Archive for November, 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 ménage 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.


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?

Tiger seriously/slightly hurt in a serious/minor car accident

November 28, 2009

The first news report I heard on the radio was that Tiger Woods had been seriously injured in a car accident while leaving his Home at Islesworth, Florida.. It sounded very serious and I was thinking of how tragic it would be for Woods to be taken out of the game this early in his career.  Shades of Ben Hogan.

But then things got a bit strange.

Tiger Woods was injured early Friday when he lost control of his SUV outside his Florida mansion, and a local police chief said Woods’ wife used a golf club to smash out the back window to help get him out.

The world’s No. 1 golfer was treated and released from a hospital in good condition, his spokesman said. The Florida Highway Patrol said Woods’ vehicle hit a fire hydrant and a tree in his neighbor’s yard after he pulled out of his driveway at 2:25 a.m.

Windermere police chief Daniel Saylor told The Associated Press that officers found the 33-year-old PGA star lying in the street with his wife, Elin, hovering over him.

“She was frantic, upset,” Saylor said in a briefing Friday night. “It was her husband laying on the ground.”

She told officers she was in the house when she heard the accident and “came out and broke the back window with a golf club,” he said, adding that the front-door windows were not broken and that “the door was probably locked.”

“She supposedly got him out and laid him on the ground,” he said. “He was in and out of consciousness when my guys got there.”

Saylor said Woods had lacerations to his upper and lower lips, and blood in his mouth; officers treated Woods for about 10 minutes until an ambulance arrived. Woods was conscious enough to speak, he said.

He was mumbling, but didn’t say anything coherent,” Saylor said.

The Florida Highway Patrol said alcohol was not involved, although the accident remains under investigation and charges could be filed.

Woods was alone in his 2009 Cadillac when he pulled out of his driveway from his mansion at Isleworth, a gated waterfront community just outside Orlando, the patrol said.

Woods’ injuries were described as serious in the patrol’s report, though his spokesman, Glenn Greenspan, issued a statement that Woods was treated and released.

Bad accident. Lying in the street. Blood in his mouth. Incoherent. Sounds damned serious. Then he was treated and released “in good condition”.

The media will be chasing this one for awhile.

But if Woods has only minor injuries from this accident, the biggest sigh of relief will come from the PGA. To lose Tiger’s star power in these economic times would be a major disaster to their marketing strategy..

And it would make the golf scene a lot less interesting.

British Rule: Do your civic duty and get arrested.

November 25, 2009

When I read this story a couple of weeks ago, I was impressed to see how Mother Britain has gone completely to hell.

A former soldier who handed a discarded shotgun in to police faces at least five years imprisonment for “doing his duty”.

Paul Clarke, 27, was found guilty of possessing a firearm at Guildford Crown Court on Tuesday – after finding the gun and handing it personally to police officers on March 20 this year.

The jury took 20 minutes to make its conviction, and Mr Clarke now faces a minimum of five year’s imprisonment for handing in the weapon.

In a statement read out in court, Mr Clarke said: “I didn’t think for one moment I would be arrested.

“I thought it was my duty to hand it in and get it off the streets.”

It has become increasingly apparent that in Britain justice has become a joke. When the law has been written in such an idiotic fashion that a man doing what he considers is his civic duty – who actually does the right and the intelligent thing –  goes to jail because the wording of the legislation on the books is  written to entrap not to serve the public, then something in the character of the country has been lost.

Prosecuting, Brian Stalk, explained to the jury that possession of a firearm was a “strict liability” charge – therefore Mr Clarke’s allegedly honest intent was irrelevant.

Just by having the gun in his possession he was guilty of the charge, and has no defence in law against it, he added.

But despite this, Mr Blackman urged members of the jury to consider how they would respond if they found a gun.

He said: “This is a very small case with a very big principle.

“You could be walking to a railway station on the way to work and find a firearm in a bin in the park.

“Is it unreasonable to take it to the police station?”

Paul Clarke will be sentenced on December 11.

Judge Christopher Critchlow said: “This is an unusual case, but in law there is no dispute that Mr Clarke has no defence to this charge.

