Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Moral Improvement Through Moral Failure, Tiger Woods Edition

Personally, I don't think there's much point in commenting on the Tiger Woods scandal - he's far from the first celebrity to rampantly cheat on his wife, or to conceal a rather scuzzy personal life behind a stone wall of inaccessibility - his role model as a sporting/global marketing icon, Michael Jordan, beat him to that by at least twenty years, and if you'd put a gun to my head and asked me for a yes-or-no answer as to whether I believed Tiger had ever cheated on his wife, cynic that I am would have bet "yes". Certainly I think less of Woods as a person in the wake of these revelations, but I don't really want to waste any more oxygen thinking about it, and it's certainly true that I don't want to read hypocritical, sanctimonious screeds condemning his behavior in the paper.

What I also don't need to read, however, are pieces of apologeia like this. For a man with a wife and child, getting caught screwing his way through a parade of cocktail waitresses, club bunnies, starfuckers, and other assorted bimbos, and being forced to apologize publicly because you were caught, is not an opportunity for personal growth. It's a forced end to a pattern of egocentric, self-entitled, and frankly disgraceful behavior that it seems likely would have gone on had it not been uncovered. Tiger may mean it when he says he's sorry, but I suspect what he's really sorry about is getting caught, and it's as easy to read his apology as self-serving as sincere. If he really felt all that bad about betraying his family, he wouldn't have gone on doing it again and again, would he? If a normal married guy engaged in this kind of behavior, most people would consider him childish, irresponsible, and self-centered at the very least, and more likely a complete asshole. So please, Mr. Reilly, lets not wrap this turd up in a nice Hallmark bow and try to sell it as a learning experience or an endearingly human flaw that makes a superb athlete less distant from the rest of us, shall we?

Whenever there's a scandal of this sort in entertainment or sports, journalists who cover those fields seem to split into three camps - the titillators, the scolds, and the apologists. The titillators report every lurid detail they can uncover with barely concealed glee, the scolds issue sanctimonious lectures on how we shouldn't be titillated, and the apologists write puff and spin aimed at rescuing the tarnished image of the celebrity in question. None of these are useful journalistic functions and the fact that they are so prevalent is one of the main reasons the mainstream media in these fields, for lack of a better word, sucks. I don't expect entertainers or athletes to be model human beings, and most adults I know (especially those who've actually had encounters with celebrities) don't either. When a celebrity has done some scummy things in his or her personal life and it becomes news as in this case, or as in the Steve McNair case earlier this year, I can form my own opinions on it. I don't need the mainstream media to admonish me for thinking a guy who runs around cheating on his wife left and right is a scumbag (and I might add, I wouldn't be as inclined as I am to articulate that "judgmental" opinion if the media didn't adopt "hero worship" as a default attitude toward its subjects and place these people on pedestals to begin with). And I also don't need a load of warm-and-fuzzy horseshit about how the experience of being exposed as a scumbag makes you a better person. Just put a sock in it, please.

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