10 December 2009


By Andy Weddington
Friday, 11 December 2009

Sergio Garcia, the talented golfer from Spain, made a clever beer commercial in March 2008. Playing a Bond-like character to action-suspense music he, clad in cat-burglar-type duds, used a driver, golf ball, and tees (fashioned into "Q"-like inventions) to crash, in spectacular style, a party at a heavily-guarded mansion. Once inside, the handsome and debonair Garcia, having not broken a sweat or ruffled his hair, ripped off his outerwear revealing a tuxedo, grabbed a Michelob Ultra off the tray of a passing waiter, and coolly strolled up to a hot babe in a hotter red dress. She, poised as if expecting him, coyly wanted to know what took him so long. "Tough drive." he replied, then casually asked her, "How's it going?" to which she suggestively said, while nonchalantly gesturing with her bottle of beer, "Ah, there's nothing like a good up and down." and sauntered away.

I'm almost certain her clever line was a come-on and had nothing to do with making par on a golf course hole. I could be wrong but from the look on Sergio's face he came to the same conclusion.

Oh the irony for today had Tiger Woods made that commercial.

Tiger is one phenomenal golfer--brilliant strategist, tactician, and mechanic; the complete player.

It is indisputable fact that with a golf club in his hands Tiger is more than just a gifted athlete. He is an artist.

He's a rarity--among the likes of da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Van Gogh--that comes along every hundred years or so; if that often.

Tiger approaches the game of golf unlike his competitors. When well-prepared, healthy, physically fit, mentally focused, and on top of his swing and putting stroke no one can beat him--sometimes the margin of victory is absurd. When facing nearly impossible shots, Tiger "sees" possibilities other top players do not. And because he "sees" differently he creates in ways his competitors are not capable of. Tiger is an innovator. All can copy the master but cannot create like him--imitators ape innovators. That is just the way it is. Always has been. And always will be.

And that is why Tiger does not have peer when it comes to winning. No one plays the game of golf like Tiger Woods. He is a genius. Throw sheer will to win and continually improve into the equation and his mind-boggling number of victories makes some sense.

As the Russian emigrant artist, Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955), said when asked which of the arts was most important, "When you find yourself in the presence of creativeness...take off your hat!" Many an art critic and patron took their hat off in the presence of Fechin's paintings--they still do. And many a competitor and fan have doffed their hat in the presence of Tiger--who plays golf like it's an art. Fechin, were he alive to see Tiger's work, would certainly take off his hat. No doubt about it.

And there's not been an Ambassador for the game quite like Tiger Woods--the multi-racial superstar self-described as "Cablanasion"--a mix of Thai, Caucasian, Black, and Native American (Indian)--cuts across color barriers; especially the "green" one.

But, sadly, we are learning there is a dark side to Tiger. A side that until recently was masked by the carefully managed plastic image of perfection designed for the sole purpose of selling--and selling and selling. As more and more information about Tiger's misbehavior--stemming from a bizarre automobile accident a couple of weeks ago--comes out, it's pretty clear he does not rank among the smartest of golfers--at least off the course genius does not come to mind.

What was Tiger thinking? Uh, hold that thought and your tongue, ladies. How could he begin to believe it possible to forever hide his "transgressions"--weasely "lawyerese" (pardon the redundancy) for adultery?  With so many women involved and other folks surrounding him, who surely assisted with trysts or peripherally bore witness, it's amazing he was able to keep his secret for so long. Had it not been for the car accident, who knows when, if ever, his infidelity would have become public. And that would have been okay.

His lengthy voicemail to one conquest who went public was particularly stupid and incriminating. Why not a simple, "Call me ASAP." message and leave it at that? Puzzling. Perhaps easily explained as Tiger doing something no one ever saw him do in public--on the golf course or elsewhere; panic.

