Exactly four years ago, in the middle of the Winter Olympic Games held in Torino, Italy, where thousands of young amateur athletes vigorously vied for a tiny slice of personal and national recognition, a major professional athlete held an important news conference.
The athlete, a sleazy, cheating baseball player named Barry Bonds called the news conference to announce that, as a matter of fact, 2006 would be his last season as a player. The announcement, which was a bombshell to no one, of course, garnered beacoup media attention, and for the Olympic athletes, the requisite back burner was afforded, thus reducing the tiniest window of international recognition they were going to achieve in the first place.
Of course, the irony of Bonds announcement, which was antecedent to the hurricane of scorn that was to descend upon him, was not only that it represented horrific timing from the perspective of an Olympic athlete, but that it was also completely bogus.
Bonds did not retire at the end of the season. He did not mean it; what he said was all sound and fury, all whimsy and gusto.
Yesterday, another sleazy cheating professional athlete, in the middle of the Winter Olympic Games, where thousands of the world’s young athletes are competing for the tiniest slice of personal and national recognition, launched an extremely contrived exercise in damage control that also dominated media coverage.
Virtually every major media outlet, whether in print, cyberspace, or television, surrendered the day to Tiger Woods, and the Olympic athletes were relegated to the back seat once again.
In fact, not only was the day surrendered to Woods, it is likely his trumped up performance will dominate national sports consciousness in North America for at least a week and beyond, roughly the time remaining for the Winter Olympics.
Of course, for millions of sports fans, the appropriate response here might well be, “Who cares about the Olympics, anyway?” and that is a fair point.
And my answer to that question is that “I don’t know who cares. But I do know of one person, who happens to be a professional golfer, whose personal vainglory led him to usurp the Olympics, who apparently doesn’t care very much.”
Ironically, too, is that in Tiger Woods’ carefully scripted confession, he actually made the statement that he has learned: “I don’t get to play by different rules.”
Yet everything about yesterday was precisely that, precisely about playing by different rules: a press conference where no tough questions can be asked, where all present were hand chosen, where the timing was such that it screamed of “me, me, me.”
On one level, it reminded me of a recent vice president, whose own vainglory was such that he, too, steered his own damage control to his advantage after shooting his hunting partner in the face.
What Woods did, of course, was far worse, but then the most telling trait of the truly vainglorious is that they think they have either the necessary charisma or fortitude to rejoin the gravy train which they happened to fall off. The classiest thing that Tiger Woods could do is disappear into the woodwork forever, never to be heard from again.
What really happens to Tiger Woods from here, of course, is anyone’s guess, but likely the pathway will follow a carefully designed series of faux strategies to further right the ship and re-launch a new improved Tiger, the same way you might re-launch a new, improved Toyota that was pulled off the market in a massive recall because it was murdering people.
Tiger will go back in sex rehab (nudge nudge wink wink), and, then, perhaps make an appearance as a spectator at the Masters. That would be a brilliant sympathy move because all of his fervent supporters would latch onto his apparent self-denial.
Look everyone. See? Tiger really has learned how to say “no” to himself. Even his wife might get a lump in her throat seeing that.
For now, it’s time for Tiger to disappear again into the mysterious machinations of his remaking. For myself, I have got what I wanted to say off my chest, and now, while there is still time, plan to catch what remains of the Olympics.