Tiger’s Train Wreck and How It Could Have Been Avoided

The whole thing about Tiger Wood’s story isn’t the infidelity with sex. It’s really the infidelity with truth, the mishandling of a great American treasure, and the unbridled arrogance of public relations handlers that underestimate the intelligence and savvy of the public.

Unfortunately, we watched a train wreck on Friday. More unfortunate is that it was avoidable – if only he used his moral and public relations GPS. Tiger had a window slammed shut on Thanksgiving Day, 2009. He hid. It was a total failure to understand the magnitude of the pending abject destruction of his reputation and the risk of loss of his legacy. Yes, even his children will pay for the domino effect of mistakes. Michael Jackson’s children have a story that will unfurl in the future. Tiger needlessly brought his back into the fight today as part of the one-man pity party.

Tiger had a window, albeit small, to neutralize the issue. He was mismanaged and told to wait. And in an uncanny parallel to our national debt, the reluctance to admit we’ve failed to elect leaders that can lead, and the sobering reality that China has exceeded our position as the global compass, so too has Tiger Woods fallen victim to our Pollyanna-glass expectation that our sports saviors are perfect. Alas, he has fallen. The global hybrid perfection myth has been pierced. Tiger now falls to the same weak and weary standard as Kobe Bryant, Prince Charles of England with his dalliances, and even Hollywood icon Mel Gibson; all failures of faith, moral turpitude and current values worthy of print.

It could have been different. Several investors, large corporate sponsors and observers asked me what I would have recommended. The answer would have made a pin drop. I told them that Tiger should have made a statement to shock the world – tell the truth…and fast. Admit failure in front of all cameras and reporters the next day; scratches, fat lip and all. Answer all questions until the last word has been uttered and the last flash bulb has fired. Execute the lost art of the take-away. Take all questions and news, conjecture and myth away. Absorb all the bullets at one time and leave nothing left to talk about tomorrow – then off to rehab to be fixed. Imagine a one-day PR cycle where the press has to say nothing tomorrow. This didn’t happen, mostly because we have PR hacks as advocates handling Tiger that have well exceeded their high school yearbook expectations.

Yes, call me a cynic, but I expected that professional handlers would have seen it clearly as a firefight. Put it out fast. Dump it all fast. Douse the flames; look like a hero. Instead, not much happened and we all saw the embers re-ignite on Friday, fanned by the flames of a horrific PR mishandling.

At first, Tiger and his handler denied the fire existed—even started. Then the flames appeared—more than one, and several. Now today, we witnessed the volunteer firefighting station claim, “we saved the foundation!” Appall. What a sad failure. Standing in front of camera(s) that shown a light through a lightless and wandering soul, we saw the calculated hunter, the conqueror, and the consumer of raw meat—Tiger Woods, who is now obviously in denial, claim that he will be a better vegetarian when rehabilitated. Hide the carrots.

His disingenuous story of cravings and subduing the impulse of flesh is ridiculous. He is a man. Admit it and we would forgive. Blame it on wandering from Buddhism shows more weakness and a failure to accept the blame for his actions. Even more, if he were following Christian beliefs as part of his “commitment” to marriage, then he passively indicted Christianity for failing him. Please. Step up—maybe 12 steps before you touch a microphone again. Today you were a fool. No 310-yard drive can save you from this hook from the tee.

That the cameras failed during his statement was poetic justice to his perfect swing and the perfect 32-foot putt to win a tournament. It was the perfect/imperfect finish to a failed PR campaign that was misguided like a hook from the first tee. It’s the turn of the second round of life’s tournament for him. Now Tiger has to scramble out of this disaster for a respectable finish on Sunday (church aside). Let’s hope he doesn’t wear red. Maybe a scarlet T is too harsh, but he has to be a real human for us to believe in Superman. That was the lesson for us all today; that Superman could love Lois Lane for her faults and that she could adore him for his, and that we admired both of them for their moral centers and character flaws that made it a wonderful tale. We all lost a hero today. Lois would shun Tiger today. So should we until he is transparent, real and understands that he has followed the wrong path, in far more ways than just sexual indiscretions. And then we can stop watching this slow-motion train wreck come to a painful and grinding (no pun intended) halt.

–Mark Cain

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