Is Tiger's personal life any business of the public? Nope. Though a "public figure," he's a private citizen--not an elected public servant accountable to a constituency. But, as pathetic as it is, America has a sick, insatiable appetite for scandal and it doesn't get any better than when the hijinks surrounds one of the richest and most instantly recognizable men on the planet. Right or wrong, like it or not, Tiger's private life is public business. That's reality.

And it's because Tiger--the billion dollar man--sells. And it matters not if the product he champions is golf equipment, cars, video games, sports drinks, watches, tabloid newspapers and magazines, or books. Walking between Dallas-Fort Worth airport's A and C Terminals Sunday afternoon I passed no less than half dozen large backlit billboards picturing Tiger endorsing one product or another. Amazing.

In fact, following is an excellent example of nonlinearity and "Tiger-power" at its best.

Ever heard of author John Gribbin? I had not until a couple of days ago. These days Mr. Gribbin is one happy guy and soon to be a bit wealthier. A few years back he wrote a book titled, "Get a Grip on Physics." According to the London Independent, Gribbin's book was 396,224th on the Amazon.com sales list--that was two weeks ago. After interior photographs of Tiger's crashed SUV hit the airways--one of which captured Gribbin's book amongst broken glass and debris--his book skyrocketed up the chart to 2,268th. I don't know that there's another person on the planet (well, maybe one) or spicier set of circumstances that could have caused that to happen. A betting man says the book goes higher.

Sounds to me like Gribbin owes Tiger a Christmas card and a first-rate thank you note--in longhand. He may even want to send along complimentary copies of his other books--and the books on tape if he has them. What the hell, pocket-size editions for Tiger's golf bag, too.

In 2000 Malcolm Gladwell wrote a dandy little book titled," The Tipping Point--How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference." If you've not read this gem, I recommend it. Gladwell's ideas offer interesting insight on phenomenon in the marketplace and help explain how Gribbin fell ass-backwards into a small pot of gold--in this case, it was grand dumb luck--the lottery winning kind; on the back of Tiger's poor decision-making. The crazy intersection of Gribbin and Tiger--well, it just happened. Chaos Theory explains it--somewhat.

And, thanks to Tiger, Gribbin's physics book will likely not be his only one to enjoy stronger sales.

Funny, come to think of it, I don't know if Gribbin plays golf or not. If not, with newfound wealth, he may realize he has time to learn. For starters he should pick up a copy of Tiger's book, "How I Play Golf." Sorry, but the idea of a reciprocal purchase strikes me as comical--a little loose end to the saga that needs to be tied up.

And, yes, in case anyone is wondering...I am mulling over sending Tiger a copy of each of my books. Why not! Stranger things have happened. I don't know about "MAKING MARINES" but "On 'SEEING' and Painting" would forever change his perspective on a lot of things--to include golf and women.

And one more observation before it slips away, has it crossed anyone else's mind that fans, and maybe even sponsors, are beginning to wonder about those occasions when Tiger was beaten on the golf course if maybe his sub-standard play (to the Tiger norm) was perhaps due to festering "distractions" in his personal life? Not a Tiger apologist nor making excuses for him but it sure seems plausible.

Lighthearted repartee aside, Tiger Woods has made one great big mess. He has brought upon himself much personal embarrassment, surely great heartache and headaches, and a plethora of problems--legal and business topping the list. From behind his coat of armor he apologized for his behavior. But whether there is any true shame and remorse remains to be seen. We'll see--he's in the spotlight for some time to come. Too bad his family is as well.

Tiger's story will be interesting to watch. First, to see if the worst is over in his personal life--which is doubtful. Will more women come forward? What else is out there--phone conversations, texting, photographs? Will his wife walk? And, second, what will be the impact on his golf game? Will Tiger ever be the same on the golf course? Will he even play again? As it does with everything in life, time will tell.

Psychiatrists, psychologists, and every other flavor of professional and silly TV amateur "analyst" are pontificating, hypothesizing, and bloviating about Tiger's misbehavior. Who knows why he did it--poor self-image, low self-esteem, an uncontrollable eye and thirst for beautiful women, the Wade Boggs sex addiction syndrome, or maybe it's no more complicated than with incredible fame, wealth, and opportunity at every turn he could. Regardless, the reasons why do not mitigate the size and scope of his mess.

