Forgive the Tiger Talk

 by Alafair Burke

Unless you’ve been in a stuffing-induced food coma since Thanksgiving, you’ve probably heard that Tiger Woods was in the news lately for more than just his game.  Given my obsessions with golf, celebrities, and secrets, I can’t resist sharing a few random thoughts I had on the matter. 

When the story (insert virtual air quotes for those of you disgusted by the news coverage) first broke, I tried to convince myself I had high-minded reasons for following it.  At first, I feared for Tiger’s well-being after the initial reports of serious injuries.  Then as a former domestic violence prosecutor, I wondered whether Florida law enforcement was seriously considering investigating Tiger’s wife as some reports suggested.

But there’s also the voyeurism.  We all know (I hope) that we don’t really know celebrities, only the public images that publicists and managers have carefully crafted for us.  But despite that cognitive understanding, consistent and prolonged exposure to those public faces sometimes creates sticky impressions of familiarity.  After more than two decades of nightly Letterman monologues, I confess that David Letterman seemed like a known quantity.  And after countless golf tournaments and Nike ads, so did Tiger.

Now I know.

But I’ve been thinking less about Tiger than about his women.

Rachel Uchitel, the woman first named by the National Enquirer, has seen more than an average person’s media coverage, as photographs online track her journey from grieving 9-11 widow to healing new bride to red-velvet-rope vixen. 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who is the woman behind all of these faces?

And then there’s Tiger’s wife, Elin Nordegren, who went from swimsuit model to au pair to marriage and motherhood.

 

I’ve seen countless images of her biting her nails at the 18th green, smiling at her husband, and holding the babies, but I’ve never heard her voice.  Who would have suspected that quiet, smiling, waif of a woman had it in her to (allegedly) take a pitching wedge to the windows of a Cadillac Escalade? 

My guess is she’ll stand by her man, at least in the short-term, but we’ll all be wondering whether it’s out of love or savviness.  With Tiger struggling to hold onto his commercial endorsements, reporters claim Elin’s out to revise her pre-nup. Ten years of marriage no longer required.  55 million dollars instead of 20.  Perhaps clauses that penalize further “transgressions”?*  Jewelry, candy, and flowers just aren’t going to cut it.

We love to fret about the public fascination with celebrity scandals, but I have to confess that I get it.  When I was a prosecutor, my daily work let me peer behind the facade to reveal the secrets people carry.  Celebrity scandals satisfy that same itch – the realization (and validation) that everyone makes mistakes, no one is what he seems, and we all have multiple personas.  That perfect son, husband, and father might be an insatiable dog on his trips to Vegas.  That scantily clad hostess at the nightclub might have lost someone she loved to tragedy.  And that quiet wife in the background might just be a hundred solid pounds of fortitude.

Thanks for tolerating my Tiger talk.  Is anyone else willing to out themselves as a celebrity watcher?  What seemingly superficial stories have kept you riveted and why?

*I found no comfort in the company I was keeping by following this story when I learned the following (pathetic) tidbit: After Tiger’s public admission of “transgressions,” online searches for the definition of that word topped Google’s search list. 

15 thoughts on “Forgive the Tiger Talk

  1. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    I am always tempted to become lost in these stories. I’ve only skirted around the edges of the Tiger controversy, due entirely to my upcoming deadline. If the Tiger "story" broke a few weeks from now, after I’ve turned in my manuscript, I’d be all over it.
    But there’s a new one every week, so I’m sure there’ll be something for me then.
    It is interesting, how no one knows these celebrities. Apparently, not even their spouses.

    Reply
  2. Louise Ure

    Oh Lord, they had to look up "transgressions?"

    I’m not much of a celebrity watcher, but my first thought about the Tiger story was "Why are men of fame and power always stepping out? What’s the magic formula that says, ‘I’m powerful therefore I have to sleep around?’"

    Reply
  3. Alexandra Sokoloff

    This story is making me crazy. This is NEWS? A jock sleeping around? Good grief.

    I do have to wonder if the golf-club bashing happened before or after the accident, but that’s just my job.

    Hysterical about "transgressions". And not.

    Reply
  4. pari noskin taichert

    There’s a bunch of "news" right now that just irks the hell out of me because it’s so fatuous.

    I do enjoy a good celeb scandal . . . for about a day or two.

    Then the former journalist in me starts to scream.

    Reply
  5. David Hansard

    First, I should just say I’ve been a diminishing TW fan since his remark about being able to beat those other schlubs even without his "A game." (He was a little more delicate than that, but not much). I used to play a lot of golf, and I used to have way more than my share of bad shots, lost balls, putts that didn’t get to the hole…well, you know. I learned quickly not to engage in overt displays of temper no matter how angry I was, because those golfers who do so are self-indulgent jerks who wreck the round for everybody. Tantrums on the course suggest your game is more important than anyone else’s. Golf is as much about bad shots as good ones, and everybody makes bad shots. When Jack Nicklaus hit a bad shot you used to see this slow burn that started at his collar and went up to his ears until his neck was bright red. But he didn’t throw a club or drop it or hit the ground with it (as Tiger once did and injured his wrist). He may be the greatest scorer ever but I don’t consider Tiger Woods to even be in the conversation of "greatest golfer ever." That’s Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, and many others who brought honor to the game, whether they won majors or not.

    Lousie, as to "Why are men of fame and power always stepping out? What’s the magic formula that says, ‘I’m powerful therefore I have to sleep around?’", I’m inclined to invoke Norman O. Brown’s comment, that "The tender sentiment of the one and only has less to do with constancy of heart than singleness of opportunity." And it’s not just men. You can check with Chris Evert, Claudine Longet, and few hundred other rich and powerful women on that one.

    As for idols having feet of clay, I can live with that, mostly. But please, please, don’t tell me that Alafair Burke is less than a flawless goddess. If that’s the case, I don’t want to hear it.

    Reply
  6. toni mcgee causey

    I have to admit getting fascinated with these sorts of things every once-in-a-while, particularly when someone has set himself up beyond reproach and traded on that image for some sort of gain, either monetarily or politically… not because it’s news… but because it’s "story." Pure and simple, it’s our version of sitting in the cheap seats in the Rose theater, watching drama come to life where hubris has tragic consequences and we get to leave, not feeling like we’re the only ones with faults in the world.

    Reply
  7. Tom

    Top athletes are top competitors, and top competitors always want another win. It’s emotional thing, to be sure, as David observed, but not a tender one.

    It’s not really the News Business anymore, anyway. It’s all a form of gossip, because people actually want the latest gossip.

    Reply
  8. KM Collings

    Yep. I am one of those who have folowed this story. And my mind continues to work on the theory of the case with Tiger playing victim of DV.

    Reply
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