Sunday, November 29, 2009
Say it ain't so, Tiger
There has been a lot of speculation over the past two days over what really happened outside Tiger Woods' estate at 2:25AM on Friday.
The version that the Woods camp gave on Friday is that Tiger had a minor run-in with a hydrant and tree, and when his wife Elin Nordegren heard the crash, she rushed outside to see what was wrong, then smashed open the rear window with a golf club and pulled him to safety.
Coincidentally, on Wednesday the National Enquirer ran an article claiming that Tiger had been having an affair with an events planner named Rachel Uchitel. And, though Tiger had cuts on his face and mouth, there was no blood on the wheel of his SUV.
They should have come up with a more credible story: that Tiger wanted to get in line early for the Black Friday deals at the local Walmart.
It's pretty obvious what happened. They had a fight, Elin followed Tiger as he pulled out of the driveway, and in a fit of rage bashed in the rear window of his SUV with a golf club. This distracted Tiger enough to cause him to hit the hydrant and tree.
You can be sure that he is now in the midst of frenzied consultations with his advisers. ("He's sleeping," Elin told the police in an effort to forestall them.)
What we will get in a day or two is a carefully worded statement, which has been vetted by a small army of PR people and lawyers, in which Tiger will vaguely allude to mistakes he's made without actually spelling out any of those mistakes, and in which he will say that he and his wife are working to do what's right for their family and children. You can be sure that the words "family" and "children" will be mentioned prominently.
You can also be sure that the name "Rachel Uchitel" will not be mentioned. When Woods or his people are asked about her, they will probably say something to the effect of "You can't believe everything you read in the tabloids," without actually admitting or denying guilt.
The entire release will be calculated to be as bland and boring as they can make it, in an effort to make the incident disappear down the memory hole as quickly as possible. And it will. Six months from now people will be talking about Woods' next major tournament, and this episode will be referred to only in passing.
Woods, a Stanford graduate, is certainly no Daryl Strawberry. Woods has been very careful thus far to keep his private life private, and to keep his public pronouncements as bland as possible, in an effort to keep those endorsement deals flowing. And he's done an excellent job of this, until now.
What really happened is not even all that interesting. Woods is a young, healthy billionaire who is on the road a great deal of the time. He was undoubtedly constantly faced with temptation, and he succumbed. (He's only human, and it's hard to blame him for that.) His wife found out about it, had a fit, and we saw the results of that fit, if not an honest explanation for it. It's really a very old, and very boring, story.
The only vaguely interesting part of that story is that while Elin Nordegren is absolutely gorgeous (he married her after he was rich and famous), Rachel Uchitel is not. (Uchitel is a little cheap-looking to boot; obvious plastic surgery tends to have that result.) It's always a little surprising when men married to beautiful women cheat on them with far less attractive women. (Anyone remember Steve Phillips?)
The more interesting question is how it has affected Woods. My guess is that he is feeling quite torn. He knows his public reputation is on the line, so he will rely on the PR people and lawyers who have guided him thus far. He also knows that if he goes to the police and gives them an honest accounting of the evening, it will get his wife in trouble. After all, he is now the victim of domestic violence, both when she scratched his face in the house and when she bashed in the back window of his SUV, which would potentially make her legally liable. He also knows that if the entire truth comes out, it will mean the end of his squeaky clean image.
I certainly don't think Woods, or even his temperamental wife, are bad people. They're just normal people with an abnormal amount of money and fame, caught up in the usual human desires and emotions. If he was bad, we'd have seen evidence of it in the past, and we haven't.
But no one, not even Woods, is as bland as he's pretended to be all these years.
Given the nature of golf, and Tiger's public image, it's hard to imagine that the Buick people are going to make humorous, self-deprecating reference to this incident in their future advertising. (But how funny would it be if their next ad showed him driving off as a blonde bashed in the back of his SUV?)
Addendum, same day: Woods has decided to totally stonewall: "This situation is my fault, and is obviously embarrassing to my family and me. I'm human and I'm not perfect. I will certainly make sure this does not happen again....the only person responsible for the accident is me. My wife, Elin, acted courageously when she saw I was hurt and in trouble. Any other assertion is absolutely false."
I call bs.