Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sin, repentance, forgiveness: Tiger de-clawed

Tiger mistress Loredana Jolie Ferriola.

Watching Tiger Woods play at the Masters Tournament--and yeah, I sometimes watch golf on TV--I'm reminded of the cycles of sin, repentance and forgiveness in our society. Tiger, whose indiscretions with women have been getting far too much media coverage, is in the part of the cycle where he's admitted wrongdoing, "gotten help" in a rehab center (for what? No one has said exactly what the help is for. Sex addiction?) and is now back in public doing his job, playing golf. According to what I've seen, so far his return seems to be orderly, even with all the media attention.

Going to the restaurant for a bite. Tiger's restaurant hostess Mindy Lawton.

Every year public figures, celebrities, politicians, religious figures, get caught with their trousers down, and there is a process to go through after the initial scandal. Tiger's public relations blitz has gone into high gear to get his image back to what it was before he was caught prowling about with his groupies. That will be hard, but not impossible. First off, the public is more understanding about this sort of thing nowadays, since we see these stories repeated over and over. Frankly, we're titillated, but we get bored easily, so public attention moves on to the next story very quickly. Time helps.

There's the stage where the bad boy gets professional therapy and help. Tiger did that.

Then he pleads that he has repented of his evil ways. Tiger did that in February in a press conference where he looked so wooden he could have been a puppet. Every word he read from the script sounded like it had been gone over several times by media savvy advisors and lawyers. Despite his stiffness, public contrition is a good thing to help an image.

In Tiger's case, if getting caught was a bogey, then the rehab was a birdie, and the public confession was an eagle. Coming back to golf to cheers and love from his fans is like winning a tournament. It means that in the public's eyes he's gone through the proper steps to allow his readmission to respect.

Well, kind of. He'll still be the butt of jokes, and he'll hate that, but he'll just have to think back to who caused the problem in the first place and he can put the blame back where it belongs, on himself. You can't have the image of being a family man and at the same time be thought of as a superstud with a bimbo in every city. Some celebrities, rock stars, for instance, we expect that. There's no forgiveness or shock there, because that seems to be part of the business. Athletes are a mixed bag. The ones who are married have big problems when they are caught straying, we shrug off the scandal of the unmarried.

I'm thinking of American athletes who've had their images dragged through the briars and brambles of public exposure. Basketball stars Kobe Bryant, rape. Magic Johnson, HIV. Boxer Mike Tyson, a couple of stints in prison for rape and other assorted crimes. Football player O. J. Simpson, murder. In the case of the first two, Bryant and Johnson's images have been fully rehabilitated. Mike Tyson is out of prison and has a so-so reputation. The tough dumb guy, he took too many blows to the head, so he's been more-or-less accepted back to a degree. He's more of a clown, now. O. J. Simpson won a not guilty verdict in court, but not in the court of public opinion, and his image is forever tarnished.

I could go on and on. The most scandalous cheater of all was President Bill Clinton, who got oral sex from an intern. It was all over the news in pornographic detail every day. Clinton went through some of the steps of regaining public respect and it has apparently worked. When he was given the job (with former president George W. Bush) of going to Haiti to oversee aid efforts there was no mention of his past scandals. But other politicians haven't fared so well. When I wrote that the image of John F. Kennedy, legendary for his roving eye, popped into my head, but all his sexual peccadilloes came out long after his death and don't seem to have harmed his image.

The best way for any man--or woman--to avoid the scandal of extramarital affairs is to simply not have them. My other advice is just take the situation in hand, as the old joke goes. Beat off. You'll get that tension out of you and you won't get into mischief and trouble. After all, if you have sex with someone else they can tell on you; you have sex with yourself, well,'re the only witness.

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