I’m so ashamed. I only made it three days.

Three days before I ended up on TMZ.com.

When the news first broke, I was watching a college football game with my dad. A network news anchor looked gravely into the camera and explained how Tiger Woods had been involved in an automobile accident and his condition on the scene had been described as serious. I don’t know about the world at large, or for readers of The Nervous Breakdown, but for sports (and particularly golf) fans, this was big news. Obviously you’re concerned for the guy’s safety, but when you find out he’s okay and learn a few details about the accident, questions begin to arise.

But why? As I wrote in an earlier TNB blog, I don’t know Tiger Woods any more than I know my neighbors who live two doors down. I’m not interested in their daily drama, so why would I be interested in the personal life of a famous golfer I’ve never met?

I’m completely interested to see him dominate the sport of golf like no one else, to use his swing as a model for my own (I still have some work to do there). As a sports fan and a serious golfer, I have every reason to be impressed with his miracle victory in the 2008 U.S. Open (hobbled by a bum knee), or winning the 2007 PGA Championship less than two miles from my house.

But why would I care about him running over a fire hydrant, other than he’s not seriously hurt?

And yet I was.

My first thoughts were that he either a) wandered out of the house on sleep medication, or b) had gotten into a fight with his wife. How or why else would a person who wasn’t drunk run into a fire hydrant right next to his own driveway? At 2:30 in the morning?

But I was determined not to care. Even as people texted me gossip from smut web sites, I refused to go looking for those details myself.

If you ask anyone if they approve of the methods used by today’s paparazzi, they will invariably say “no.” The worst of these photographers are dirtier scum than email spammers. They jump from behind trees and frighten actresses, and then sell these pictures to magazines that write stories about how Jen still isn’t over Brad. They’ll follow any minor celebrity hoping to see a misstep that can be sold for cash.

But they’re only able to earn a living doing that kind of shit because we as consumers buy their goods.

And even if you don’t buy trash magazines, you probably still watch television and read news on the Internet. Tiger’s story is on every network, on every news web site. They cover stories like this because that’s what sells advertising. It’s what we want to see.

Look at this photo, by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images:

All this for a guy who hit a fire hydrant and a tree with his SUV.

But oh, he’s the best golfer of all time and is worth close to a billion dollars. And won’t tell us how or why the accident occurred. Further, this extra attention is directed at Tiger largely because of his squeaky-clean public persona. It’s like we want to see him fail, since we’ve never seen it happen before. Is that because we’re happy to know he’s a flawed human being, or because jealousy drives us to enjoy his suffering?

Let’s say for a moment the worst rumors are true: He angered his wife, she attacked him in some way, and even chased the SUV with a golf club as he tried to flee the scene. All he’s done since then is blame the accident on himself and ask for privacy.

Isn’t that what any of us would do? In fact wouldn’t most wives appreciate a husband who protected her in that way, even if she was pissed at him for something else?

He is Tiger Woods, however, so people want the details. But why? Why does it matter? How will the lives of golf fans or casual observers be any different tomorrow if he were to offer us a few sordid morsels?

I’m ashamed of myself for following a link to TMZ (an entertainment site I deeply despise) but that doesn’t change the fact that I did it.

Whatever the reason for his accident, no matter which (if any) rumors are true, for me it doesn’t alter my awe of Tiger Woods. He is the best in the world at a sport I love. I didn’t think any less of Stephen King when I learned of his drug and alcohol problems (that actually explained a lot), and if tomorrow Jonathan Franzen were to admit an addiction to Internet porn, I would still purchase every book he ever published. I don’t know these men personally and likely never will, but as long as they don’t intentionally kill anyone I will probably always like them.

But I like myself a little less when I’m forced to admit that I cannot completely ignore the drama in their personal lives. No matter how much I wish it weren’t so, such is the reality of human nature.

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RICHARD COX is the author of The Boys of Summer, Thomas World, The God Particle, and Rift. He can be reached on Facebook or at his personal web site, www.richardcox.net.

77 responses to “If They Say Why, Tell ‘Em That Is Human Nature”

  1. Greg Olear says:

    Great piece, Richard. But don’t feel guilty for being curious.

    The thing about Tiger is, although he is arguably the most popular and famous active athlete on the planet, we know almost nothing about him. The extent to which he has kept his private life private, given his fame, is stunning. This is the first glimpse into his life that we’ve ever seen. Which explains the TV cameras.

