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Public hooked on the tales of Tiger

Reports that golf superstar Tiger Woods had an early morning crash in his Escalade near his Florida mansion on Nov. 27 quickly became the talk of the nation and the world. The fact that the incident occurred while he was out driving at 2:30 a.m. raised a lot of initial questions. The speculation that his wife, Elin, reportedly used a golf club to help extricate him from the SUV brought more mystery and innuendo to the story. Then Woods’ silence on the accident only added more scandal-heightened drama to what has become the most covered celebrity story of the year.

Since then, it has been the daily new revelations about Woods’ numerous affairs that continue to propel the media and gossip machines and shreds the cocoon of privacy that the golfer had so carefully built around himself and his image. Since the accident and Woods’ statement on his web site alluding to his “transgressions,” news outlets and bloggers around the globe, along with thousands on Facebook and Twitter, began a 24/7 focus on every aspect of his personal life and public persona.

Some have even gone from calling him Tiger to “Lion Cheetah.” NBC’s Saturday Night Live poked fun at the Woods in a skit and multiple “Weekend Update” jokes. One Twitter user, PJ Fusco, of Madison, Wisconsin, opined, “Tiger Woods appears to be a hotter topic than Climate Change in Google Real Time search.”

Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times wrote: “Woods probably figured that the media might cut him some slack when it came to explaining—or actually not explaining—what happened in the wee hours of Nov. 27 when he crashed his car outside his Florida home. But the crash, and Woods’ inability to provide a logical account of his behavior, unleashed the media dogs from hell.”

Woods’ web site statement said, “Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn’t have to mean public confessions.” 

Many agreed with that point of view and began to speak out against what they saw as an aggressive assault on his privacy. Woods had been forced to confess his “sins to millions of people he’s absolutely not accountable to,” wrote Lysiane Gagnon, a columnist for Canada’s Globe and Mail. “Contrary to the likes of Paris Hilton, whose only occupation is to be a celebrity, Mr. Woods was not a celebrity off the golf course. Far from seeking the spotlight, he jealously guarded his private life. And he never made speeches promoting marital fidelity. All he did was to play golf fabulously well.”

But Terence Samuel, deputy editor of The Root, took a counter view: “Tiger, when you’re as rich and famous as you are, ‘personal sins’ are no longer personal, and they do ‘require press releases’ and ‘public confesses.’ It comes with the territory.”

In a column reminding us that the fans and critics never know celebrities as well as they think they do, Time Magazine reporter Alex Altman seems to embrace all sides, writing:  “Right now it may be hard to muster much sympathy for Tiger, who could comfortably bandage his wounds in $100 bills and still have a few hundred million to spare. But history’s best golfer will undoubtedly seize the chance to repair his reputation the way he earned it in the first place. One Sunday next year, Woods will catch fire, tear past the competition and hoist another trophy. When that happens, let’s hope fans remember that public prowess does not equal private virtue, and that we should reserve our adulation for those whom we know are actually deserving.”

Has media scrutiny of Tiger Woods been too harsh? How has your image of the golfer changed? How much does the public deserve to know about the private lives of public figures? Have we as a society become too nosy? How much information about themselves do celebrities owe the public? If you were advising Tiger Woods, what would you have him do to rehabilitate his image? Have social media tools like Facebook and Twitter given us too much leeway to express our private thoughts to the masses? What has turned you off most, Woods’ behavior or how the media have responded to it?

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