Wednesday, December 02, 2009

One-stroke penalty for grounding your club in a hazard

It may be OK this time to hate the playah and not the game ...

Tiger Woods said he let his family down with transgressions he regrets “with all of my heart,” and that he will deal with his personal life behind closed doors.

His statement Wednesday follows a cover story in Us Weekly magazine that reports a Los Angeles cocktail waitress claims she had a 31-month affair with the world’s No. 1 golfer.

“I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves,” Woods said on his Web site. “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.”

The cocktail waitress, Jaimee Grubbs, told the magazine she met Woods at a Las Vegas nightclub the week after the 2007 Masters — two months before Woods’ wife, Elin, gave birth to their first child. Grubbs claims to have proof in 300 text messages. About three hours before Woods’ statement, the magazine published what it said was a voicemail — provided by Grubbs — that Woods left her phone on Nov. 24, three days before his middle-of-the-night car crash outside his home in Florida.

Shorter Grubbs (for once, the paramour has an appropriate name): Gee, I'm sorry I sent the voice mail and the 300 text messages to the media and I'm sure this has severely damaged your squeaky clean reputation and could cost you your marriage and hundreds of millions of dollars in endorsements alone, but I sincerely hope we can remain good friends.

The voice mail?

“Hey, it’s, uh, it’s Tiger. I need you to do me a huge favor. Um, can you please, uh, take your name off your phone. My wife went through my phone. And, uh, may be calling you. If you can, please take your name off that and, um, and what do you call it just have it as a number on the voicemail, just have it as your telephone number. That’s it, OK. You gotta do this for me. Huge. Quickly. All right. Bye.”

This story isn't quite as ridiculous as the Balloon Boy Caper or even the Salahis crashing the White House state dinner, but it does reveal a continuing American fascination with lurid distractions. I used to blame the media exclusively for it, but the truth is that in a miserable advertising environment they're just chasing ratings (or clicks, as the case may be)...

We in the respectable media are not interested in Tiger Woods' car crash for prurient reasons. Oh, no. We don't care about what a celebrity, but a private citizen, may or may not have been doing with his extracurricular time. Nor do we care about the rush of viewers and readers—like you there, who came to this article by Googling "Tiger Woods car crash affair rumors"—and how good it will make us look to our advertisers if we indulge it.

No, we care only for high-minded reasons. It's about, um, the business impact of the story on the lucrative sports-endorsement business. It's about, um, the ever-changing culture of American celebrity. It's about, um, traffic safety! How many more innocent trees must suffer? Wait, no! It's about the media coverage itself! That's the ticket! So here is a blog post about the media coverage itself! ...

But whenever a story like this breaks, the first thing that gets exposed is the gap between media outlets, like TMZ, that unashamedly love this kind of story and cover it well, and more-traditional media outlets, who are either uncomfortable with or unsuited to the story, yet finally can't ignore it.

These outlets aren't blind, either to the news or to the interest in it. They are as capable as you of seeing, for instance, that the most searched term at the New York Times website is, as of this morning, Tiger Woods.

And yet the "serious" news outlets can't just wholeheartedly revel in the human filth of the story. Not just for high-minded reasons, either: there are cold business reasons. As with so many things today, traditional media are caught between a newfangled audience, with new expectations, and an old-fashioned audience that expects old-fashioned standards of propriety.

All too true. The reason we -- you and me; American citizens -- cannot focus on the critical topics like healthcare or Afghanistan is because we are all too willingly distracted by the titillating gossip and celebrity scandal, not to mention the wannabe reality-show contestants trying to clock in on their 15 minutes or the cocktail waitresses digging for gold.

So we can wring our hands and cluck our tongues and bemoan the loss of role models or the weakness of the male of the species and how they (we) think with our little heads too often, but we probably can't whine any longer about stories like this not being 'news'.

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