Tiger Trap

Woods’s recent scandal demonstrates the flip side of life in the public eye

When Tiger Woods won his first Masters Tournament, Jack Nicklaus famously quoted Bobby Jones by saying that “he plays a game of which I am not familiar.” The aftermath of the recent Tiger Woods scandal has left Tiger in a situation extremely unfamiliar to him. What started out as a news story that covered Woods’s health when he got into a late-night car accident outside his home in Windermere, Fla., quickly turned into speculation about his family and personal life. While some of the details have been blurred surrounding the aftermath of crash, the involvement of alcohol and Woods’s alleged affairs have opened up the Pandora’s box of Woods’s normally private life.

Tiger has made it clear that the alleged affairs mounting are not all hearsay. On his personal website, Tiger issued a statement offering a “profound apology” for “transgressions” that he regrets “with all of my heart.” The details of these transgressions, however, remain vague. U.S. Weekly released a voicemail allegedly left by Tiger on Los Angeles cocktail waitress Jeremy Grubbs’s phone asking the woman to erase her name from his phone, and the 24-year-old has told the press that she was involved in a 31-month sexual affair with Woods.

After skipping out on the recent World Chevron Challenge, a tournament Woods was planning on hosting, Tiger has made it clear that he wants to remove himself from the spotlight until this boils down. This spotlight is indeed considerable—Tiger is far and away the highest-paid athlete in the world, with numerous endorsements like Nike and AT&T pushing him over $1 billion in career earnings. He not only is the face of the PGA Tour but also started the Tiger Woods Charitable Foundation and the Tiger Woods Learning Center. Tiger even has a DVD box set of his golf highlights at a time where he is nowhere near close to retiring. For a man who is the consummate public figure, requests for privacy, what he calls “an important and deep principle,” are not possible.

Tiger Woods cannot expect the world to record his every putt and fist pump on the golf course yet turn its head when problems arise. For someone who offers life advice to children, who aims to accomplish things in golf that no one has before, and who has the most recognizable face in sports, his personal actions and transgressions are vitally important. If he intends for fans to donate to his foundation and buy clothes from his personal line of golf apparel, he must act in appropriate ways in all aspects of his life.

Is this fair? Is it fair that Saturday Night Live fired some cheap shots at Tiger and his wife in a recent skit, or that football halftime shows joked at the prospect of Tiger’s wife attacking him with a golf club? The answer, unfortunately for Tiger, is yes. Having chosen to live a public life, Tiger knows full well that his profession will televise his weekly tournaments, and that commercials, logos, and billboards will print his face all over the world. His public status therefore includes a loss of privacy; though none of this is a legal matter, practically Tiger must know that, like a politician, his public success comes with public scrutiny.


Eventually, Tiger, the media, and the public will move past this drama, just as it has moved beyond the personal lives of athletes like Kobe Bryant, Ray Lewis, and Alex Rodriguez. For now, however, it will be some time before Tiger gets out of the woods.

Marcel E. Moran ’11, a Crimson associate editorial editor, is a human evolutionary biology concentrator in Eliot House.