Thursday, December 3, 2009

What's the exit strategy for Tiger Woods rebuilding his public persona?

I've read several columns by some of the giants of sports writing and was very intrigued by the death sentence that most of them pronounced over Tiger's career. What's strange is that these people have written about Tiger's greatness much like the disciples wrote about Jesus in the gospels. But the cruel irony is that most of the writers all remind you more of Judas more than Matthew, Luke, Mark and John. Tiger has to do a better job of choosing his twelve apostles the next time.

Let's face it, Golf is a country club sport being dominated by a 30 something year-old black guy. The PGA tour's wagon is hitched to Tiger Inc. Woods is the most prominent golfer in an environment that governs the socioeconomic landscape. Some of the most sinister and ferocious business deals are decided over a golf game. This is where the strategy of gradual progress(or the appearance of it) takes place for a multitude of industries. It's where Fuzzy Zoeller can make jokes privately about the masters menu and no one would say, "Cut it out." All of us are different people privately than we are publicly, So why the outrage?

Is it just me or is the coverage of sexual scandals perceived differently by the public? Country club men like Mark Sanford, Elliot Spitzer, Jim Nance, Rodger Clemens, Bill O'Riley and John Edwards draw a different type of indignation from the media. Men like Kwame Kilpatrick, O.J. Simpson, Michael Jordan, Isaiah Thomas, Kobe Bryant and now Tiger Woods (yes Tiger Woods) experience a different public flogging than their white male peers.

In 21st century America, do we still consider Black men as the only sexual deviants? Is Tiger's crime really jungle fever gone wrong thus some of the venom? By the looks of Tiger's mug shot, Elin defied a lot of the stereotypes attributed to the sweet innocent blond. She went off the deep end like most faithful broken hearted women do. (Cue up Jasmine Sullivan) Look for Tyler Perry's Diary of a mad Swedish woman in the fall of 2010. I know, I know I'll move on because this is a sports column right?

So far Tiger has taken some steps at redeeming his image. Here's some key factors to why Tiger will bounce back.

1. The latest statement to the media makes him appear more human than robotic.

Somewhere in middle and urban America, there's a man who identifies with Tiger about compromising his values. Tiger's story was fascinating before but the admiration for Tiger reaches a new plateau. Few will acknowledge or even try to understand how not being wanted can either motivate or send a person on a downward spiral. At first, He was just inspired by Tiger's plight to fulfill his Dad's prophecy of someday ruling the world of the country club's most sacred and prominent sport. Besides this man can probably tell you a thing or two about not being wanted. Especially in certain professional environments. He's even taken some golf lessons to align more with the spirit of what Tiger does and represents. This is way to rub elbows with his peers in his chosen profession. Despite the hostility he perseveres, destroying the stereotypes by performing at a high level equal or even superior to his peers. So for this guy, Tiger Woods will always be a hero because he understands Tiger's real challenge.

2. The public's outrage or lack there of will dictate how fast Tiger recovers.

Don Imus lost his job because the wrong ears heard a very bad but funny joke. (Don't tell me you didn't laugh just a little bit at Imus) The people that defended Imus blamed Al Sharpton for the firestorm but a man with a perm will never have that much power. Advertisers pay attention to whats good for the bottom line and not necessarily to whats politically correct. If enough consumers stop buying Nike's because of Tiger's affair, then and only then will Nike cease its longtime relationship with Woods. Besides they wanna "support" him through this firestorm. God forbid that Reebok swoops in like a knight in shining armor after Tiger successfully repairs his image.

3. America loves a comeback story.

American pop culture has its moments of temporary insanity. We have a fanatical love/hate relationship with our heroes and sheroes. We can to turn on them like faster than a New York minute. Especially after they've exceeded our proverbial limit of success we think they ought to have. Michael Jordan retired after his gambling issues surfaced during the 1993 playoffs. His 1995 return propelled him to new levels of popularity.

Kobe Bryant's return to popularity after his very public fall from grace is even more remarkable. Bryant's rape allegations had an O.J. Simpson like feel to it. He even implicated Shaq during his questioning causing most to still clown him in certain social circles of the NBA. (If you could be a fly on the wall when Kobe's name comes up in a black barbershop you'd really understand) Now after five plus years, Bryant has produced an NBA title. Coupled with MVP awards for the NBA finals and regular season, Kobe has rebuilt his image and regained his endorsements.

Alex Rodgriguez has survived steroid allegations while still playing baseball. Helping the Yankees to a world series and finally peforming in the clutch has temporarily silenced that that scandal. Didn't Nascar quietly settle Maurcia Grant's lawsuit? It's about strategy. A publicist is a public figures best friend.

So all hope isn't lost for Tiger Woods. Reportedly he's changing his prenuptial agreements, getting counseling, and skipping his charitable tournament to prepare for the comeback. If you're over thirty this should remind you of the first line of LL Cool J's 1991 hit "Mama Said Knock you out". LL was wrong about not calling it a comeback. For Tiger it is.......

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