Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Irony Can Be So Ironic: Tiger Woods Edition

The single best statement about the Tiger Woods fiasco comes from Paul at LGM,

"Tiger Woods has become a billionaire by marketing himself so assidiously that he's now the most recognizable athlete, and indeed one of the most recognizable people, in the world. His vast wealth (less than 10% of which has been earned directly through his athletic achievements) is a product of making himself into a kind of human logo, that corporations pay him immense amounts to attach to their products. They find it profitable to do so because of the preposterous yet very widespread idea that athletic excellence somehow reflects well on a person's character and general value as a human being. Tiger Woods alleged adultery has nothing to do with his ability to excel on the golf course, but has everything to do with his ability to market himself as some kind of exemplary person, whose putative preferences in regard to cars and accounting firms and watches should influence your view of these products, and the corporations that produce them."
Yes, it is obscene to focus so much attention on the domestic problems of anyone, but this story is about irony. Tiger Woods has traded humanity for celebrity with the sole intent of making himself into a cash-producing brand. He does not sell Oldsmobiles and sweatshop produced Nike-wear to be able to play golf, he plays golf to rake in the millions from selling Oldsmobiles and sweatshop produced Nike-wear.

In carefully crafting his golly-gee, all-American guy image for the sake of profit, he has consciously opted to make himself into a human billboard and the purpose of a billboard is to be looked at. It is nothing but disingenuous to ask for nothing but attention when you are using it to create the power to suck money from our wallets, but then to say that we have to avert our eyes the minute it might damage the brand. Tiger Wood's plea for privacy at that moment only recalls the great and powerful Oz's command to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. He loves the attention when it helps him control us, but how dare you look when it might give you a liberating view into the reality of the situation.

It was a choice that he is paying for now. Larry Bird and Cal Ripken made commercials and certainly cashed in on their stardom and similar images, but there is a difference with figures like Woods, Michael Jordan, and Peyton Manning who have become complete corporate marketing prostitutes. They have created false images for the sole purpose of enriching themselves. If they smash that in front of us, we are not to blame for glimpsing the real world.

At the same time, I love the Tiger Woods episode for its unparalleled pun potential, after all here's a guy who crashed his car right outside of his house when he is famous for being able to drive straight for very long distances. His wife is furious because she thinks that someone else is helping him with his putz. It would hardly be surprising if he put it right in the hole on a front nine he wasn't supposed to be playing, and his wife got teed off as such a thing could drive a wedge between them. Of course, once the police came knocking, they ducked into a bunker. Refusing to get a grip, they kept their heads down, but did not follow-through. Releasing a statement, they claimed it could all be ironed out. For those who think such word play is out of bounds or a taking chip shot, I'd say that it's par for the course.