Image 911:Tiger Woods Vis-a-Vis Charlie Sheen

The 911 call by Charlie Sheen’s wife goes public. Tiger Woods is allegedly whacked in the grill with a 9 iron by his wife, and his career and endorsements take a financial nose dive. Charlie Sheen allegedly pulls a shank on his wife, and the hit sitcom and cute Hanes commercials roll on:

Sheen always had the public persona of a bad boy, but Woods’ sponsors traded on his squeaky clean veneer. It’s all about image, baby.


2009 Was A Year of Surprises

Whatever 2010 will bear, can it ever boast the sheer shock value of 2009? This has been a year of surprises from John Edwards to Mark Sanford to Michael Jackson to Billy Mays, and beyond, to Steve McNair, Tiger Woods, and Italians attacking their prime minister and The Pope. It was the year of “I need some time off…”. Sarah Palin, Coach Urban Meyer, Coach Rick Pitino, Kanye, Dr. Henry Louis Gates and Chris Brown- they all snuck up on us in ways we could not have anticipated. So did H1N1, the New Orleans Saints, Joe Wilson, Mark Ingram, and Delta Flight 253. We lost Natasha Richardson and Brittney Murphy, not Paris Hilton or Britney Spears. Then there was “Precious”.

If we can get through the next four days without a Big One.


Terrorist Effort Thwarted on Amsterdam-Detroit Flight

I wish CNN (tube version) would stop referring to the Delta-Northwest terrorism suspect as a “…Nigerian national…”, as if that’s his only definitive characteristic.

When people from Western cultures, or who profess the Christian faith are arraigned for violent acts or efforts, American journalists identify them by either name, age, or occupation. Seems only when there is a factor that marks one as an “other”, does it become synonymous with the alleged deed.


Bengals’ Receiver Chris Henry Dies

Former West Viriginia star succumbs to injuries suffered in a fall from a pickup truck during apparent domestic dispute with his fiancee Loleini Tonga in Charlotte. Like Washington safety Sean Taylor not long ago, Henry was a soft-spoken young player with a bad boy image who seemed to have turned things around because of a focus on family (read “children”). Like popular Nashville community figure Steve McNair, his death involved a romantic relationship.

The 24 hour news cycle makes every phenomena seem more frequent than it is, but coming on the heels of Tiger Woods’ domestic spat involving a vehicle, Henry’s death is as eerie as it is tragic.


The Bottom Line: The Apples And Oranges of Tiger Woods

“…Lord I’ve really been real stressed
Down and out, losin ground
Although I am black and proud
Problems got me pessimistic…”

lyrics, “Tennessee”,  Arrested Development

Tennessee. Tennessee. That’s the state where a suggestive campaign ad associating senate candidate Harold Ford with a blonde Playboy bunny helped sink his 2008 campaign, and a disgruntled mistress murdered married former NFL quarterback and Nashville community favorite Steve McNair. Tiger Woods’ move from the PGA to TMZ and TMI, brings sex and race into the equation of his future in ways no one could have imagined even a week ago. His long fall is not from grace, but from teflon. If one guesstimates at least 95% of paying PGA Tour event attendees aren’t Black, what is the long term prognosis for an icon embroiled in a real life scenario rife with innuendo that dwarfs the ugliness of the Tennessee RNC’s “…Harold, call me…” effort? While sportswriters, high powered spin doctors, and advertising gurus all over the mainstream media predicting a gradual public acceptance and forgiveness of  a tourney winning Woods, based on the recoveries of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Michael Vick, thousands of those now rocking Kobe jerseys, or cheering Vick’s recent return against his former Atlanta Falcons, are Black. Woods is of course the only Black athlete in his game. Those who huddle in PGA sponsors’ booths are lily white. As for MJ, he disappeared into minor league baseball for two and a half years until the heat subsided concerning his Big Willie, cigar tapping gambling woes. Others point to President Clinton. This situation is so different than any of those, or the tired examples of Alex Rodriguez that is also trotted out as precedent. Tiger was loved by millions, and vital to sponsors and tour hosts. Demographically, his galleries more reflect the America embraced by Rush Limbaugh than that of Steve Harvey. The elements of his downturn are more complex. President Clinton was a leader given the public trust, and one with a reputation for extramarital affairs, and a couple accusations of sexual harassment. Tiger Woods is a brand. Connections to porn stars, vulnerable pleas to erase cell phone information, runaway speculation regarding facial wounds, canceled police interviews, suspicious explanations of his accident, and a golf club-brandishing wife, have prompted meetings in major corporate front offices about their own relationships with The Golden Child. Accenture has already dropped him- no more huge ads in America’s major airports encouraging us to “Go on, be a Tiger”. Even as I write this, I can appreciate the inappropriate message that slogan would now send. Sex sank Harold Ford and John Edwards, it can at least bring Woods down a notch.

