January 2010 By CK Hunter
We never really dreamed Tiger Woods was capable of the kind of Hustler Magazine extra-marital sexual antics that are now so sadly well known. Everyone loves a hero, and he was, for a long extended season, truly a real hero to millions, in America and around the world.
And now it has come to this: “Gangsta Tiga” on the upcoming cover of Vanity Fair, a troubling photograph of Icarus, the fallen hero, naked to the waist, and looking more like a gangster rap star fresh out of prison than a genteel super athlete and golf gentleman extraordinaire. I’m sure Annie Leibovitz is salivating over how this photograph might help resurrect her bankruptcy tarnished roller coaster career.
So Tiger gets just exactly what he deserves, based on his secret sexual behavior since his marriage to Elin, and his public actions since it all came to light in late November: to be hawked to the world like a slab of cheap sex stained meat by a gifted, bankrupt, cavalier and somewhat occasionally notorious lesbian photographer, who cares not a whit for his former reputation if it will advance her present career to portray him in this manner.
No longer an international icon, he is now an international tabloid peep show. Just plunk down the pocket change for the latest issue of any one of several cheap Hollywood tabloids, either in print or online, and you can read all about sex with Tiger Woods – ALL the gory details. Let’s see, there is sex while Tiger’s high on Ambien (how weird), frantic sex with Tiger up against a late model car in a Florida church parking lot, urgent tawdry sex with Tiger in the hallway of his Florida home while his wife was away, and of course somewhat grimy sex in his garage next to the golf clubs, never even making it to the house, and so forth. No one is holding anything back. Oh how money talks, and talks, and talks.
I’m chucking to think of the many jocks drinking in sports bars all over the country who are placing bets on how soon the public hair pulling cat fights will break out between the 15 or so women who all claim to have trysted with the fool somewhere between the Perkins restaurant manager and the Las Vegas bar fly who had him toward the end.
Isn’t karmic justice just perfect in all it’s ways? Tiger: you asked for it, fool. How did you turn out to be nothing much different than trailer trash, Tiger Woods? As Jay Leno famously asked Hugh Grant some years back: What were you thinking?
Copyright Chase Kyla Hunter 2010-3010 All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured.
By Buzz Bissinger
Re-posted courtesy of Vanity Fair
When Tiger Woods finally fell from his pedestal—the car crash, the angry wife, the tales of kinky extramarital sex, the link to a controversial sports doctor—it was one of the greatest recorded drops in popularity of any nonpolitical figure. Given Woods’s impenetrable mask of perfection, and the hints of trouble from one strange glimpse behind it, the revelations were inevitable and very, very costly. Annie Leibovitz catches the icon, pre-scandal, in prophetic isolation, while the author finds the clues in the wreckage.
It wasn’t until after the early-morning hours of November 27—when Tiger Woods got into his Cadillac Escalade closely trailed by a golf club carried by his likely very furious wife, drove his car far less distance than he putts a golf ball, and hit a fire hydrant—that the tens of millions of us who admired him suddenly came to a realization: this was the first time we had ever seen him do something human, except perhaps for when, at the Buick Open last year, he was caught on video shaking his leg, apparently farting, and then grinning like a frat boy.
We know all too well the unraveling that has gone on since the crash. Tiger’s little car ride was as pregnant with imminent implosion as the one taken by another sports celebrity on the San Diego Freeway, followed by a convoy of Los Angeles police cars, in 1994. Tiger’s story has been driven by sex, tons of it, in allegedly all different varieties: threesomes in which he greatly enjoyed girl-on-girl, and mild S&M (featuring hair-pulling and spanking); $60,000 pay-for-sex escort dates; a quickie against the side of a car in a church parking lot; a preference for porn stars and nightclub waitresses, virtually all of them with lips almost as thick as their very full breasts; drug-bolstered encounters designed to make him even more of a conquistador (Ambien, of all things); immature sex-text messages (“Send me something naughty … Go to the bathroom and take [a picture],” “I will wear you out … When was the last time you got [laid]?”); soulful confessions that he got married only for image and was bored with his wife; regular payments of between $5,000 and $10,000 each month to keep his harem quiet. It’s all there and more in what is the greatest single fall in popularity of a nonpolitician in the history of public-opinion surveys: a drop in approval from 87 percent in 2005 to 33 percent, with an unfavorable rating of 57 percent, according to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll.
But why? When soccer player David Beckham was rumored to have been in sexual trouble, it may have been disappointing to his fans, but it was hardly surprising. Beckham just had the look of someone who was born to screw around. The same with Alex Rodriguez. The same with Kobe Bryant. (Is there a player in pro basketball who doesn’t screw around?) The same also with Bill Clinton and John Edwards and David Duchovny and Colorado minister Ted Haggard.