    Put it this way: if the same thing happened to Kobe Bryant, or Manny Ramirez, or A-Rod, or Tom Brady, or just about any other pro athlete, there wouldn’t be the same rabid coverage. It’s a testament to his success as both a golfer and a media anti-whore that this is such a big story.

    G

    PS
    Your Franzenphilia baffles me. Someday, when we have that huge TNB convention in New Orleans, we can play Point-Counterpoint with The Corrections. On a related note, once, in an airport bookshop, the cashier asked if I was Franzen.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Thanks, Greg. I started to make that comparison–to other sports figures, celebrities, etc.–because you’re right…his avoidance of the media is part of what drives our curiosity. The part I feel most guilty about is patronizing a site like TMZ. Even though they’re only in business because of the very real demand for that sort of entertainment, I certainly don’t want to help keep them in business.

      My love for The Corrections is based primarily on Franzen’s amazing and confident wielding of the English language. However, the mother, Enid, is a carbon copy of my dad’s mother, and the whole idea of escaping the culturally dead suburbs of middle America is something that resonates with me. I realize the book is basically plotless, but he captures the midwestern American family so well it still works.

      “In the kitchen Enid dredged the Promethean meat in flour and laid it in a Westinghouse electric pan large enough to fry nine eggs in ticktacktoe formation. A cast aluminum lid clattered as the rutabaga water came abruptly to a boil. Earlier in the day a half package of bacon in the refrigerator had suggested liver to her, the drab liver had suggested a complement of bright yellow, and so the Dinner had taken shape. Unfortunately, when she went to cook the bacon she discovered there were only three strips, not the six or eight she’d imagined. She was now struggling to believe that three strips would suffice for the entire family.

      ‘What’s that?’ said Chipper with alarm.

      A dollop of mashed rutabaga at rest on a plate expressed a clear yellowish liquid similar to plasma or the matter in a blister. Boiled beet greens leaked something cupric, greenish. Capillary action and the thirsty crust of flour drew both liquids under the liver. When the liver was lifted, a faint suction could be heard. The sodden lower crust was unspeakable.”

      Hahaha. Makes me want to read the whole thing again right now.

      • Greg Olear says:

        That makes sense…I feel the same way about The Ice Storm, even though it’s a CT book and I’m from NJ. I think it’s great, but I definitely have an emotional attachment to it.

        I don’t think JF’s a particularly fluid writer — he sounds like he’s trying to hard (“Promethean meat”?! Come on…that’s too much, even for me!). I think you are among the many contributors to this site who are better than he at the technical aspect of writing prose.

        But my main issue is his lack of respect for the reader. If you’re going to give your fictional town a name as allusively obvious as St. Jude, you can’t have the Scandinavian tourists say, in Part Three, “Wasn’t St. Jude the patron saint of lost causes?” You just can’t.

        Ironically, Franzen wrote a great piece in The New Yorker about his experience reading the (famously difficult) Gaddis novel The Reflections, that more or less mirrored my own reading experience with The Corrections.

        Finally, I’m reliably informed that he is, personally, a very nice guy.

        • Matt says:

          I’ve never read any of his books, but I will give Franzen Cool Points for snubbing Oprah. OPRAH, for crap’s sake.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Cool points? Really? He was basically saying that those readers who happened to value Oprah’s recommendations were irrelevant. Why is it cool to bash potential readers of your book?

          And what happened after that snub? Oprah stopped recommending books by living authors.
          His pretention (and it’s hard to conceive of a more pretentious act for an author, short of not accepting a major award) had its price. Not for him, maybe, but for the writing community as a whole — especially emerging writers who needed Oprah’s imprimatur to get noticed.

          G

          PS
          Sorry, Richard, I’m turning your comment board into the Franzen Zone…

        • Richard Cox says:

          You’re right, Greg. Franzen sometimes went a little over the top, probably because he knew he was onto something special and got a little cocky. He is a self-assured, even elitist, writer. But somehow it just works for me. I will admit there were even a few parts of the novel that were almost boring. However, I was so impressed with the rest that I didn’t mind. The scenes with Gary and his family are gold. When his son finally won the battle to put the kitchen under surveillance and the camera caught him sneaking booze…”How about mixed grill, Dad?”

          I wish I knew exactly why it worked for me so I could do it myself.