For the most part, in the years since Fuzzy Zoeller cracked that The Masters Tournament would be serving fried chicken and collard greens now that a Black player was wearing the coveted green jacket (ask him if the golf industry ever accepted him back), Tiger has resided as much above the racial fray as one can in an atmosphere where American history provides the backdrop. Despite his own early statements that he couldn’t join some of the “restricted” private country clubs on the pro circuit, his famous ethnic self-clarification for “Oprah” viewers, and the resulting controversy, Americans have taken his prominence for granted for a dozen years. The hate mail and threats he received were to be expected, given the number, and philosophical range of folk in the U.S. He did nothing to provoke them, beyond looking what then-presidential candidate Obama self-proclaimed “…different…” We have come a long way from the vitriol and theatre pickets that often greeted superstar Sammy Davis, Jr. and his Swedish wife May Britt. The fact Tiger was a billion dollar entity unto himself before Thanksgiving, and his wife’s origin a non-issue, speaks volumes. That was then.

Tiger’s worldwide popularity, and the symbol he (like Obama) represents for millions of youth, separate him from the A-Rod’s and Kobe’s on so many levels. Again, the world that will determine whether Tiger is welcomed back, is one that encompasses some of the most judgemental critics of tennis’ Williams sisters. How many Americans who don’t follow pro football, had even heard of Michael Vick before the dogfighting headlines? How many of Vick’s most harsh challengers would have felt as incensed had Bret Favre been exposed as a dog killer? As much as weighs in Tiger’s favor regarding potential redemption (in the sporting community, the moral compass centers somewhere between Charles Barkley accidentally spitting on a little girl, and Dennis Rodman purposely kicking a defenseless photographer on the floor), the beginning of the storm isn’t over. No one can gaze into a crystal ball and tell when and what the public and the market place will do this spring and summer- we don’t know what final decisions his affiliated brands will make. No one, even Woods, knows when we’ll see his face or photo in public. No golf fan or sponsor knows what role physical aesthetics may play in determining his re-appearance. His eventual marital status, state of mind, and additional revelations by sexual partners are unknowns. What we do know, causes concern in some circles. When Woods was sidelined by a knee injury in 2008, golf’s t.v. ratings dropped by nearly 50%. Tiger set an ambitious career goal to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major tour event victories- he’s won 14. The golf industry was already suffering from decisions companies have made to withdraw event sponsorships during the economic downturn. One need not be a comedy writer to know the world’s best golfer happens to have the type of nickname, be involved in the kind of scandal, and even plays a sport that all lend themselves to all manner of double entendre, sexual humor, and gallery catcalls. His prospects for a routine American second act are tempered by our times. His every breath will now be even more closely monitored than before, this in a digital, cellular age. The PGA galleries of 2010 are a far, testosterone-laden cry from the staid politeness that accompanied the play of Nicklaus. Contemporary fans are given to declaring their look-where-I-am, privileged greenside presence with spirited outbursts of “You the man, Tiger!” when Woods tee shots soar toward the fairway, and “Get in the hole!’ annoyingly each time he putts. Sportswriters who opine that “…he’s not a baseball or football player, golf fans aren’t going to yell (scandal-related) things at him when he comes back…”, may be a little optimistic. The ball can’t hear these vocal fans, but judging from Tiger’s angry reactions to unexpected camera flashes and distracting conversation, he can. Will he still be “…the man…”? Gotta be tough to identify with a Cablinasian billionaire who has reportedly sexed a number of attractive women that some men only fantasize about on websites and magazine covers. Approval ratings for President Obama aren’t what they were six months ago, and he’s not the object of a personal fiasco. Like Clinton, Obama is held to a higher accountability standard than a wealthy pro jock, but the point is that public opinion swings. See- “swing”, there’s another word no commentator or comic can ever utter about Tiger’s golf game again without underlying double meaning. 

Forget arguments about whether Tiger is human, fans with delusional moral expectations of celebrities, and “this too shall pass” nonchalance. The sex is nothing (and everything), not one PGA golfer or red-blooded American male can say he is shocked that a man with status, looks, and opportunity, sleeps around. The media tsunami is not a result of surprise, but of impact. Lesser stories involving blondes (Natalee Holloway, Anna Nicole Smith, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears’ abilities as a mother) have dominated news cycles. I’m neither naive or prudish about high profile athletes, but one cannot subtract the sex from the equation, as it got us here. Ours is a nation that swung right in two of the last three presidential elections, and endured the hateful chain e-mails and birth certificate scrutiny of the 2008 election cycle. There are those for whom Woods, Inc. has crossed a line more sensitive than the one Serena Williams faulted when she threatened to force feed a tennis ball to a line judge.