Tiger has a lot of work to do to put his life, on and off the golf course, back in order. Regardless how successful, his iconic image will never be the same. Never. There is a patch of permanent tarnish on the man and his "TW" trademark. Can Tiger rebuild his image? Certainly. But never again will he enjoy the squeaky-clean, milk-drinking image as the PGA's--and every other sponsor's--poster boy. Those days are behind him.

Of course I do not know Tiger Woods. I've not met him nor seen him play golf other than on television. So, I have no firsthand basis, whatsoever, from which to shape any kind of intelligent or fair opinion about him as a person. For me or anyone to speculate as to the root of his problem (if he even has a "problem") or draw any conclusion only from the carefully controlled public presentation of him--as golfer, or sensationalized exposé of him as philanderer--would be wrong.

Despite personal shortcomings and troubles, Tiger Woods has done much good in the world. In some areas of his life he is clearly well-grounded with respectable priorities. The son of a career Army officer, he has been remarkably outspoken and supportive of our military. And, he has been gracious and generous with his time and money supporting countless charities--especially those helping children. His list of doing good is long.

Is Tiger the only player on the PGA Tour, the only athlete, the only famous face, for that matter the only average guy who has cavorted with lady cats not his wife. Not by a long shot. And he won't be the last. And let's not forget--women stray, too, but those indiscretions don't typically make quite the same splash across the airways.

What else needs to be said about a spoken-for tomcat with an affinity for pretty kitty cats? Nothing substantive comes to mind. The bottom line, in our culture, it's taboo when married--the most egregious and hurtful act of betrayal possible toward a spouse.

Tiger was wrong. He is solely accountable for his tomfoolery--sins, depending on his religion--and will have to make reparations with himself, family, friends, professional associations and any others whom he feels he has let down. About the only thing he owes his adoring public--who made his extraordinary wealth possible--is the whole truth. He better come clean. Americans are a forgiving lot if told the truth, see genuine remorse, and are offered a heartfelt apology. To the contrary, it does not matter who you are, for liars the treatment is not quite so cordial and memories can be long.

Long, long ago I accepted the fact that no one is larger-than-life, and moved beyond being surprised by what people do. All people are fallible. But, the feeling of disappointment is another story. Tiger disappointed me--if only superficially for a few moments. I am long over it. I care but I don't--Tiger has no impact on my life (other than providing something to write about this week).

No doubt his mother and over-watching father are terribly disappointed. They too will get over it but not so quickly.

In the grand scheme of things Tiger, though his likes do not come along in every lifetime, and golf really do not matter. But, may he get his act together, resolve his family issues, repair all the other damage he's done, and one day again play the caliber of golf only Tiger Woods can play.

Thankfully, we do not have to merely imagine what we would've missed had Sargent, Monet, Picasso, and de Kooning not painted past the age of 34--which Tiger turns in about three weeks. What a shame and waste it would be for the world to not bear further witness to the talents of an extraordinary athlete--extraordinary artist; the best that has ever played the game--the art--of golf.

But for now the "King of Swing"--on and off the golf course--is staring at his worst "lie" ever. And this one just keeps getting worse. This time an advising caddy, a rescue club, and all the golf talent Tiger Woods can muster will be of no use for a good up and down. In fact, he's looking at bogey 10--maybe more. Sad. Such is life. "Que Sera, Sera."

Post Script

My first draft of the body for today's Commentary was only one word: "Numbskull." But I figured readers already knew that and wanted a bit more. 


S_Captain said...

Excellent as always.

Tom H said...

While he may be on billboards in airports, I have seen no "Tiger" commercials on TV in the last 2 weeks.

Stephanie said...

My hat's off to you, Andy...for another excellent Commentary!