Monday, December 14, 2009

Welcome to the Tiger Zoo

AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File


Ever since Tiger Woods burst onto the professional golf scene in 1996 the media has tirelessly built him up and put him on a pedestal at a height of unbelievable greatness and professionalism.

In a matter of a few weeks, they media took great pleasure in demolishing his entire image.

Woods got into a car accident November 26 and his private life has since spilled into his public appearance.

Questions were numerous. How did Woods get into the one-car accident? Where was he going at 2:30 in the morning? Why did his wife use a golf club to smash open the back window?

Woods' refusal to talk with police did nothing to help him; rather, it opened him up for speculation.

Conspiracies ran rampant. Rumors swirled. Confessions from outside sources popped up. With each new idea the media pushed further and further.

While the traditional media was the catalyst, social media expedited the entire process. There was the Twitter trending topic. Saturday Night Live did a sketch and the video went viral. Text messages with alleged mistresses were revelaed and passed along throughout the Internet. There's also a "Tiger Hunt" web-based video game.

Now, Tiger Woods is losing endorsements and has announced he is taking a leave of absence from golf.

Tiger Woods' alleged actions are not commendable. They are wrong and are not model behavior. However, it is his private life and should not be news.

It is news however. The situation rings of hypocrisy.

Tiger Woods himself and the media have presented him as the most wholesome athlete on this planet. His endorsements are so strong because of the draw of being like Tiger, living the perfect life. However, he is not the wholesome man every one made him out to be.

Also, when Woods first issued a statement he said that his wife had courageously saved him from the car and that there was no truth to any other rumor out there. That turned out to be a bold-faced lie. The media called him out on it.

However, the media, both traditional and social, are not blameless.

They sensationalized Tiger. His first year on the pro tour he was named Sports Illustrated's “Sportsman of the Year” (he was named a second time in 2000). ESPN talked him up so much that in the summer of 2007 in an audience poll Tiger Woods was named the athlete who is "most now", essentially a popularity contest amongst athletes.

The sporting world had put Tiger on a Godly level. He could do no wrong. He was pristine.

Until he did do wrong. Very wrong.

One unanswered question lead to another, speculation grew in the tabloids, and the media ran with every bit of it, destroying piece by piece the ultimate figure they helped create.

Thou giveth, thou can taketh away.

Now, the media may have pushed too far. Woods has announced his leave of absence from the sport, and the media has now lost their biggest draw to golf.

Through Tiger’s misdeeds and the media’s relentlessness, Tiger loses some endorsements (and a lot of money), his wholesome image, and must go away from the sport he loves for an indefinite period of time. The media possibly loses access to Tiger in the future and for the time being loses the biggest attraction the sport of golf has to offer currently.

These seem like fitting penalties for both parties’ involvement in what should be known as Tiger Zoo.

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