It sucks to be Tiger Woods.
Now I’m sure no one’s heart is bleeding for a 33 year old billionaire who’s married to a Nordic model and is one of the most admired athletes in history. Just the mere mention of his name to a passing stranger conjures up feelings and flavors of a life as champion – the stuff that dreams are made of. Tiger Woods has transcended the fairways and the links and into the hearts and minds of people around the world. He is no longer just a guy who happens to be good at golf and just happens to be 25% Chinese, 25% Thai, 25% African American, 12.5% American Indian and 12.5% Dutch (who knew DNA could mix to that degree). Tiger Woods has become an adjective, a metaphor for success. Tiger Woods is no longer human but an ideal, a brand.
So why does it suck to be Tiger Woods? Simply put – he can’t be himself. In public, he has to always live into the expectations of his brand. He has to be honest, positive, hard-working, respectful, well-spoken, intelligent, courteous, an ideal family man, an ideal husband, a visionary, etc. Basically flawless in the most positive ways. ALL THE TIME. And it doesn’t help that he’s the face of golf. It would be one thing if he was a star athlete in other sports that didn’t have a history of gentlemanly conduct, proper etiquette, high society, and mint julep. If you’re a star boxer, basketball player, football player, ultimate fighter, etc., the public’s expectation of you wouldn’t be as lofty as the clean white sheets of a golfer. Compared to other sports, golf is an activity of the highest moral standards. And to be the face of it elevates the expectation of it’s ambassadors to near-impossible levels. To err is human. Unfortunately for Tiger Woods, he can’t fuck up because he’s no longer human…he’s a brand. And brands don’t (can’t) fuck up.
Which leads us to Tiger’s endorsement deals. They’re massive on a historical scale. Water cooler talk and casual lunch discussions always seem to focus on how “amazing” it is that Tiger gets paid so much by the likes of Nike, Gatorade, Gillette, etc. His total take last year was in the neighborhood of $110,000,000+. That’s endorsements, winnings, fee for name on golf courses, etc. Basically, a lot of money. I imagine Tiger was pretty psyched by the massive cash influx at first. But I suspect that he has silent reservations, especially now, that he has made a deal with the devil. Hundreds of millions of dollars in exchange for what? Big corporation give you big money and agree to elevate your brand to pandemic levels by making sure people wear, drink, shave and dream you on a daily basis. All you have to do is to agree to be on your best behavior and be a good boy for that brand…24/7. To err is human. To err many times is the necessary ingredient to becoming a better human being. Unfortunately for Tiger, err is a four letter word that must be managed and avoided at all costs.
Which naturally leads to Tiger’s car accident at his home in Florida this past Thanksgiving. At 2:30 AM he leaves his house, gets into his SUV, hits the fire hydrant and tree at the end of his driveway, and is found at curbside with facial lacerations, drifting in and out of consciousness. His wife is standing there with a golf club in hand. What happened? Who knows. No official statement has been released by Tiger’s camp for 3 days and counting. This extended period of silence is rather unusual for someone of his stature. Did he err? Did the Mrs. find out about the supposed mistress perhaps? Too much booze after a rough round of Wii golf? Daddy not spending enough time with baby? Dead body in the basement of the Tiger residence? Again, who knows. Perhaps it’s absolutely nothing. We can only speculate. But one thing is for sure – something did happen. And if that something really does pose a threat to the Tiger brand, you can bet that an army of publicists, lawyers, corporate CEO’s, therapists, trusted advisors, financiers, media consultants, and the like are all sitting in Tiger’s living room debating on how to minimize the damage and spin this thing.
It sucks to be Tiger Woods. What is the price of being able to just be you in public? What is the price of being able to be human without having to think about “the people/the fans” and corporate expectation. What is the price of being able to fuck up in virtual anonymity? One billion dollars? Ten billion? Who knows. But the man certainly does wear a platinum straight jacket that’s for sure. The next few days should be quite interesting. When Tiger does emerge to address the masses, one can only wonder if it will be Tiger Woods the man or Tiger Woods the brand who will be speaking to us. Either way, he’ll eventually have to just do it.
That being said, I wonder what really happened that Thanksgiving night? Thoughts?