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Tiger's Feet of Clay

A Commentary by Susan Estrich

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Nine women. And counting.

When did this guy find time to play golf?

And taste? Shall we put this nicely? This was not about intellect. It was not about character. My favorite so far is the pancake waitress, who would go from her $8 an hour job to playing with Tiger. Tiger was democratic -- and catholic -- in his offers to the women who served him food and drink.

Of course, it's not exactly shocking news that a guy who must have women throwing themselves at him 24/7 and who clearly has an eye for beauty has behaved poorly. As a matter of fact, if the tabloid reporting that is being reprinted by major news organizations and that typifies the coverage here is to be believed, the National Enquirer cut a deal with Tiger two years ago when they caught him red-handed in an SUV behaving like a teenager. The deal allegedly landed him on the cover of sister magazine Men's Fitness in exchange for keeping the photos out of the press.

So bad boy gets caught. Wife moves out and gets lots of money. Bad boy apologizes and keeps being bad. Why should we care if he can still birdie?

The answer, the one you hear every time you turn on the TV or want an excuse to ogle the latest addition to the Tiger posse, is that guys like Tiger Woods make their real money not by hitting the ball but by selling themselves, and that role models live and die by their reputations.

Do you really want to buy clubs from a guy whose wife uses one of them on him? (OK, maybe.) Do you want your kids to look up to such a man? Only for his golf game.

The stupidity of Tiger's egregious misbehavior lies in his assumption that these women would protect him. Why would they? Why sleep with Tiger Woods if you're not going to tell people? Unless he pays you.

I had to laugh when Gloria Allred's daughter and CBS commentator Lisa Bloom said that the only reason her mother would cancel a press conference is if there was an agreement prohibiting the parties involved from saying anything. Poor Tiger. He should've had all of them sign agreements first. Some superstars do.

The truth is that most of these guys get away with it, most of the time. There but for the grace of God goes whoever you were cheering for last summer at the ballgame, or are hollering for tonight on the basketball court, or will be rooting for on Sunday on the football field.

This is nothing new. Nearly 30 years ago, I shared a motel room during a campaign with a self-described "Baseball Annie" and flight attendant who had literally played with my beloved Red Sox for years. Working in politics, I was shocked by such conduct. I'm kidding, of course. In those days, reporters used to go to parties with politicians and interns. These days, they still don't write what they know until and unless someone else does. And then they are shocked, shocked, to discover gambling in Casablanca.

None of this is a secret. Was no one from the press ever there when Tiger was flirting with women in hotels and bars and pancake houses? Were representatives of his sponsors never around? Was he really all by himself, unnoticed? Why do I think not?

The media and their sponsors celebrate these guys as role models even when they know they have feet of clay. Then, when the club flies or the other shoe drops, they beat the bushes for the women they've been seeing hanging around for years.

Hypocrisy lies at the core of most contemporary idol worship, certainly the commercial kind. Those who promote the Tigers know their flaws better than anyone. Did anybody ever tell Tiger to cut it out? I doubt it. Is anybody telling all the other Tigers out there that they had better stop or else? I doubt it. Tiger will survive, and they won't stop.

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