          And while I disagree that I’m a better than him at the technical aspect of writing, thank you for saying so, and just tell me where to mail the check.

        • Matt says:

          Hmmm. Points noted, considered, and appreciation withdrawn. Now I’d kind of like to punch the insufferable SOB.

        • Richard Cox says:

          I think Franzen was bashing his perception of Oprah’s audience, which was fat, middle-American women who’ve never read a piece of real literature in their lives. Is that a fair assessment? Absolutely not. But I bet he didn’t mean it in the way it came out, nor did he probably anticipate or desire the fallout that resulted from it.

          So I guess you didn’t appreciate being mistaken for him then, Greg? Ha.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Richard: There’s plenty of things I love that defy explanation, and I respect your affection for him. There aren’t many things that get my goat — and I have a very high tolerance for pretention in fiction — but that book is one of them. I think I know why, but part of it is how much praise was heaped on it. And the Oprah stuff. In any case, it’s good to know that a friendly debate can be had.

          Matt: I see your point, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think he thought it through. And the effect was disastrous. Oprah is one of very few people of that stature who talk about novels. Whatever your (or my, for that matter) opinion of her in the larger popular culture, she is the writer’s friend.

        • Matt says:

          Maybe, but it really leaves a foul taste in your mouth to say that, doesn’t it?

        • Greg Olear says:

          RC: I usually get Stephen King, so I was happy about it.

          MB: Mouthwash is required, yes.

        • “Franzen was bashing his perception of Oprah’s audience, which was fat, middle-American women who’ve never read a piece of real literature in their lives.”

          I don’t think Franzen was bashing his own perception; I think he legitimately believed what you just wrote. I also believe he would have said pretty much exactly that, particularly using a phrase like “real literature,” but I don’t know if I think any writer who believes “real literature” exists could ever write it.

          Because, seriously, what’s wrong with Oprah? Here is a self-made media mogul more accessible than probably any other, more interesting than Trump or Murdoch, and more appreciative of culture. I lament the end of her show because I’m totally sad it occurred before I managed to get on it (the farthest I managed was Greg Behrendt, who was actually way cooler than I’d expected); why would calling anyone a writer’s friend leave a bad taste in the mouth? Would that writers had more friends like Oprah, more people interested in giving more books than The Lost DaVinci and Tweenight their attention. I would love a friend like Oprah. Or maybe Ellen. I would so love to dance with Ellen. That’d be so rad.

          I’m with Greg considering the posted Franzen paragraphs: “Promethean?” The entire passage goes on and on without really saying anything at all besides dinner failed. When I read Franzen, I’m struck by the biggest symptoms of the first novels I attempted, which universally suffered from a “Look at me! I’m a writer!” tone throughout, as if using big words and writing more and more complicated sentences would prove my ability as a writer to any prospective reader. I tell you, few things helped me improve, as a writer, more than the moment I stopped trying to impress people and concentrated solely on tellin’ a damned story well.

        • Richard Cox says:

          I didn’t write that very well, Will, because what I meant is that Franzen might have believed that about Oprah’s audience.

          For clarification, here is a Franzen quote from NPR that contributed to Oprah to withdrawing The Corrections as a selection for her book club:

          “So much of reading is sustained in this country, I think, by the fact that women read while men are off golfing or watching football on TV or playing with their flight simulator or whatever. I worry — I’m sorry that it’s, uh — I had some hope of actually reaching a male audience and I’ve heard more than one reader in signing lines now at bookstores say ‘If I hadn’t heard you, I would have been put off by the fact that it is an Oprah pick. I figure those books are for women. I would never touch it.’ Those are male readers speaking. I see this as my book, my creation.”

          Regardless of what he really thought (which we can’t know), he didn’t exactly slam Oprah or her audience.

          As far as the posted paragraphs, I didn’t properly set the stage for them, and there are actually a couple of pages in between the two sections that move the scene along. I didn’t intend to demonstrate Franzen’s plotting. The entire scene is actually a long one about the tension between Enid and her husband, Alfred, and his inability to communicate with or properly satisfy his wife. She conceives this Dinner of Revenge upon his arrival home from a business trip (he didn’t properly say goodbye when he left or bother to call her while gone), and caught in the crossfire are their two sons, particularly Chip, who is a picky eater and refuses to taste any of it. Alfred, frustrated by his wife and his own shortcomings as a husband and father, refuses to cave to Chip and won’t allow him to leave the table until he eats a bit of everything. Even though Alfred sees his own self-inflicted suffering personality in his son and wants to save Chip, he cannot bring himself to do so. Chip ends up sitting there for hours, because his parents are upset with each other and forget about the poor kid.

