Thursday, 3 December 2009

Tiger Woods: He's let his wife down, his family down (and his pants down)

THE Sun's front page splash today sums it up rather neatly. "I've let my wife down, I've let my family down (and he's let his trousers down)".
The Daily Mail, joining in the gleeful coverage of an icon's downfall, picture all three alleged holes in one: New York events planner Rachel Uchitel, 34 (who denies everything), Las Vegas cocktail waitress Jaimee Grubbs, 24 (who has a voicemail to back her story) and marketing manager Kalika Moquin, 27 (who says it's "not appropriate to comment").
So do we exult in the denouement of the world's top golfer now he's been exposed, less than a week after the mysterious 2.25am car crash outside his Florida home? Do we say "told you so" when he released a statement yesterday saying: "I regret those transgressions with all my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behaviour my family deserves"?
No, we should be saddened by it. Distressed when a role model falls so heavily from grace. Sympathetic about the fact that, when you are forced by your talent to live in the public eye, the pain is all the greater. And all the man wants to do is hit a golf ball a very, very long way towards a flag.
Sometimes the media gets blamed for the downfall of icons like Woods, the first sportsman to earn $1billion. On this occasion, it's hard to argue that. Nobody could have kept a lid on what was going on for long. And clearly, when wife Elin got wind of her husband's alleged indiscretions, she reacted and, despite Woods slamming the "malicious rumours", we are finally getting close to what really happened that morning. A Japanese television station have issued a virtual version of what they think happened, featuring Elin running along, smashing his windows. That may not be factual, but it's what people conjured up when they haven't got the truth.
Of course it was impossible for Tiger to come out immediately and admit to what was going on. Instead, he disappeared for 12 hours into the bowels of a local hospital, refused to see the police four times when he got home and was finally given a paltry slap on the wrist for his sins.
The real cost to Tiger? About £5,000 in damage to his Cadillac Escapade, £99 for "careless driving" and £2,000 to fix the fire hydrant he crashed into.
Then there's the facial injuries we still haven't seen... and this week's Tiger-sponsored US tour event will have to do without their star name amid promises to refund disappointed spectators.
And then we begin to move into the real high-cost areas. If Elin, mother of his two children, sues for divorce - and she appears to have every cause - it may just be the world's biggest ever settlement.
Then there are the sponsors. Gillette's discomfort has already been heavily publicised. Tiger, Thierry Henry and Roger Federer are all pictured together (above) in their latest campaign, now all three appear to be on the slide. Henry for his handball for France against Ireland, Federer for not making the final at the London Arena last week and Tiger for what he calls "personal sins".
Woods earns £6m a year from the razor makers, £12m from Nike, £12m from sports drink Gatorade, £5m from EA Sports video games, £3m from telephone providers AT&T, £3m from watch-makers Tag Heuer and £2m from General Mills. But the image they buy has been tarnished forever.
He will pay the price. And the stories will continue for weeks yet, with his reappearance set to reignite the whole situation. We have to ask: will he ever be the same again? Does he deserve all this? Will he be scarred for life, physically or psychologically?
That is our job, asking questions like that. But in truth the best sign off to this sorry tale belongs to Woods and what he said in his statement yesterday. Let's leave it there:
"Whatever regrets I have about letting my family down have been shared with and felt by us alone. For the last week my family and I have been hounded to expose intimate details of our personal lives.
"For me, the virtue of privacy is one that must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one's own family.
"I will strive to be a better person and the husband and father that my family deserves."

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