Verner column: Tiger and me

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 4, 2009

Following his bizarre early morning excursion into the roadside roughs of his gated Florida enclave, golfer Tiger Woods made a vague allusion to “transgressions,” reminded us that he’s a mere mortal, after all, and asked that we now grant him his privacy.
“Although I am a well-known person and have made my career as a professional athlete, I have been dismayed to realize the full extent of what tabloid scrutiny really means,” Woods said. “For the last week, my family and I have been hounded to expose intimate details of our personal lives.”
To which I say: Hey, Tiger, wanna buy a Buick?
If Woods had kept to his day job of being perhaps the greatest golfer of all time, his plea for privacy might carry more weight. If Tiger had limited his visits to my home to those desultory occasions when I caught a few rounds of the Masters or the U.S. Open, I’d be more sympathetic to his plight. After all, it’s not his decision to broadcast major sporting events or give them front-page coverage in newspapers and magazines. He isn’t holding the network camera that offers a slo-mo dissection of his balletic drive off the tee or zooms in for high-def images of his dazzling victory smile. But the proposition that Woods has made his career “as a professional athlete” is only partly true. In reality, the game of golf is simply the vehicle that facilitated his transformation into a ubiquitous marketing machine.
While Woods now finds himself writhing under unwanted media scrutiny, there’s more than a tenuous connection between the “hounding” of the tabloids and Woods using his face and his fame to pitch products to an adoring public.
Here’s Tiger, trying to sell me an “unstoppable” Citizen Eco-Drive watch or TAG Heuer timepiece.
Here’s Tiger, trying to sell me a Gillette razor.
Here’s Tiger, trying to sell me Nike shoes, a Nike hat or a Nike warmup jacket.
Here’s Tiger, suggesting life won’t be complete until I get an American Express card.
Here’s Tiger, hawking the Buick Rendezvous.
The list goes on … and on … While Woods is on course to rewrite golf’s record book, he’s already made history on the ka-ching charts: Earlier this year, Forbes magazine concluded Woods had become the world’s first billion-dollar athlete, thanks to all of those lucrative endorsement deals like the $100 million he reportedly received from Nike and the $40 million Buick bonanza.
Should we begrudge Woods the riches gained from pitching shaving implements and ostentatious wrist wear? Not at all. Like other superstar hucksters such as Dale Earnhardt Jr., LeBron James, Danica Patrick and Maria Sharapova, Woods knows that youth and fame are fleeting. The public, along with the gods of golf, can be fickle. Cash in while you can รณ especially if marital hazards loom in the background.
However, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t make yourself a household figure when it suits your pocketbook and then declare yourself entitled to a zone of privacy when the media hounds sniff a juicy story. As for the notion that, even if we don’t accord you that respect, we should render it to your wife and family, you can’t have it both ways there, either. Your wife knew exactly what she was signing up for when she OK’d the pre-nup, and the nonstop marketing blitz that provides the sequestered life of luxury your family enjoys also invites the media scrutiny. You can’t hide behind family now.
So, Tiger, here’s the deal: If you want more privacy, then make yourself less of a public peddler relentlessly insinuating yourself into other people’s homes and lives simply for the sake of grabbing more dough. In other words, I’ll keep my nose out of your bedroom if you’ll stop barging into my den.
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Chris Verner is editorial page editor of the Salisbury Post.

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