          Okay, so maybe he overdoes it in places. But for me Franzen renders this scene so palpably real, finds details most writers would never even consider…and on top of that the relationships are constructed with such complexity that it boggles my mind. Gary, his brother, inconceivably loves the terrible food and asks for seconds. Gary is a pleaser and remains so throughout the book, which almost dooms his marriage. Chip spends his life running from his childhood and yet is more like his father than he could ever or would ever admit. And the prose you seem to hate caused me to laugh out loud more times than any book I can remember, even now when I am reading the scene for what must be the hundredth time…yes, Will, you and I love to read and write fast-paced suspense novels, but does that preclude us from enjoying complex character studies that contain little or no plot?

          I don’t love the book because Franzen thinks too highly of his own skill. I love it because it entertained and enchanted me in a way stories rarely do.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Richard, that’s an eloquent defense of the novel. Now I feel like a jackass for even bringing it up.

          I will add that yours is the majority opinion; the consensus is that JF is terrific, and The Corrections a masterpiece. If it moves you, it moves you, and there’s nothing more you can ask of literature but to be moved.

          I am now going to write a piece about Franzen, and we can use the comment board to talk about Tiger Woods…

          G

          PS
          I liked the Lithuania part. The part no one else liked.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Well, it worked for me at least. The appreciation of art is a personal thing, and I can see why someone wouldn’t like it. I knew the book was well-reviewed but honestly I didn’t know anything else about it before I started reading. In fact on the first page I began to roll my eyes because I found the opening paragraphs off-putting. But I pushed on and by page two I realized I was in for something good.

          I hope someday something I write makes some reader (who doesn’t know me) feel the same way.

          Tiger Woods? Who is that?

  2. Tiger Woods got into an accident?

    I met the guy behind TMZ once. He came into the gym I worked in. I didn’t know it was him until one of our other members asked me, and even then I only knew because the member used the guy’s name (which now, unfortunately, eludes me).

    Liked the post, though. Collective obsession with celebrity culture continues to fascinate me, but more in the way of the questions you asked–why are we so interested?–than anything else.

    And I want in on the point-counterpoint Greg mentioned! I couldn’t take The Corrections. I got up to the fish-stealing scene, but I’m not sure I made it through (it was a while ago). Interesting note: I have the Village Voice from immediately after September 11th, 2001, with the “Wish You Were Here” WTC postcard mock-up cover (which is awesome), and its book review is of The Corrections.

    • Richard Cox says:

      The fish stealing scene is genius! You people don’t know what you’re talking about. 🙂

      I have no idea who runs TMZ and I hope to never know. I’ve stumbled across the television show once or twice and the whole thing repulses me. Chasing celebrities around for no good reason. Gah.

  3. chrissa says:

    I nodded my head along to everything you said.

    Granted, you and I both know I am probably more curious than you are (or nosey, as the case may be) but every time I catch myself dippin’ in the business of others, just because of their celebrity, I feel like shit for it.

    I feel pretty bad for Tiger Woods, and have a lot of respect for his silence. But, if the rumors are true, then his wife’s my fuckin’ hero.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Women in general are more nosy, no? Aren’t those supermarket magazines marketed to you? Ha.

      So the payment for infidelity is physical abuse? Chasing him down the driveway and smashing out the car windows with a 7-iron?

      • chrissa says:

        Well, it’s extreme, to be sure, but I find the irony (pardon the pun) to be rather humorous.

        I’d like to think that I’d react differently, but to be honest, I might do the same thing she did. *If* the alleged situation occurred as it’s being depicted, then honestly, would he have the chance to marry a chic that smoking hot if not for that very 7-iron that made him famous? Most likely not.

        I find the entire scenario ridiculously funny.

        • Richard Cox says:

          I love the pun, Chrissa. Haha.

          Let’s take Tiger Woods out of the mix for a minute, however, and ask this: What is more impressive? Being smoking hot or being the best athlete in the world? I mean, the athlete at least has to practice. 😉

        • chrissa says:

          Well to be fair, talent had nothing to do with her stature in life, she just won a genetic lottery. Would she have had a shot with (taking the Tiger out of this discussion’s woods) a billionaire if she wasn’t a gorgeous, Swedish, swimsuit model? Most likely not 🙂

          But then, this conversation could digress further into the model Melania marrying Donald Trump and so on and so forth.

