Friday, February 19, 2010

Welcome to the Apologist Culture

I've always been fascinated by the idea that people seem to expect sports figures -- or movie stars, for that matter -- to be role models. One of the by-products of fame, after all, is a disproportionate amount of attention from people only too willing to shower celebrities with illicit sex and large quantities of illegal substances. So while I can see having little Timmy look up to Tiger Woods for his prowess on the greens, expecting him to serve as a role model is like asking Caligula to make balloon animals at Chuck E. Cheese.

Of course in the case of Tiger Woods the issue at the heart of the matter is the bankability of his public image, always so pristinely maintained that his fall from grace was more of a shock than, say, Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic rant. But it's not as though he made a single blunder and fell off the straight and narrow. He'd never been on the straight and narrow in the first place, as evidenced by the dozens of strippers and party girls who poured out of the woodwork like cockroaches in a Tenderloin tenement when the light switch is flipped. His penchant for casual extramarital sex was a carefully-guarded lifestyle, not a case of succumbing to a single temptation. With hundreds of millions of dollars in endorsements at stake, as well as the livelihoods of all the people employed by his publicity machine, the decision to hold a press conference that's more like a public confessional is obviously driven by the need to shore up his public persona.

Personally, I'm not the least bit surprised that supposed role models like Woods have their peccadilloes; I even expect them to. The same goes for politicians; I'm more concerned that they have my interests at heart than whether they're getting incompetent blow jobs from chubby interns. So let's not kid ourselves that this public apology is motivated by anything other than loss of revenue.

Lots of American celebrities have weathered worse scandals and gone on to brilliant second acts, and it remains to be seen if Woods can have his. But the golden image of the focused golfer and dedicated family man may be irreparably tarnished. After all, there's already a porno film in distribution entitled Tiger's Wood.

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