This most recent Thanksgiving holiday, while reading about the more serious news that has impacted our current society, I was also reminded about the supposedly ongoing “problems” of golfer Tiger Woods. Over the past week, from online bloggers, columnists, sports analysts, public relations executives and opinion makers and pundits, there has been no shortage of discussion of Tiger Woods’ past. It has been more than a year since Woods’ image of a multi-racial prince charming, phenomenal athlete, Cliff Huxtable-like admirable family man was blatantly shattered by allegations of chronic infidelity with not just one or two but more than a dozen women. The mainstream media had (and still seems to have) a fascination with learning about the intimate details of Woods’ sexual history. For a person like Woods who was (and still is) an intensely private person, such unrelenting scrutiny into the most intimate details of his private life had to cause him a considerable degree of bewilderment and anger.
As someone who has an avid interest in popular culture, I, like many people, found the Tiger Woods story interesting and worthy of news coverage at the time. In fact, he was a brief topic of discussion in my sports history course I taught last fall semester. However, I also believe that, like any sensationalized scandal, that after a few weeks, the story had been exhausted and ran its course, while there are stories and events that are worthy of acknowledgement as time passes, such as the anniversary of the deaths of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, and the horrific tragedy of September 11, 2001. One could even argue that celebrity-related events such as the O.J. Simpson verdict in 1995 and the death of Princess Diana in 1997 are worthy of reflection, but the “first anniversary of the Tiger Woods sex scandal”? Come on. Let’s get serious.
While Woods committed a serious transgression by breaking his marital vows and was justifiably criticized for doing so, does this sin translate into an event worthy of an annual retrospective from the media? Opinion on how Woods has handled his crisis over the past year have varied. There are some public relations consultants who have nothing but praise for how he has dealt with the situation. Others are less impressed by what they have seen. These are the image repairmen (and women) who say that he needs to go “farther” in an effort to successfully repair his tarnished reputation. One public relations consultant went as far as to say that Woods has “failed miserably” in his effort to resurrect his tarnished image with the public given his refusal to further discuss the details of the crash, extramarital affairs, and their aftermath.
Really? Because he is a public figure? Then, by this logic, Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford, former president Bill Clinton, John Edwards, and Jesse Jackson should be accorded similar treatment. The truth is that most people probably have little, if any, interest in the private lives of these individuals as well.
The fact is that his most diehard fans who were solely interested with his athletic prowess and performance on the golf course have forgiven Mr. Woods for his past failings. In fact, they probably never cared about his life off the golf course, period. Rather, those who are obsessed with a voyeuristic appetite looking for any piece of provocative information that will detail the sordid, salacious, tawdry details of his private life are the people who are making such unconvincing claims. In fact, most of these individuals were most likely not even fans of Woods, or the sport of golf for that matter.
Moreover, I would argue, what would be gained by Woods explicitly discussing his sex life, infidelities and other personal missteps with the American public a year (or even later) after the fact? Why would he want to cause more pain to his ex-wife, children, mother and family and other loved ones? In fact, I am sure he does not want to reopen such wounds or further inflame them if they have not been fully healed. No sensible person would want to revisit such an unpleasant chapter of their lives.
To be true, there are those fans that looked at Woods as a clean-cut, all-American family man and gifted athlete whom they deeply admired; the fact is that he betrayed and shattered the Camelot image they harbored. They will not forgive him for it. They have washed their hands of him, so to speak. He is persona non grata.
As far as I am concerned, Tiger Woods can keep his personal life to himself. His private business is just that, his. With the exception of those human beings who revel in schadenfreude, no one is better served by hearing any more information. For all those who are still interested in the salacious details of Tiger’s life, it might serve them well to tend to their own affairs and get a life as opposed to waiting for the next tidbit about his.
Dr. Elwood Watson is a full professor of History and African American Studies at East Tennessee State University. He is the author of several award-winning academic articles, several anthologies and the book “Outsiders Within: Black Women in the Legal Academy After Brown v. Board” (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers Spring 2008).