“The intention of anybody possessing a firearm is irrelevant.

“If this what is considered to be good law or intelligent legislation in Britain then Britain is a good place to avoid.

But then again I don’t know why I should be freshly surprised by this story. This is the same country where a person defending himself against a burglar in his own home goes to jail while the burglar goes free.

The thing is, we can’t afford to be smug because this has taken place in ‘Jolly Old’ and assume that nothing so stupid could ever happen here. Give some of our bureaucrats and politicians half a chance and we too could have even more ridiculous legislation on the books. Although I am sure that if we looked just a little closer we could find much stupidity already sitting in our own legislative books just lurking there to astound us.

Stay alert.

An amazing thing occurred in Parliament last Tuesday

November 10, 2009

A truly amazing event took place in Ottawa this past Tuesday.

Manitoba MP Candice Hoeppner‘s private members bill C-391 to eliminate the federal long-gun registry, passed on second reading by a vote of 164 to 137. This was amazing on several different levels.

Firstly, it was a private members bill which rarely get passed, unless it deals with some innocuous, motherhood issue. But this was a controversial piece of legislation, that had anti-gun groups frothing at the mouth in frustration and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) pumping out misinformation in a desperate attempt to garner support to defeat the bill. But that didn’t happen.

Secondly, the Conservative government, after having torpedoed Garry Breitkreuz‘ Bill C-301 ,which would have killed the registry as well as clearing up several other inequities, and then engineering a Senate bill (S-5) which they said would eliminate the registry, but in reality would have simply taken the long-gun registry out of the federal government’s purview and passed in on down to the provinces, backed Ms. Hoeppner’s bill so enthusiastically they ran the risk of alienating even the opposition MPs that were already in favour of scuttling the registry. I’ll park my paranoia on that one.

Thirdly, the leaders of two of the three opposition parties, Jack Layton for the NDP and Michael Ignatieff for the Liberals stayed with the normal practice of giving their members a free vote on a private members bill.

So despite the wailing of the anti-gunners, who did their best to convince all and sundry that the loss of the registry would mean bodies piling up in the streets, and the CACP  who were in turn predicting a complete breakdown in law and order should the registry disappear, 12 NDP and 4 Liberal MPs voted with the Conservative minority to take it through 2nd reading. The Bloc of course, having their own agenda, voted solidly against the bill.

What was also interesting was the amount of media commentary that was in favour of getting rid of the long-gun registry. We saw numerous columns , articles and editorials in the newspapers supporting the Hoeppner bill – a long time coming, but encouraging to see.

So is it a fait accompli that the registry is on its way out?

Not by a long shot. There is a process.

From here it goes to to committee, in this case the Public Safety Committee, for modification or approval and already opposition members are bragging that they will gut the bill at this level. The Public Safety committee is made up of 12 members, one of which functions as the chair. Looking at the names on the committee it is apparent that it is evenly split between those who voted for Bill C-391 and those who voted against it. But, the chair -in this case Yorkton-Melville MP Garry Breitkreuz who has fought against the federal firearms legislation since its inception – only votes in the case of a tie which actually gives the opponents of the bill a voting majority.

If the bill survives this stage it goes back to Parliament for 3rd reading and provided that the opposition MPs stay true to their 2nd reading vote, and the vote is once again a majority in favour, it then goes to the Senate for for review and approval.

At which point the registry would disappear from our lives.

At least from some of our lives, as Quebec is already making noises about setting up a provincial registry, which is something they have wanted for some time.

Will Bill C-391 make it to the finish line? Good question.

The vice-chair of the Public Safety Committee is Ontario MP Mark Holland who has been the Liberal party’s stalking horse on this issue promoting the Liberal’s pro-gun control position at every opportunity, which bodes no good for the committee process.

On the other hand, the bill is very simple and straight forward. It get rid of the long-gun registry. No more and no less. If, as I understand, the committee in its deliberations cannot materially change the intent of the legislation there may not be much that they can do to corrupt Hoeppner’s bill.

At this point only time will tell.