Archive for November 29th, 2009

Tiger Woods and the curse of being famous

November 29, 2009

It is an unfortunate fact that in this day of blogs, e-mails, facebook, twitter, cellphone cameras and all of the other communications technology out there, being a celebrity is a hazardous lifestyle. There is little to no privacy available to you if you stray from the confines of your security enhanced home and even within those confines you need to keep your head down.

Tiger Woods’ recent accident has generated a rush of speculation and stories touted as ‘factual’, without any comment from Woods himself or his family nor any official statement from any other source. But you can sense the paparazzi’s lust to drag another icon down into the mud.

And that’s the problem: Tiger Woods is an icon. This far into his career he has been scandal free, a family man with a beautiful wife and a young family, but also dedicated to his craft. He is considered to be the most recognizable sports figure in the world. He has it all.

But now the sensationalized media is speculating about a marital dispute which, should it turn out to be the case, will severely tarnish his image as a man whose life is based on strong family values and reduce him to the status of all of those other athletes who have graced the covers of the scandal sheets.

He will still be Tiger Woods, possibly the greatest golfer of all time, but there will be a certain element of clay always clinging to his shoes.

I hope for his sake and for professional golf as well, that Mr. Woods will escape this tarnishing of his reputation.

This article says it very well.

We get news faster than we ever have. We just can’t trust it to be right. So patience, credibility and fairness are among the casualties here, too, at the intersection of celebrity and scandal — where voyeuristic rubbernecking is fun and nobody feels the need to tap the brakes, and the result is an international icon bleeding on the street while surrounded by more questions than answers.

I don’t pretend to know what is and isn’t true here. What I do know is that Woods is too famous to have any kind of accident quietly. Once upon a time, in a black-and-white America that was more romantic and less human, Joe DiMaggio could be an epic sports hero in public despite having secret issues with Marilyn Monroe in private. But that day is as dead as both DiMaggio and Monroe. There are too many lights on you these days for an athlete to be around anything shady.

Too many people are watching. And a cellphone camera is now credential enough to make just about anyone “media.” We’re all in this together now, linked by things like Twitter and Facebook, the lines blurred between network news and networking, which is how a reporter from Fox News somehow came to be “reporting” on this Tiger Woods incident while holding up a copy of the National Enquirer and citing TMZ in a mutated media m√©nage a` trois that didn’t exactly conjure a credibility that seems to have died with Walter Cronkite.

Here’s what we kind of know: The National Enquirer reported that Woods was having an affair with a New York party girl named Rachel Uchitel, who is one of the hottest Google trends today and has taken an unusual number of photos in a bikini. This report may or may not be true. That hardly seems to matter. Uchitel is denying any affair. That hardly seems to matter, either. Very soon after this report, Woods was checked into a hospital for facial lacerations and a suspicious car accident that either featured his wife aiding him or possibly beating him, depending on which whispers, outlets and paid-for-information anonymous sources you believe.

[snip]

What may or may not have happened to Woods isn’t any kind of new, of course. Promiscuity is older than sports, and falls from grace might be older than both. Kobe Bryant’s wife is wearing a $4.5 million apology for this kind of behavior on her finger. But what is new here is how quickly scandalous news spreads in an instant-gratification society that microwaves, TiVos, Google searches and gets its infotainment on demand. The news travels so fast that it is out there before it can be verified and before the participants have even uttered a public word, and the more credible news outlets are forced to follow the flocks toward TMZ and the Enquirer or be left behind.

And here’s why that’s relevant:

What if it isn’t true?

How do we go back and fix that?

And isn’t that kind of accident ultimately more damaging than the one involving Tiger Woods?


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