Tiger bagged

Tiger Woods case shows there is nowhere to hide from celebrity media and high technology
By Neil Best, Newsday

1. Tiger and his wife Elin in happier times. KRT

No athlete in history has been as coldly efficient as Tiger Woods in erecting a marketing and image-making fortress around himself.

It has been going on since before he won his first major tournament, and especially since an infamous 1997 article in GQ magazine revealed him to be a typical 21-year-old guy with a potty mouth and a taste for raunchy humor.

That piece by Charles Pierce – fascinating reading in light of recent developments – forever changed Woods’ strategy for interacting with the public, turning him into a stoic birdie-making, product-endorsing brand palatable to the mainstream customers of his A-list sponsors.

Now this.

What have we learned from seeing Woods exposed by the celebrity media – from the National Enquirer to TMZ to Us Weekly – which does not play by traditional rules but often gets the basics right?

For one thing that he is, as he wrote in a statement posted on his Web site Tuesday, “not without faults and I am far short of perfect.”

And also that now more than ever, given the realities of 21st century media technology, there is no escaping from one’s faults and lack of perfection, certainly not for celebrities.

There is nowhere to hide on the Internet, and with computers around the globe listening to audio of him leaving a voice message to an alleged mistress, he accepted the inevitable and admitted to “transgressions” that let down his family.

Embedded in Woods’ statement were bits of disingenuousness, such as his surprise at tabloids’ interest in his sex life. But it was difficult to argue with this point:

“Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn’t have to mean public confessions.”

Fair enough. We get the point without having Tiger release names, dates and hotel room numbers. He grudgingly came (mostly) clean to fans and sponsors, who must decide for themselves how to view him moving forward.

Based on other sports figures who have been accused or convicted of worse, he will do fine as long as he keeps hoisting trophies and stalking Jack Nicklaus in the record books.

If there is a lesson to be learned for the rest of us, it is a very, very old one, so shame on us if we didn’t know it before:

Celebrities are human, no matter what we think we see on television, and we accept their image at face value at our own risk, often to be disappointed in the end.

As Pierce wrote in that prescient, provocative article a dozen years ago, “He needs so little of what is being put upon him. I believe in the 21-year-old who tells dirty jokes and who plays Nintendo games, and only the fighting games at that.

“I do not believe in the chosen one, the redeemer of golf and of America and of the rest of the world. I hope he plays golf. I hope he – – around.”

Woods is no chosen one, his seemingly perfect life in the end just as imperfect as the rest our lives, only different, and with much more length off the tee.

So, by all means, enjoy watching the man hit white balls into small cups with expensive sticks.

Just don’t believe the rest of the hype, about him or anyone else.

Who among us is without sin? Other than Derek Jeter, of course.

(c) 2009, Newsday.