Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tiger's rough lie

He’s been so fiercely on message, so relentlessly self-contained for so long, we might have seen this coming.

The athletic force of nature and merchandising juggernaut known as Tiger Woods was caught in a rough lie on the golf course of public opinion. As Tiger works to put things right, he’s faced with a scandal that won’t obey his tendency for an almost maniacal self-control, one that could become the kind of sand trap even he can’t get out of.

“Sometimes, the safest place to live is the world inside your head,” Don Imus said about Tiger on Wednesday morning during his Fox News simulcast (and Don Imus would know about such things).

◊ ◊ ◊

By now you, like everyone else in the Western world and beyond, know the story:

On Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving around 2:30 a.m., Woods left his home in Windermere, Fla., driving his 2009 Cadillac Escalade, collided with a fire hydrant and a tree down the street from his palacious estate. His wife, Elin Nordegren Woods, rushed to his side and frantically broke the vehicle’s windows in a valiant effort to pull her husband from the vehicle. He went to Health Central Hospital and was later released in good condition after being treated for facial lacerations.

End of story. At least the official story from Tiger's camp.

But no, questions remained. A lot of them. Photos of the Escalade from the Florida Highway Patrol show clearly that the left and right rear windows were smashed, but not the driver’s side window. The one you’d expect to be smashed in any attempt to pull the driver from a vehicle.

Photos show that the airbags in the Escalade didn’t deploy, which strongly suggests Tiger wasn’t driving faster than 33 miles an hour. So why facial lacerations, instead of the bruising you’d expect from minor blunt-force trauma in a low-speed crash (like bumping your head against the dash or the steering wheel)?

◊ ◊ ◊

Chin-pulling time. Certain glitches in the Team Woods narrative have become what Arsenio Hall used to call “things that make you go ‘hmmm. …’”

Like the front-page story in The National Enquirer that appeared a day or two earlier. The story that claimed the greatest golfer in the history of the game had an affair with one Rachel Uchitel, a club promoter.

Once that story appeared, people began to put together their own scenarios of what happened on Nov. 27. Dark, sordid imaginings: Maybe Tiger and his wife had a little … marital … discussion that got unusually physical. Possibly physical enough for Elin Woods to have induced injuries. You know, the kind of marks you leave with fingernails. Facial lacerations.

TMZ reported as much on Saturday.

And maybe Elin Woods was mad enough to chase or follow Tiger out of their home wielding a golf club, smashing SUV windows all the way.

TMZ reported as much on Sunday.

And maybe, just maybe, Tiger was distracted enough by what his wife was doing that he didn’t concentrate on his driving.

That’s what the Orlando Sentinel reported on Wednesday: “[H]e didn't just hit a hydrant and tree. He crossed over a curb, onto a grass median and hit a row of hedges before driving into the hydrant and tree,” the Sentinel said.

Tiger retreated to his waterfront Xanadu, issued a statement decrying the rumors already swirling, and refused to speak with the police, denying them an interview three separate times. Then the floodgates opened.

L.A. cocktail waitress Jaimee Grubbs, who starred on VH1's “Tool Academy,” told Us Weekly that she had a 31-month affair with Tiger — and had the voicemails and text messages to prove it.

Life & Style, a Las Vegas magazine, reported today that Kalika Moquin, a marketing manager for The Bank nightclub in Las Vegas, was with Tiger at a Las Vegas hotel during the weekend of Oct. 23.

Moquin was mum. But an anonymous tipster told Life & Style that "they've hooked up a bunch of times. Tiger told Kalika that married life isn't all it's built up to be. He said he wasn't happy in his marriage or his home life and that there was just so much pressure on him."

◊ ◊ ◊

All-apologies time. Tiger released the following statement earlier today:
“I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone. …

“Whatever regrets I have about letting my family down have been shared with and felt by us alone. I have given this a lot of reflection and thought and I believe that there is a point at which I must stick to that principle, even though it's difficult.

“I will strive to be a better person and the husband and father that my family deserves. For all of those who have supported me over the years, I offer my profound apology.”
This we can believe. Tiger’s always brought out the human in us. We’ve watched him come of age, morphing from boy to man to almost-superman. Who among us wasn’t thrilled — flat-out electrified — when Tiger won the Masters at the age of 21?

Who couldn’t help shedding a tear that day, in 1997, when Tiger won the Masters with the most assured and dominant performance in the history of the tournament — then walked to the gallery … and broke down and wept in his father’s arms? Who hasn’t been deeply on Tiger’s side in every tourney since May 2006, when that father, that mentor and friend, died?

Tiger’s always brought out the human in us. It’s taken something like this to bring out the human in him.

We had to see that again. We had to know that again: that behind the megadeals with Nike and Gillette and Gatorade and Electronic Arts, there’s a heart behind the cash register. That Croesus could be Icarus, too.

◊ ◊ ◊

We can expect Tiger to walk the various stations of the cross of media rehabilitation. First, a late-night visitation with David Letterman. Wait. You know, come to think of it … maybe not Letterman.

The black eye of the Tiger won’t last. But what happens now will come from inside this man we’ve known and not known for a dozen transformative years.

Accenture, a global management and outsourcing company (and another of Tiger’s endorsement clients), may have obliquely given Tiger the good advice he needs from this point on.

At the Accenture Web site recently was a splash image on its home page: a picture of Tiger in his trademark red shirt and black slacks, standing, one hand on one hip, looking at a ball in just about the worst position possible.

The caption tells us what we already know:

“It’s what you do next that counts.”

Image credits: Tiger: Public domain. Escalade: Florida Highway Patrol. Life & Style cover: Via Huffington Post. Accenture splash image: Accenture Web site.

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