But not Tiger Woods. In an age of constant gotcha and exposure, he had always been the bionic man in terms of personality, controlling to a fault and controlled to a fault, smiling with humility and showing those pearly white teeth in victory or defeat, sui generis in the world of pro golf, where even fellow pros and other insiders didn’t really know him, because he didn’t want anybody to know him. With Woods, everything was crafted to produce a man of nothing, with no interior—non-threatening and non-controversial.
I’m aware if I’m playing at my best I’m tough to beat …
It will always be the ball and me …
No matter how good you get you can always get better …
My main focus is on my game …
That was Tiger Woods, all of which made him the perfect man and pitchman for our imperfect times, a charming nonperson.
In the movie Up in the Air, George Clooney’s character, Ryan Bingham, travels nearly 330 days a year to fire people with a sympathetic look on his face. He lives his life in airports, and his very emptiness, masked by calculated caring and aphorisms, makes him effective. So it was with Woods, making millions of dollars for endorsing a consulting company called Accenture with smooth and sophisticated ads emphasizing the noble but totally nebulous concept of “high performance.”
But even Ryan Bingham is ultimately no match for Woods. “To know me is to fly with me,” Bingham says at one point, and there is truth in that. But there was no way of ever knowing Tiger Woods—not in golf, beyond witnessing the machine-like relentlessness that made him the most remarkable athlete of our time, and not outside of golf, because he never showed any real part of himself off the course, never stepping outside of the cocoon that he and his handlers, primarily International Management Group, had created. Nothing was left to chance, not even his wardrobe during major tournaments, a careful mix of dark pants and golf shirt and hat picked out in consultation with Nike. He had the trappings of a life: a beautiful blonde wife, Elin Nordegren, who was a former Swedish model; a little boy and a little girl; an obligatory mansion in Florida, outside Orlando. But so much of it now seems like requisite window dressing, props for the further crafting of image and garnering of those hundreds of millions of dollars in endorsements—Nike, Gillette, Gatorade, Tag Heuer, AT&T. It now seems that when he returned home after a tournament and vanished back inside his gated community, the persona he left behind, the one he so obsessively presented to the public, was as empty as Bingham’s Omaha apartment, pieces of furniture without any meaning, a life without meaning.
There was no way of ever knowing Tiger Woods—beyond witnessing the machine-like relentlessness that made him remarkable.
At the end of Up in the Air, Clooney realizes the error of his ways, that a life shielding human emotion is not worth living, that not everything can be controlled or should be controlled. But Woods, to the bitter end and with a kind of hubris that revealed his fundamental arrogance, still felt he could beat the tidal wave back. When he was taken to the hospital for injuries, a fake name was used. When the highway patrol came knocking, he refused to speak to them for three straight days. It was only when his paramours started pouring out of every cupboard like tenement cockroaches that Tiger expressed some sort of awareness that he was in deep shit, though he did not do so in person but on his Web site. He must have thought the merest acknowledgment of impropriety would be some type of antidote: he was Tiger. For the second time in his life he badly estimated, just as he had a few days earlier when he apparently thought that most fans would accept the story that his wife had a golf club in hand to free him from his Escalade instead of trying to beat the hell out of him for his infidelity. Once again it was sheer arrogance from a 33-year-old man—not “a kid,” as his I.M.G. agent, Mark Steinberg, still idiotically calls him—who continued to think he could fool the world.
There was once, in fact, a sustained glimpse of the real Tiger Woods. In 1997, Charles Pierce, writing for GQ, got inside. Tiger was 21 at the time, on the eve of winning his first of four Masters. For somebody who at the age of two had appeared on The Mike Douglas Show (where, with a perfect swing, he miraculously hit a stunning shot into the center of a net), he seemed remarkably naïve and remarkably stupid about the ways of the media. The interview was largely a series of profane quips by Tiger, such as “What I can’t figure out is why so many good-looking women hang around baseball and basketball. Is it because, you know, people always say that, like, black guys have big dicks?” At another moment, during a photo shoot where four women attended to his every need and flirted with him as he flirted back, he told a joke: He rubbed the tips of his shoes together and then asked the women, “What’s this?” They were stumped. “It’s a black guy taking off his condom.”
There came another joke about why two lesbians always get to where they are going faster than two gay guys: because the lesbians are always going 69. Pierce’s interview, which he taped, was the only honest and open one Woods has ever given. After that the steel wall of insulation came down, spearheaded by I.M.G.
Joe Logan, who covered golf and the P.G.A. tour for 14 years for The Philadelphia Inquirer and saw Woods play close to a hundred times, invariably observed the same thing whenever Tiger appeared at a press conference during a tournament: he came into the room with an entourage that included several security officials from the P.G.A., Mark Steinberg, and often Nordegren, after they got married in 2004. An almost imperceptible nod would come from Steinberg to begin, and a half-hour of questions and answers would start. Some pro golfers, such as Phil Mickelson, wear their hearts on their sleeves during these sessions. Mickelson could talk candidly about his game and the impact of his wife’s having breast cancer. He could also be snarky and pissy. Never Tiger.
