Friday, December 11, 2009

Tiger Woods Saga

One of the best things about Twitter is that it allows me to see a wide cross section of views on a hot topic at a glance. I follow a lot of people because I’m interested in learning plenty of opinions, particularly on the subjects of sports, politics, and social issues – especially regarding race relations. These are things that I read and wrote much about prior to discovering Twitter, but my exposure to the views of experts as well as the common man has been significantly increased by time spent reading op-ed. pieces of 140 characters or less.

In recent days the big story has been the mass infidelity of Tiger Woods. At a glance this doesn’t seem like it would be especially noteworthy. A major sports star has been unfaithful to his wife with a number of women. This is not exactly a shocking revelation, although this particular athlete had a squeaky clean reputation and plays a rather gentile sport, so even when single he was not a leading candidate from outside perspectives to be a womanizer. Yet the story has somehow blown up to near epic proportions. Common as the tale may be, we just can’t seem to get enough of it.

As tweets move down my timeline, one opinion I have seen echoed numerous times is that race is a major factor in the amount of attention being paid to Tiger’s situation. Many insist that if Tiger Woods was not married to a white woman, coverage of the story would be considerably less. I am not in agreement with this evaluation. One thing Twitter has demonstrated to me over and over again is that personal perspective and inclinations greatly affect how people translate and react to a story. A feminist will reach one conclusion, a misogynist quite another. Conservatives and liberals are not likely to see things the same way. One who frequently views issues through the prism of race will see matters differently than somebody who rarely thinks of our nation’s history of suppression and oppression. Religious beliefs dominate perspectives, as does the age of a person, as do various other factors. A single event will have multiple interpretations because multiple life experiences are brought to the table. This does not mean everybody is right. Sometimes one’s point of view causes them to see what isn’t there and to miss what is hidden in plain sight. In my opinion, this is what’s happening in the case of those who believe obsession over Tiger Woods’ troubles stems from the fact that he's a black man while his wife and the mistresses who have come out of the woodworks so far have all been white.

I am by no means color blind, but rather, one who fully understands that racism is not a plague we have banished by the election of a biracial president who by appearance we call a black man. This country has come a long way, but still has many miles to go. Yet another thing I recognize is that not every incident that involves people of different races is by definition a racial incident. Tiger Woods’ taste in women is heavily tilted towards Caucasian based on what we’ve seen, but this is certainly not the most fascinating thing we’ve learned about him over the past few days. I believe if his wife was African American and/or his mistresses were as well, sensationalism would still be in full effect for the following reasons.

1 – Tigers Woods is an international superstar, the best known and highest paid athlete in existence. This is in part due to race as I do not believe he’d be as heralded if he was an equally talented white golfer. Prior to his arrival on the scene golf was dominated by white men. Tiger literally made the sport a horse of a different color, expanding its fan base far beyond the pre-Tiger days. Very few people are more famous in America and worldwide than Tiger Woods. You have to go back to Bill Clinton to find someone with such a high profile involved in a similar scandal. Plenty of marriages involving celebrities have collapsed on account of infidelity between then and now, but none have featured equivalent star power. David Letterman’s exploits took us by surprise recently, but Letterman is no Tiger.

2 – Sex sells and this story has plenty of it. It seems a new mistress is revealed by the hour. A couple of them have even been porn stars, and the only thing that sells more than sex is pornographic sex. Plenty of steamy evidence has been provided in the form of text messages and voice mail, so it’s not as if everything is being left up to our imagination. Like the infamous Monica Lewinsky testimony we’re getting plenty of the gritty details and eating them all up.

3 – The pace at which new developments have arrived has been dizzying. First we’re learning Tiger Woods was in a car accident on his own property, either mildly or seriously injured. Within minutes conspiracy theories are being put out for scrutiny, and with good reason. The story Tiger tried to sell us was so weak that not even the most trusting person could fail to see the holes in it. Suddenly the breaking news was not about a car accident but about Tiger’s wife trying to go upside his head with a golf club on account of his infidelity. The name and photograph of a mistress is revealed, then another, then another, and on and on. By the time the number of women had hit double digits we were all hooked on an addictive soap opera. The race of the women is irrelevant. What matters is that someone who we thought was such a wonderful family man is in fact a super freak. The countless number of media outlets in operation today made sure the story was kept front and center and every which way we looked. Much of what has been written about the situation may in fact be inaccurate conjecture, but Tiger’s silence has refuted none of it so there’s nothing to do but watch his carefully crafted image be ripped to shreds.

If I’m going to read celebrity gossip I’d much rather it be about a legitimate celebrity than manufactured reality stars such as Jon and Kate. I’m not a golf fan, I don’t even consider it to be a sport so much as a game of skill, yet Tiger’s presence has been too monumental to ignore, his influence spanning the globe. Of course we care that he’s a man whore, that his goody two shoes act is a gigantic lie, that he is a world class hypocrite. Whatever your degree of fascination or disgust or disappointment or curiosity, Tiger isn’t the lead, middle and end story on every newscast because he’s a black man romantically and/or sexually involved with a variety of white women. Certain stories just grab us by the lapels and force us to take notice whether we want to care or not, and Tiger’s swift and dramtic fall from grace happens to be the latest one.

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