          Surely being the best athlete is more impressive, and his previous track-record for NOT being in the spot-light, even more so.

          I have a close friend that is the best athlete ever to grace his sport, and his personal life is continuously dragged through the mud whenever he dares to date someone famous. They make up stuff, invent stories and scenarios and I guess it’s just nice to see someone else being picked on for once. Even though, it’d be nice if they could all just be “normal” and do real things like everyone else without a million eyes upon them.

          I think it’s like what someone said below …sometimes it’s humbling to know they fuck up too, just like the rest of us.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I think, Chrissa, that your question about Tiger’s wife and her stature can, turned on its head, be applied to Tiger himself: Would he have stood a chance of marrying a model, Swedish or otherwise, if he weren’t wealthy? Good God, does he seem dull! Not on the links, sure, but, once the subject has turned from golf, it would be torture, I think, to attempt a conversation with him. So seeing him interviewed has persuaded me.

          But, hey, that’s a very superficial opinion of the kind we’re spurred to make in these very superficial times. It’s been a while since I was sufficiently curious about a celebrity scandal so as to read about it beyond scanning headlines at the supermarket, but when I was curious, I indulged myself without much guilt. I think it’s natural to have an interest in the private lives of people, famous or not. We all have a touch of the armchair anthropologist, don’t you think? Especially narrative writers.

        • Chrissa says:

          Absolutely…I agree on all parts 🙂

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Actually, I only realized yesterday that you’d already covered my first point in an earlier comment to Richard. Hey, I’ve been sick; my brain’s sluggish. But glad we see eye to eye.

  4. Matt says:

    I haven’t bothered to follow this story at all. All the rumors are flying around my workplace, of course, but whenever someone tries to talk to me about them I say, “I don’t care.” I’m more interested in the story about the ex-con who shot for police officers–just for being police officers, apparently–in Washington Sunday evening, and when I mention that, my coworkers usually say something along the lines of “Oh, yeah,” and walk away with a guilty expression on their faces.

    Paparrazzi are scum. I’m an atheist, but if there is a hell, I hope there’s a special demon waiting for Perez Hilton lurking down there in it.

    • Richard Cox says:

      I agree with you. Almost every story is more relevant than this one. I wouldn’t have bothered except I’m TNB’s resident golf writer. Hahaha.

      I’m also an atheist who wishes for Hell for certain people. We should form a religion.

  5. Ducky says:

    I work in the entertainment business, so I really enjoyed this piece. I think you hit the head with this:

    “It’s like we want to see him fail…”

    Humans are devolving. Did it happen the day John Lennon got shot? I don’t know, but we sure do need someone to fill his shoes and steer us back to love. It seems that as a species we thrive on the suffering of others. Buddhists believe in the value of suffering, but it’s hard to see value in this kind.

    Maybe we’re nothing more than another virus on this planet. Hyenas at the news stands. And I include myself. I’ve bought In Touch. I’ve followed the same links. Ashamed to admit, but it’s true. I try to tell myself that my work requires me to keep up, and to a certain degree that is true, but it’s the drama I seek. The dysfunction of others. It makes me feel just a little less crazy.

    And that is crazy.

    • Richard Cox says:

      I sometimes feel this way. But I also wonder if we aren’t devolving but becoming more aware of our own nature. I see the human mind as the universe having evolved enough to consider itself, which occurs as the collective perception of humankind. On a universal scale we humans are pretty new to sentience, and though we stumble all the time, I think we will progress a lot further on the path to self-awareness before entropy finally takes us down.

      Or, you know, maybe we’re all drama queens.

      • Ducky says:

        I hope you are right, but when I look around the world, it’s hard to think that we humans are on the path to enlightenment. When we still have completely solvable issues like famine and treatable epidemics, when women are still having their clits amputated, when we’re killing each other over oil prices or land, it’s a challenge to remain optimistic. But I do try to stay devoted to love no matter what ills we suffer; Love really is the only answer.

        We can only do our share.

    • Greg Olear says:

      The issue isn’t the tabloid press, I don’t think — most of the celebs therein want desperately to be in those glossy pages, so I don’t feel a shred of guilt about my subscription to US Weekly (although I wish they’d stop using celeb kids in the “Who Wore It Better” section).

