulterous than those of Tiger.
Tiger is so contrite he now plays the game on his knees.
Photo by Jaime Squire/Getty Images
This week’s moralizing from the chairman of Augusta, Bill Payne, epitomized the harrumphing around the land over Tiger’s indiscretions. Payne was quoted in The New York Times on Wednesday: “Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children.”
Please, spare me the moralizing from a club that continues to live in the Stone Age by not allowing female membership. If Payne were really that upset why did he allow Tiger to enter the tournament? Easy. America is long on moralizing as long as it doesn’t cost any money, which banning Tiger undoubtedly would have done for all the parties putting on Masters.
Too, America loves to look down from its Mt. Olympus of rectitude and bestow forgiveness after an appropriate period of contrition on the part of the guilty. As much as we idolize our sports heroes, we love it even more when they prove themselves to be even bigger fuck-ups than the average Joe or Josephine.
Tiger is just another example of a syndrome Tom Wolfe coined in Bonfire of the Vanities: Master of the Universe. When so much money and so much adulation is showered on an individual he can come to believe that codes of conduct and often laws as well are only, as Leona Helmsley once infamously observed, “for the little people.”
But, short of breaking the law, should we care a twit about celebrity behavior? Well, technically, Tiger did break the law in Florida and many other states that still consider adultery a crime, typically a misdemeanor. But I don’t believe any charges have been filed against him. The tacit lack of enforcement of such statutes makes all the sermonizing about Tiger’s behavior even more specious.
I’m reminded of that news photo from 1996 at the funeral of former French Prime Minister Francois Mitterrand that shows his wife standing next to his mistress at the service. How many chuckles have the French had over--among many, many other things--our preoccupation with Tiger’s sex life?
Here’s a thought: If our country is so shaken by Tiger’s debauchery, if male professional sports figures are so very important to the upbringing of our darling tots, then let them take steroids--nay, demand it. Not only will they hit farther, run faster, and set more records, their sex drives, ironically, can be reduced as the result of tiny testicles.
Hey, that reminds me of that Don Ho classic: “Tiny testicles in the wine….”
So, after the first round in the Masters yesterday, Tiger is, once again, in the hunt for the green jacket, as if all the scrutiny, the breathless reporting about every new discovery in his sexual dossier over the past five months had never happened. Reportedly, after a slow start to his round, he found a groove in the back nine and finished only two strokes off the lead with his best first round ever at the tournament, a 68.
And the crowds cheered wildly….