November 28, 2009
It's not often that Tiger Woods gets outplayed. But it's happening right now.
In the hours since his early-Friday-morning accident, facts, innuendo and supposition have combined to put a minor one-car bump in a cloistered Florida subdivision onto front pages worldwide. Why? Because this story presses all the necessary buttons: celebrity, sex and violence. And if it's left to grow on its own, it's going to get much worse before it gets any better.
Tiger's handlers are in unfamiliar territory on this one. In the golf media, Woods often gets handled with kitten mittens because his handlers have the power to cut off access to any media outlet that gets rough. Everybody plays ball in order to keep the access alive.
But this story isn't in the realm of golf writers anymore. Take a look at that photo at right, which includes graphics done by the Wall Street Journal. When they start bringing in the helicopters to cover your saga, matters have grown beyond the point where a simple "this is a private matter" read by some spokesperson can shut down the story.
More importantly, TMZ and other gossip media outlets don't care about preserving relationships or access to Woods. As long as they're conceivably staying within the bounds of legality, they can throw out accusations, suppositions and speculation without fear of reprisal. And once a particularly juicy element gets out into the public headspace, it's impossible to pull back. As the old saying goes, you can't unring a bell.
It may already be happening. For instance, Rachel Uchitel, Woods' alleged mistress, is telling a reasonably convincing story that she couldn't possibly be involved with Woods. Even so, her name's already stained -- twenty years from now, her name and Woods' will still be intertwined.
And as for Tiger's wife Elin? The picture that's developing of her isn't a flattering one either. Why did she smash out the back window of the SUV if she was trying to "rescue" Tiger? TMZ is reporting even darker allegations, the kind that can ruin a reputation and stain a marriage permanently.
So for his own good, and the good of his family, it's time for Tiger -- not his faceless handlers via press release, not his attorneys on camera, but Tiger himself -- to step up and address this. The guy enjoys more goodwill than practically any other human being on earth, and it's time to tap into some of that. We're a forgiving people, but not if we're getting the story from PR flacks.
If he's done wrong, he needs to admit it. If he hasn't done wrong, he needs to deny -- in his own words, in front of questioning -- the allegations against him. At the very least, he needs to get a handle on the stories that are taking root before they get any more outlandish.
Despite his wishes -- he named his yacht "Privacy," and has filed at least two different lawsuits on those who infringe upon his private life -- Tiger cannot ever be a completely private figure. That's the devil's bargain of celebrity. And for a guy whose image is at least partly built on being a devoted family man, a respectful son and doting father, allegations of infidelity and domestic discord just can't be allowed to flourish.
So step up, Tiger. End all this, or at least get control of it. Because right now, you're getting worked over like you've never been before.
The blog Nice Ballz picked up on exactly the point of what I was saying above -- this is actually a pro-Tiger post, recommending he get control of his own story. And Gary Van Sickle over at Sports Illustrated is now making many of the exact same points I did.
But Tiger and Elin Woods have declined to make themselves available to police, information which they shared via Woods' agent. So that's how he's going to play this.
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