      I think it’s more a meanness in the comedy. Meanness has always been an element of comedy, of course — the pie in the face — but it’s meaner than ever, seems to me. I blame Howard Stern.

      • Ducky says:

        I blame The Three Stooges.

      • Richard Cox says:

        This is a good point, Greg, the celebs happy to be in those magazines. Most of them value the publicity for their work more than their privacy.

        I didn’t really consider this until I wrote novels that were fairly ignored by the critical media. Right before my next book is published, I think I’m going to commit some kind of harmless, high profile crime.

        • Greg Olear says:

          High profile victimless crime is a great idea for book promo.

          Is it better to have a five-star review in, say, The New Republic, or a picture in US Weekly of Kim Kardashian reading you book by a swimming pool? The former has more prestige, but the latter would move more books.

          (Kim, if you’re reading this, I’m happy to send you a copy of Totally Killer).

        • Richard Cox says:

          Funny you say that because my first idea for a crime is to kidnap a supermodel who I hopefully would convince by the end not to press charges against me. Kim would definitely work. Or Marisa Miller.

        • Greg Olear says:

          How about Gisele? That would both help the promo plan and weaken the football team you ostensibly dislike, given your Cowboys affiliation.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Funny, I almost said Bar Rafaeli. I think Leonardo DiCaprio dates or dated her. And he was with Gisele for a while, too, right?

          I guess I hate Leonardo DiCaprio now.

  6. It’s become the spectator sport of the 21st century, watching celebrities nosedive. The UK TV series Extras did a great job of going at the paparazzi by the throat, but Ricky Gervais was canny enough to not let himself off the hook either. The Christmas Special was fantastic.

    “You are literally the gutter press.”

    • Richard Cox says:

      I didn’t think Ricky Gervais would ever top The Office, not ever, but he may have done so with Extras. He would be my hero if he didn’t steal my blogs and turn them into films.

      Experiments in Honesty * Let There Be Ants = The Invention of Lying.

      I’m joking, of course, but it’s still quite ironic that the producer of that film almost optioned my second novel.

  7. Zara Potts says:

    I think that sometimes it’s just really good to know that the rich and famous and so-called perfect people have really shitty days too.
    And call me shallow, but some days there’s nothing better than seeing a photo of a celebrity having a really bad hair day or battling a screaming toddler or falling over in the street or showing their knickers unintentionally.

  8. Marni Grossman says:

    I tend to be slow on the uptake in vis a vis these sorts of things. I take the news at face value. Tiger Woods slammed into a fire hydrant at 2:30 in the morning. I don’t go looking for details because the situation doesn’t seem particularly unusual to me.

    When I was sixteen, I took off someone’s side mirror while I was trying to parallel park. Shit happens.

    And then you find out that this is not a normal sort of occurrence and you feel incredibly stupid. At least you cottoned on immediately, Richard.

    • Richard Cox says:

      I think if he can hit a green with a golf ball from 365 yards away, he ought to be able to get out of his driveway without hitting the fire hydrant that has been there every day for the past eight years. That’s why I wondered.

      Plus apparently I am a gossip hound.

  9. Tony Esposito says:

    I’m a golfer and I would be happy to see Tiger Woods win every tournament he plays but the Schadenfreude against him does not surprise me. To the public, he’s been a Sphinx, showing emotion only when he fist pumps another great Tiger moment or when the microphones pick up his four-letter expletives. He’s been trying harder in post-match interviews to sound like he wants to be there for the sixty seconds he allows but, win or lose, he still comes off like Sully informing air traffic control he’s about to skid the Hudson. On the golf course, he simply ignores everyone, (understandably so, given the task at hand and the sheer number of people there to watch him do it), leaving it up to his caddie, Stevie, to flash a quick, “Don’t worry, he loves you, too,” smile to his adoring fans as they move from one hole to the next. Tiger’s not a warm and cuddly guy. All he wants to do is beat Jack’s record for Majors. That’s it. Everything else is a sideshow to him. Now, he’s the sideshow. And people are fist-pumping the hell out of it. I’m truly sorry to see it, wish they’d leave him alone, but I do understand it.