While athletic indiscretions are as old as competition itself, coverage of sports stars has changed since baseball writers rode the same trains as Babe Ruth’s New York Yankees. Tiger Woods is one of the most celebrated American athletes beyond the realm of sport in the last 50 years. His family matters aren’t any of our business, but the mysterious accident, denied police access to blood (alcohol) analysis, forthcoming women, and delayed public appearance are news. They would be covered if they were about any household name. Ask David Letterman. Moreover, what has become public in this case is your business if you sell sporting goods, work at a hotel or restaurant on the 2010 PGA circuit, or are a member of the financially strapped fourth estate.

Tiger Woods is largely responsible for the degree of international attention paid male professional golf. He is the reason the sport’s revenues have quadrupled since he went pro. His excellence and ethnicity brought new fans, created commercial and fashion opportunities, and shaped media interest. Those factors have people directly affected by his fortunes holding their collective breath. Our fascination with money, sex, and race predate whatever really happened the morning after Thanksgiving. Scandal = cause, outcome = effect. The Vick story, which also unfolded from denial, to admission, in a series of added details, revealed varying attitudes about domestic animals. Guess what American preoccupation Tiger’s troubles will Rorschach? Pit bulls are one thing- Accenture distanced itself from Tiger because of negative headlines about humans. MSNBC news aired an ad from the consulting company in which a smirkng Tiger looks on while a young girl wows him at the driving range. Three weeks ago, you could have not only watched that ad with a straight face, you would have found it endearing and clever. Now, few dads of teenage girls could view that spot without a visceral reaction to Tiger’s facial expression. Just goes to show the “it’ll blow over like Kobe’s troubles” naysayers how powerful image can be. The cat is indefinitely limited in what he can do, say, or plug (man- I can’t even write verbs like “plug” any more without second thoughts. What happens from here on in extends outside the Woods household, and in some directions, in the world he occupies independently from golf. 


Accenture Drops Tiger Woods

Consulting company with airport ads decides Tiger Woods “…is no longer the right representative for its advertising…”. With each pa$$ing day, it becomes clearer that Tiger’s time off to allow face and family to heal, will affect thousands. We’re talking PGA Tour sponsors, hotels, television, golf industry employees and salespersons, his foundation, and advertisers. For some of the companies with which he is associated, it’s not as if they can just go out and establish ties to another clean cut, highly successful, racially inoffensive athlete or celeb. There are a lot of football and basketball players- there is only one Tiger Woods. The manner in which golf is marketed, and the way he was, involves a particular demographic. He was ideal for that role, and now a lot of folks are left in the lurch.


Focus On The Family: Tiger Woods Takes Leave of Absence

Dunno if it’s legally astute to admit adultery (from a divorce/custody/alimony standpoint), but then again, how wise was it for Tiger to give babes on the road his cell phone #? At any rate, the PGA’s meal ticket is going to cool his heels and take care of home:

Or so he says. Though the priorities Tiger states he is concerned with do require time away from the spotlight, the language on his website evokes the very “love being in the fishbowl as long as the attention’s not negative” hubris that helped get him in this familial and commercial mess. Talk of “…safe haven…” and “…privacy for my family…”. Dude, you had dalliances with women who, for the most part, might earn Playboy centerfolds, tabloid interview ducats, and reality show gigs from their alleged association with you. You couldn’t have had privacy as a priority if you risked family, public image, and moolah for that- whether they were soulmates or one-night-stands. And most p.r. pros and spin doctors agree that whether this step is right or misguided, Camp El Tigre took too long to make it.

I have a difficult time believing the hiatus is motivated by a desire to heal marital wounds and soul search. Given what some of the allegations imply about Tiger’s carelessness and sense of impunity, and his choice of words since the story (and the Escalade window) broke, I suspect he is taking the time in hopes the story will loses it legs. In that spirit, he strikes me as a man more upset about being caught than being unfaithful.

