Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tiger's Scarlet Letter

His pillory a golf-clubhouse lectern, America's most famous athlete staged his own public humiliation yesterday for a TV camera, the 21st century equivalent of donning the scarlet "A" for a bloodthirsty Puritan crowd.

"I had affairs,” Tiger Woods confessed. “I was unfaithful. I cheated...I was wrong. I was foolish. I don’t get to play by different rules.”

Even so, he is being criticized for controlling his appearance, for not taking questions, for scheduling it on the eve of a tournament sponsored by a corporation that has dropped short, for a deficiency of groveling in operatic pain for the cameras.

The sad event tells us more about celebrity in our time than about Tiger Woods. After elevating a gifted golfer into a folk hero and role model, the excess of adulation has to be balanced by an equivalence of media punishment.

Yet his appearance yesterday, sad and bloated with dead eyes, tells more about Woods' downfall than any dramatic acting out of contrition. His apparent depression was painful to watch.

The wildly rewarded famous forfeit their much of their privacy, but can't there be limits to what they are required to endure? Tiger Woods will play golf again for our pleasure to watch. Until then, doesn't he deserve time out of the spotlight to work out the psychological damage he has inflicted on his family and himself?

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