    • Richard Cox says:

      I can see your point, Tony. Many of my friends who aren’t such big Tiger fans cite his personality as the primary reason. They’re fascinated with him but prefer Phil for being more “human.” But they wouldn’t be fascinated with him if he weren’t winning all those tournaments, and I don’t think anyone wins that many unless they are single-minded the way Tiger is. I mean Jack was pretty much the same way. People found him off-putting and arrogant compared to Arnie. But in retrospect they certainly appreciate his record.

      When you see how most professional golfers play poorly when they are paired with Tiger and his crowds, you can see why he’s forced to insulate himself. And yes, I can understand the curiosity now that he’s revealed a bit of his human side.

      • Tony Esposito says:

        Right. I especially agree with your point about being “single-minded.” I admire that in Tiger in the same way I admire it in certain artists, writers, etc. They rarely make for great company but that’s not why we’re engrossed by them. And, of course, when something like the Tiger incident happens, most people don’t exactly get philosophical about it. They just want to see the babe (“you know”) he’s doing it with.

  10. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    Better to give in. You likely spared a few hours of your life. I’m probably going to burst a blood vessel because I refuse follow this story to find out what happened. Or what’s speculated to have happened. I do not envy the attention Mr. Woods is getting. *shudder*

    • Richard Cox says:

      That picture really struck me. It was a one-car, low-speed fender bender, and there is a line of satellite trucks, cameras, and microwave towers. I know the issue is Tiger and not the accident, but still…

      Congratulations to you for having more willpower. Even if it is taking years off your life.

  11. Phat B says:

    When we first saw the “alcohol was not a factor” from the police report, my friend surmised that his wife beat the shit out of him. She broke out the back windshield before he took off, and in his hurry to escape he wrapped his car around a tree. My buddy also thinks the facial lacerations were the result of an angry Swedish wife rather than a relatively tame accident. He’s protecting her. And if watching COPS has taught me anything, victims of domestic abuse NEVER press charges. Though they do tend to run away and / or get tazed in the process.

  12. Lenore says:

    what? jen still isn’t over brad?

  13. Debbie says:

    You know, Richard, this whole Tiger Woods thing really irritates me. Mostly because it seems like he was just tired and hit a fire hydrant. Who cares, right? Well, the paprazzi who are camped out across from the housing complex (mansions behind gates with armed guards, actually) he lives in and just down the road from my place keep stepping out in traffic just begging to be hit with my car….but I digress.
    I just think its kind of sad, that as a society, we seem to be obsessed with famous people’s lives instead of living our own.

    Nice piece, by the way.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Thank you, Debbie.

      A couple of years ago I appeared with my friend on the Golf Channel, and while we were in Orlando, the driver they assigned to us claimed he could get us into Isleworth. He said he knew one of the guards. Well, since I am so immune to the charms of celebrity, of course I agreed to go.

      When we arrived, we thought the limo driver would say something witty to the guard and in we would go, but that didn’t happen. Instead the driver turned and looked at us. We had nothing, so we didn’t get in.

      I don’t know what we would have done had we been admitted. Tiger Woods’ house from the outside looks like any other house. However, I suppose I ought to admit this since I am complaining about public fascination with him.

      P.S. Yesterday I saw a bunch of pictures on the Internet of the community entrance, and this one guard appeared in most of them. I’m pretty sure that’s the guy who turned us away. Ha.

      • Debbie says:

        Thats a great story, Richard. It just goes to show how money hungry everyone is. If you come back to Orlando, you’ll run into Tiger Woods or someone famous eventually. We shop at the same grocery store, and his wife stops in at the bookstore I work in regularly. I see Shaq at the mall a lot. He’s a really nice guy.

        I personally don’t see the fascination, but I’m also not a fan of golf.

  14. jmblaine says:

    I can’t recall who made the quote
    but it was something about how
    the sordid trash of
    celebrities
    makes us feel not so bad
    about ourselves.

    But it was Lincoln Swain who said:
    “How does one deal with celebrity?
    Ignore it.”

  15. Brin says:

    What is wrong with this man, Richard? He still won’t fess up to what he’s done. Is his contention here that the media will somehow cease and desist on following up on what’s so vaguely addressed in his comments? Or, worse, that the women he’s fucked won’t take huge money to furnish evidence to these muckrakers?

    If the media can forgive Kobe Bryant on the heinously disturbing details of his violent sexual encounter behind his wife’s back, can’t Tiger take a hint on his own dealings?