I’m no sexual prude or moralist. When you remove the legal elements and reduce monogamy to a social construct and not a biblical one, commitment means and demands different things of different psyches. The genders are even raised differently as regards to societal feeling concerning promiscuous men (playboys) and women (homewreckers and worse terms). I’m not defending anyone, but it takes a heap of testosterone to whack a golf ball 320 yards with accuracy, put on the kind of muscle Woods added when he began weight training in earnest before age 30, and get as teed off as he appears when he spurts expletives after a distraction or misplaced shot. He is a man. A young man. Throw in a billion bucks, a busy travel schedule, and my hunch that the reason such an eligible bachelor married at all around age 28, is that he was very close to his father, and wanted to start a family, and you have a recipe for mixed emotions and conflicting desires. The problem in today’s society is not that prominent men have just begun cheating on their wives, it’s that men in high places, from disgraced Congressman Mark Foley, to former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, to candidate John Edwards, share a nature that has not caught up with the digital age. Surveillance cameras, text message logs, e-mail, cell phone cameras, gossip blogs, and paparazzi are like hazards on a golf course. There are more ways for one to find one’s self in Tiger’s (Nike) shoes than ever before. Discretion was always the better part of valor, now it’s not only tantamount, but the technology demands it.

If the Kennedy assassination had occurred under 2009 circumstances, we’d have video evidence as to whom the shooter or shooters were.

While Nike is standing by its $20 million man, Accenture, Tag watches, Gatorade, Gillette, and AT & T are taking second looks at the hole distance, the lie, and the direction in which the wind is blowing. If he so chooses, Tiger will get the All-American mulligan, the second chance accorded President Clinton, Kobe Bryant, and to some extent Michael Vick. Makes good copy, helps folks feel forgiving, and puts dollars back in PGA and sponsors’ pockets. The question is, will he learn much from all this? One also wonders how scandalous the story would be were the women who were coming forward Black women.

Brand Woods is (or was, until after Thanksgiving) family-oriented, comfortable expressing deep love for dad, focused, clean cut, and racially ambiguous. The latter may have been more self-definition that national or global perception (see “Zoeller, Fuzzy” and “threats, death”), but race is a social construct in any case. Terms such as colored, grifo, mestizo, creole, biracial, and Asian are applied by people in specific cultures, to specific others- who if geographically transplanted might otherwise be mistaken for, called, or self-proclaimed mulata, Panamanian, East Indian, Black, or Cape Verdean. If the cat says he’s cablinasian, that’s what his DNA and geneaology dictate to his conscience, and he’s claiming all of it. What some Americans see however, through the prism of history, and the anxiety that inspired the Harold Ford “Playboy” campaign ad, is a preppy Black dude whose tactlessness regarding his sex life, has made him the latest in a long line of athletes whose careers ran into scandal. “Magic” Johnson, O.J., Charles Barkley, Kobe, Barry Bonds, Michael Vick, Isaih Thomas, Steve McNair, and now the man whose father’s interview projections concerning his eventual global impact led columnists to label him “The Chosen One” (LeBron, are you listening?). Sure, porn star Holly Sampson, she of the supposed bachelor party romp in the hay, said in her vid on the Naughty America website, “…he’s  like the whitest Black boy you ever met…” Yet implicit in this observation by the 36-year old (is she young enough to be of a postracial, “I don’t see Obama as Black” mindset?) adult film actress, is a mountain of preconception. Her statement reveals that she thinks most Black boys are not as white as Tiger, or she wouldn’t make the distinction (i.e. Black are white men are different, beyond complexion). It also means she feels Tiger Woods is Black, regardless of what other ethnicities are represented in his gene pool. That is an assessment she shares with Fuzzy Zoeller, EBONY magazine, and in dusk at 40 mph, 95% of the taxi drivers in this country.

Of course, being married to a Swedish blonde has not cost Tiger Woods any endorsement dollars or media coverage, 2009 not being 1965, when public appearances by Swedish actress May Britt and husband Sammy Davis, Jr. were met with picket signs and nasty slurs, and no sponsor would have touched a high profile Negro athlete in such a marriage. Will Sarah Palin’s America (AKA “The Real America”) be as tolerant of a philandering, skirt chasing Woods? Will corporate America? Will the 24-hour news cycle? Unlike Jordan, Kobe and Vick, Tiger Woods is the only Black superstar in his chosen arena. He is also the draw in his sport, while the team sports the others played could survive their respective lapses and absences by sheer dint of numbers (although Jordan was clearly the most analogous to Tiger in terms of significance to his sport, and marketing clout). These salacious headlines, and delayed response couldn’t have come at a worse time. Golf sponsorships at major events had already taken an economic hit due to the post-2007 financial downturn (you know, the one Senator John McCain declared over in September 2008). Woods missed a lot of tour time rehabilitating his knee in 2008. From an athletic standpoint, he should have been sufficiently recovered from that setback to continue his assault on Jack Nicklaus’ lofty record of 18 victories in major tournaments (he’s won 14). He just recently cancelled playing in his own tourney, the Chevron World Challenge (cha-ching, not) And in late January 2010 he was scheduled to play in the tour event at Torrey Pines. Then there’s all that bank the sport, and t.v. execs count on from the Masters (held in April). You see, aside from sex, and race, the third 800-pound gorilla in Tiger’s den is money. By giving his phone number to women whose connection to him should have stayed in Vegas, he violated a cardinal rule of product spokespersons. Don’t share the digits. Leave no paper trail.

