Just after Thanksgiving last year, the world became experts on Tiger Woods.
You know the deal: hot blonde wife chases Tiger from his digs waving five iron, which eventually led to the very public realization that he had more women on the down-low than I have mustache fibers.
And suddenly, the story could not be escaped. It was like “Brett Favre—Will He Play?” take two. Every PR broadcaster, dwarf fondler, and horse shoe fitter wanted to express their inordinate wisdom on Tiger’s tale and yell at a very high octave how the world’s richest athlete was handling his crisis poorly.
In a letter to Santa Claus I wrote, “I’m inclined to believe that, in spite of not taking the traditional route that most public relations practitioners would prescribe, he will be just fine, his endorsers will remain, and the public will forget rather quickly…In a few weeks—maybe a month—he’ll play a tournament and people will talk about it a lot. Then he’ll play another tourney and it won’t be discussed at all.”
I also told Stuart Elliot of the New York Times for a story he wrote on the marketing implications of Tiger’s downfall that, “In his own way, Tiger is essentially saying: ‘I did something wrong and I’m sorry. I’ll fix it…This is textbook in P.R. circles in terms of addressing an issue and bridging to a vision of moving forward…And that should suffice in terms of helping him manage his personal brand, which is worth more than $100 million annually.”
All of this, of course, was very early on. It was before we knew he had been laying on more strange mattresses than a Serta quality inspector, which clearly took the game to a different level.
Regardless, it is interesting to see how this is all playing out now.
Tiger came back for The Masters and there was much discussion about his life challenges and “remarkable” (most overused word in sports reporting) comeback in the face of great odds. Then he and Nike released that horrifically tasteless —and not very interesting—ad using his late father’s voice, that received its fair share of spoofs (this one is my favorite).
I was more than interested, however, to see what would happen last week, with Tiger playing at the PGA Tour’s Quail Hollow Championships.
Even though he didn’t make the cut, there was still plenty of coverage on him. And you know what? There was not one mention of his personal plunge into Eliot Spitzer-like depths. Not once did ESPN utter a word about his personal problems. It was back to normal, focusing on golf and his dreadfully boring public persona.
So was I right or wrong? Well, I guess I was kind of half-pregnant.
On one hand, it would seem we are pretty much ready to move on. Some sponsors have stuck while others have not, but that was before the revelation of the depth of his wandering member. So I probably spoke too soon, as most did. I do think the ones he lost will either come back or eventually be replaced by equally lucrative ones. And if and when Tiger’s wife ditches him we could have another wave of stories as well.
My question to you: Do you care any more? I’m hoping not.