    • Richard Cox says:

      I think Tiger understands he could quell public curiosity by going on the Jay Leno show and admitting whatever it is he did. Anyone with half an eye on recent scandals regarding wandering men could see this. He’s simply choosing not to. His actions and words seem to indicate that he refuses to be persuaded by public opinion to air his dirty laundry. He knows the consequences of his actions and has chosen this course anyway. No one but his family deserves to know what happened. His life would be a lot easier if he publicly admitted something, sure. But that doesn’t mean we deserve to know.

  16. Becky says:

    The short answer: It’s hard-wired. Interest in gossip is an evolutionary tool that evolved as part of our elaborate and impressive social talents/mechanisms as a species. Regardless of whether or not knowledge of Tiger’s saga is beneficial in the way that nature “intended,” you’re programmed to react to it as if it is. (And, in a round-about way, it may be perfectly beneficial, at least when it comes to water coolers and even TNB posts.)

    In other words, TMZ and the urge to follow a link there are perfectly natural–healthy, even. No shame, man.

    • Richard Cox says:

      It’s definitely in our nature, whatever the evolutionary benefit might be. However, like many of our encoded behaviors, the sentient human mind makes conscious decisions that have an unexpected effect. Interest in the social lives of our peers is natural, but chasing them around like dogs seems exaggerated.

      But I guess we haven’t evolved to do things in moderation.

      • Becky says:

        The brains are old; only thing that’s new is the type and amount of information we pack into them.

        The curiosity to know what they’re up to is one thing; the chasing them around like dogs is another–namely a drive to take advantage of situations for our own benefit (in this case, for example, paparazzi capitalizing on our natural interest in our peers). Sad, but true: Evolution is woefully unrehearsed in (and often hostile towards) our modern notions of ethics.

  17. Tiger’s lady interest has man hands. I don’t even know why I’m pointing that out.

    As for gossip. Being a journalist I’ve written my fair share. I try not to read too much of it though.

  18. Paul Gilmartin says:

    Hi Richard,
    Excellent and though-provoking writing (as usual).
    A couple of thoughts:
    1. Can I join the new religion you’re forming with Matt (I assume the 2 required criteria are atheism and an intense desire for hell to exist for some carefully chosen people, in which case, I’m happy to report, I qualify!)?
    2. Not that I’m defending TMZ or their ilk (I loathe them, just like you), but it’s difficult at this point to blame either scum-journalists or zombie consumers. Would the row of tv satellite trucks be there were there not an audience for such dreck? However, the opposite also holds true, do the scum journalists dictate who the masses read about or watch?
    3. I’m a fan of Tiger and love watching him win.
    4. Finally, the idea that we would feel better upon seeing that celebrities make mistakes and are therefore human just like us is, to me, abhorrent. The reason being that, in order to feel that way, you had to have previously looked at that person with an air of perfection/infallibility. This strikes me as particularly child-like. Certainly I have my “heroes”, mostly in the sports arena but, as the cliche goes, they still have to put their shoes on one at a time.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Hi there, Paul.

      You can totally join us. And I like the chicken/egg-type comparison you make, because it does seem as though the two groups (audience, media) feed each other, but how does it get started? Is either group more to blame?

  19. Erika Rae says:

    Oh how that row of vans in that picture turns my stomach. I was around for Columbine, so, man. Bad memories. Such a media circus.

    …and still, I looked into the whole Tiger accident, too – all the while knowing I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about any of it.

    Heh. Couldn’t give a rat’s ass. I haven’t said that in a while. What does that even mean?

  20. […] Cox wrote a cool piece about the hoopla surrounded the Tiger Woods imbroglio, which—because we are above it here on this blog—somehow descended into a debate about the […]

  21. Tawni says:

    We are huge Tiger fans around these here parts (<—charming Oklahoma-speak, please enjoy). I don’t care what he does in his personal life enough to negatively influence my high opinion of him as an athlete. The thing that really bugs my husband and I about the situation is that Tiger is taking a break from golf because of it.

    That said, the first thing out of my mouth upon hearing about the accident was, “Back window? Domestic dispute. You don’t pull an unconscious driver out the back window… it was already broken.” It didn’t make any sense. And I won’t deny that I was as curious as yourself to find out what actually happened.

    I have no idea why we care about the personal lives of celebrities. I completely agree with you, that it is human nature, but wish I could do a better job of rising above the smut and gossip sometimes.

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