“Tiger learned very well to talk forever and say nothing,” said Logan, a co-founder of a Web site called MyPhillyGolf.com, which covers the game both nationally and in the Philadelphia region. For Woods, Logan remembered, an emotional response to a flawless round was “I had a pretty good day.” He never got rude or rattled. He never got irritated with a stupid question, in large part because he knew the camera was always on him. The press conference would go on until Steinberg would give another nearly imperceptible nod that it was over. Afterward, Logan, like other golf writers, would walk out and realize that virtually nothing Woods had said, whatever the cordiality, was usable.
During a tournament, it was not unusual for Logan and fellow writers to go out to dinner and see other golfers, who would at least acknowledge them. But not Tiger. Once a round was over, he did not linger. He often stayed in private houses during tournaments, and the rumor during one British Open was that he took out the existing furniture and moved in his own.
If he was unknowable to writers who covered him, he was equally unknowable to virtually all the other golfers on the tour. They admired him and were thankful for him. They knew of his remarkable 71 P.G.A. victories during his 13-year pro career. They knew he had won 14 major tournaments, leaving him only 4 behind the record set by Jack Nicklaus. Most important, they knew that purses for P.G.A. tournaments had gone from $71 million in 1996 to $279 million in 2008, virtually all of the increase attributable to Woods. But there was always an arm’s-length relationship, this sense that Woods as a golfer was superhuman and they were not, though he was always affable, never antagonistic. Early on, he had learned that one of the rules of pro golf is to conform, a commandment only heightened in his case by his being black in a white man’s game. “He tried to present himself as a normal person,” said Michael Bamberger, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, who has covered Woods’s career. “What seems clear now is that he lived a very abnormal life all his life in a sport in which guys are very conventional, and if you are not conventional you get ostracized right away.” Whatever demons lurked, he kept them well hidden. Too well hidden.
In the wake of the steamy revelations, Logan, like the general public, feels that Tiger willfully, and fraudulently, created an image designed to make him as much money as possible: “He held himself out to a higher standard he created and built and cashed in on. Everyone feels duped and betrayed. It’s not like some guy who got drunk and jumped in the sack with some waitress.”
With the number of alleged paramours reaching 14 as of mid-December (a figure bound to multiply), it is safe to say that behind the non-accessible accessibility and seemingly perfect marriage to a beautiful woman was a sex addict who could not get enough. There is nothing wrong with that, given that the opportunities for Tiger were endless. But it is hard not to conclude that the only reason he got married was to burnish that precious image even more, family man on the outside and what Logan calls “this whole alternate life” on the inside. Even Hugh Hefner publicly disapproved of Woods’s behavior, decrying not that he had sex with other women but that he tried to lie and cheat his way through his liaisons without manning up to the fact that the marriage wasn’t working.
It was the age-old clash of image versus reality, the compartmentalization of two different lives that inevitably merge, whoever you are.
Things are only continuing to cascade downward for Woods. Sexcapades aside, the most damning blow to his reputation may well be his link to Anthony Galea, a doctor who has been charged in Canada with trying to smuggle an unapproved drug into the country. In the United States, Galea is reportedly suspected by federal officials of dispensing illegal human-growth-hormone drugs to athletes, an allegation he denies. According to news accounts, Woods saw the doctor on several occasions to aid his recovery from knee surgery. There is no proof that Woods took performance enhancers, and sources say Woods is not part of the federal investigation, though as far back as 2007, sportswriters covering him could not help but notice that from the back he was beginning to look like Barry Bonds. But since he was Tiger Woods, they gave him a free pass. Now, whether Tiger is innocent or not, suspicion will linger. There have also been reports that his wife plans to leave him despite Woods’s frantic attempt to keep the marriage intact with what the New York Post called a $5 million “re-signing” bonus. Going forward, it is impossible to trust the motives of Woods on anything, whether he wants to be married for real or to reclaim an image so bloodied that his endorsement career is almost certainly over.
The swirling question is if, and when, he will return to golf. Most observers think he will, but with companies such as Accenture, Gillette, and Tag Heuer basically fleeing for the hills, he would simply be a golfer trying to win a tournament. His focus is such that he can likely still win, whatever the insanity surrounding him, but life will be different. Donald Trump thinks he will come back “bigger than ever,” a sure sign the opposite will happen.
In the end it was the age-old clash of image versus reality, the compartmentalization of two different lives that inevitably merge at some certain point, whoever you are. He exhibited the same superhuman confidence off the golf course that he exhibited on it, apparently convinced he would never be caught despite the stupid sloppiness at the end—text messages, voice-mail messages. He deluded himself into thinking he could be something that he wasn’t: untouchable. The greatest feat of his career is that he managed to get away with it for so long in public, the bionic man instead of the human one who hit a fire hydrant.
Buzz Bissinger is a Vanity Fair contributing editor.