I got an e-mail earlier today from the editor of one of the sports sites to which I occasionally post material. He said that the best way to immediately increase traffic for your articles was to write something about Tiger Woods. Over the last week their site has seen record traffic and they even had to add a new section on their site just to accommodate the volume of articles about Tiger.
Now I am all in favor of doing anything I can to increase visibility for the great work that a growing number of talented writers are producing on the Sports Then and Now network of web sites.
However, I’m slightly conflicted by the fact that ST&N is a sports web site and except for the fact that Woods’ car accident last Friday morning caused him to cancel an appearance at a golf tournament, most of what has been covered over the last week really has almost nothing to do with sports.
Of course, I guess you could call tearing down a legend to be a kind of sport of its own. At least it seems to be a favorite sport of the media.
As a resident of the Orlando area, over the last week it has been almost impossible to watch television, listen to the radio or pick up the newspaper without reading about Woods, his accident and his alleged indiscretions. Media from across the globe have descended on the normally quiet Windermere area that Woods’ has called home for more than a decade.
This morning I was at a meeting with Gary Bruhn, the mayor of the Town of Windermere. Even though Woods actually lives in an unincorporated portion of Orange County that has a Windermere mailing address, the mayor and the city have been thrust into the spotlight and forced to deal with the residual impact of the incident.
Just a week ago, Mayor Bruhn was the mild-mannered leader of a tiny Central Florida community that prided itself on its anonymity. However, since the accident, he has been thrust into the spotlight, often serving as a defacto town spokesman. If you Google his name, you will now find more than 1.2 million relevant entries where a week ago there were less than 1,000.
The town has also become a sort of nesting place for the media as they wait for any chance to find another angle for the story. This has put added pressure on the police and other services in this tiny community of less than 5,000 residents.
Another unintended consequence of the Woods’ story for the small town is the inundation of e-mail messages that have flooded the town’s e-mail server. Because of Florida’s public records law, every e-mail message sent to Mayor Bruhn, the town police department or the general town e-mail mailbox must be cataloged and preserved.
Bruhn estimates that the town has received more e-mail in the last week than they would normally receive in six months. These e-mails not only require staff time to answer, but also additional time and server space to chronicle and store.
Despite the attempt by some media to keep the story going as long as possible because Tiger Woods is such a traffic generator, eventually the story will die down and things will go back to normal.
Mayor Bruhn and the staff and police in the Town of Windermere will be able to get back to running their quaint town and Woods will be left to pick up the pieces of his tattered reputation.
If history has taught us anything, it is that while moral indiscretions are never completely forgotten, they eventually become an afterthought if the offending party is able to get back to achieving the success that made him a prominent figure.
You need look no further than the case of Kobe Bryant to see how winning can help resuscitate a reputation. It wasn’t long ago that Bryant seemed destined to forever be an NBA pariah.
Bryant was charged with forcing himself on a woman, an act of which Woods has not so far been accused, and subject to months of intense scrutiny and court appearances. At the same time, he also had a prominent role in dismantling the Lakers’ dynasty.
However, over the last two years Bryant has led the Lakers to consecutive appearances in the NBA Finals and in June hoisted the championship trophy for the first time since his legal and moral issues began six years ago.
While Bryant has not regained some of the public endorsements he enjoyed before his troubles, he has regained a high level of popularity among NBA fans. His jersey is among the hottest sellers in the league and his past troubles are rarely mentioned.
For Tiger Woods to put this ugly period behind him, it is now more crucial to his legacy than even before that he regain the form that has allowed him to win 14 major championships. If Tiger is able to win five more majors and pass Jack Nicklaus for the most golf major championships, his moral indiscretions will go from front page to footnote.
Sure his credibility as an advertising pitchman may take a temporary hit, but unless something significantly more damaging than what has come out so far is revealed, the impact should be only temporary. If he regains his winning form, it won’t be long until the public is back trusting Woods’ endorsement of razors, clothes and the assortment of other products he has pitched over the years.
Tiger is known for his legendary focus and you can bet that once the initial sting of his public incident passes, he will re-dedicate himself to his longstanding mission to be the best golfer in the world.
In the end, the greatest unintended consequence of Tiger’s affairs may be the whooping he puts on the rest of the golf world.
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