December 3, 2009

Charles P. Pierce and the Tiger Woods Cocoon

The incidents playing out this past week in the news regarding Tiger Woods has come as a shock to many people.  Not among them is Charles P. Pierce, a sportswriter who first profiled Woods in 1997 for Esquire. In the piece, located here, Pierce captured a very different Tiger than the one who maintained such a pure image in the media.  In fact, Pierce's insights were so revealing that Woods and his team had to scramble to dispute the side of Tiger that Pierce had captured.  As a result, since that interview, Woods has been one of the world's most guarded celebrities.  Remember, his yacht's name is "Privacy."

Snippets from the Pierce article in 1997 include:
  • Tiger speculating with his limo driver "why so many good-looking women hang around baseball and basketball.  Is it because, you know, people always say, like, black guys have big dicks?"
  • Tiger at a photo shoot, flirting with the females attending to him on set with a litany of jokes, such as:
    • "Why do two lesbians always get where they're going faster than two gay guys? Because the lesbians are always going sixty-nine."
    • Putting the tips of his two expensive dress shoes together, he asks the women, "What's this?"  When they cannot find the answer he responds, "It's a black guy taking off his condom."
    • Finally, there's one about Buckwheat from the Little Rascals, confused about the teacher's vocabulary lesson on word dictate, saying, "Hey Darla, how my dick ta'te?"
During that moment, Tiger looked across at Pierce and said, "Hey, you can't write this."  To which Pierce responded, "Too late."

Upon the conclusion of that article, Pierce wishes for Tiger that he just gets to be himself, instead of the phony, protected persona, or the savior figure that so many - including his father - had hoisted on him:
"I believe in the twenty-one year old who tells dirty jokes and who plays Nintendo games, and only the fighting games at that.  I do not believe in the chosen one, the redeemer of golf, and of America and of the rest of the world.  I hope he plays golf.  I hope he fucks around."
Twelve years later, and in a response to the recent events, Pierce had this to say:
"I can't say I'm surprised - either by the allegations or what's ensued since Friday's wreck.  Back in 1997, one of the worst-kept secrets on the PGA Tour was that Tiger was something of a hound.  Everybody knew.  Everybody had a story.  Occasionally somebody saw it, but nobody wanted to talk about it, except in bar-room whispers late at night.  Tiger's people at the International Management Group visibly got the vapors if you even implied anything about it.  However, from that moment on, the marketing cocoon around him became almost impenetrable.  The Tiger Woods that was constructed for corporate consumption was spotless and smooth, an edgeless brand easily peddled to sheiks and shakers.  The perfect marriage with the perfect kids slipped so easily into the narrative it seemed he'd been born married."
At this point, I can only wonder how Elin Woods may have simply been picked as the perfect construct for the Tiger Woods marriage narrative.  Beautiful, blonde, and white - but importantly foreign (as in, English is not her first language) - was Elin Nordegren merely a solution drummed up by Tiger's corporate machine?

We may never know for sure, but the lengths to which Tiger Co. has insured Elin remains his (silent) partner does not put the issue to, umm, bed.

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