Tiger, though powerful, is not at hear much different than millions of American men. We don’t often discuss this in mixed company (mother, are you reading this- I know LeBron isn’t), but um, not many of us would turn down a great looking woman because we’re married or had a girlfriend- if we thought we could keep it a secret. No, most guys can’t fly to Argentina on the public dime a la Governor Mark Sanford, most middle-aged dudes don’t have young interns tripping over themselves to be close to us as did President Clinton, and the majority of us don’t travel as often as Kobe Bryant. Opportunity doesn’t justify action, but men can compartmentalize their lives more easily than most women, American men live in a culture that often glamorizes swinging men, and denigrates similar behavior by women, short term sexual gratification is more appealing to men (for whom sex may serve as a release or respite, and require neither romance, emotional attachment, a stress-free state of mind, or an amorous atmosphere) than women, and no one thinks they will be caught. When unfaithful men tell their wives or girlfriends, “The girl on that business trip didn’t mean anything to me…”, they mean it. Sex can be that removed from consequence, moral compass or sense of loyalty for those for whom it is. Women rightfully feel betrayed, and generally find that since they have committed to said man, he need not go outside the relationship to seek any needs- carnal, empathetic, or varietal. Tiger’s no exception- he proves the rule. We’re only discussing him because he’s famous. People who feel he wouldn’t have gone down this course if his father were alive, can’t read a calendar. Fellow PGA tour members who have rushed to judge him, may not be as popular with the hostess/model set. Others who have publicly chastised him, are either idealistic, clueless about the universe in which he travels, or have never been a guy (forget being a guy, some things I’ve heard my women friends say in expression of disappointment about Eliot Spitzer or John Edwards, only remind me they’ve never really heard the things men say about women, sexual “conquests”, and female physical attributes when there are no ladies present- if they had, the degree of surprise or letdown would be measured, if present at all). Tiger didn’t feel anyone would learn of his closet life, he can’t get pregnant, no one’s gonna call him the “s” word, and like a lot of us, he can separate aspects of his life into little compartments. Jackie Kennedy, in exasperation or realism, said all married men cheat on their wives. Do they really? No one knows all men, but of course they don’t. Are men wired differently than women, hormonally different, and capable of viewing sexual intercourse in a way most women would find problematic?

Can Tiger putt?


Mystery Solved: Woman Taken to Hospital From Tiger Woods’ Home His Mother-in-Law

We can cease with the speculation and the career obits. The woman rushed to an Orlando area hospital at 3 a.m. from the Isleworth home of Tiger Woods was his mother-in-law:

“…The mystery woman rushed to the hospital from Tiger Woods’ home on “advanced life support” this morning was his mother-in-law.

Dan Yates, an information officer at Health Central Hospital in Ocoe, Fla., confirmed that the woman admitted to the hospital overnight was Barbro Holmberg. She was admitted with stomach pains that were not life-threatening, treated and then released.

Today’s drama began at 2:35 a.m. when sheriff’s spokesman Jim Solomons said the office got a call from Woods’ home. The call was transferred to Orange County Fire Rescue…”

It appears she has been released. Makes sense, if the ambulance was followed by a blonde, and not a male driver. So much for early morning cable news reports that it could not have been Elin Nordegen’s mother, because she has “…dark hair…” In other developments, Tiger Woods may have skirted the law by not submitting to an alcohol test after hitting the hydrant and tree that infamous Friday morning.


Sonny Rollins at Kennedy Center: Cat’s Been Shedding

Keyword searches to the contrary, this post has nothing to do with pet fur. Caught the saxophone colossus, Sonny Rollins at the Kennedy Center last night, in the Washington Performing Arts Society series. Cat closed with this tune:

Those years of practicing 16 hours a day, and the year woodshedding by the Williamsburg Bridge have sure paid off. “Newk” was bad. He was jovial (sharing anecdotes about boyhood crushes at Sparrow’s Point Beach), surprising (singing at the end of a tribute tune to trombone legend J.J. Johnson), and his percussion men couldn’t have been better. Kobie Watkins (drums) and Victor See Yuen (percussion) gave solo’s that were completely outside!

Newk is almost 80, and he gave Washington the biggest treat we’ve had since Inauguration Day. Long live impressionist music.