When the Tiger Woods madness first ignited in late November, I was all over it. I read with great interest some of the many scandalous allegations, and watched with jaw-dropping shock at how one of the most celebrated icons of modern pop culture crashed from his pedestal into the ashes of total self-annihilation.
In the aftermath, I tried to look at Tiger's whole fiery downfall with some perspective (here's my blog way back then). I tried to look at it with some empathy. And I tried to figure out where - aside from Tiger himself whose behavior was so reckless and pathological - the blame lay for what happened to him. As a consumer of media, a buyer of the myths that sneaker outfits, sports drinks, and car companies create to hawk their wares, I pointed to myself. I helped create the Tiger myth by buying the slick, fearless, perfect image of him that Nike and Gatorade and Chrysler souped up and sold. And so I swore to myself I wouldn't buy the hype again when it inevitably came back.
Because I knew it was coming. I just didn't expect it this fast. And to be honest, I'm kind of infuriated by it. Today, in advance of Tiger's return to the links tomorrow at the Masters, Nike released a new commercial featuring Tiger - embracing him and all his flaws, and of course exploiting them to the very end in order to, of course, sell more wares. Watch the commercial yourself so I don't have to describe it. It's just a single long shot of Tiger while his deceased father goes on about how bad Tiger f'ed up and what he was thinking and feeling when he was doing it. Go crazy with your own crude jokes....now.
Look, Nike's doing what Nike does. They stood by their man and they damn sure are going to make sure Tiger earns back a few pennies for them, if even it means picking at his fresh scabs to see if there are some dollar bills hiding beneath them.
Tiger, yeah I guess he's willing to soil himself (pun intended) and once again start tapping that well (pun intended) to get back in the good graces of consumers. Admittedly I find the whole thing distasteful - Tiger's willingness to so quickly exploit his and his family's shame to make a buck. And Nike's using his dead father's voice - a celebrated philanderer himself by the way - to resurrect Tiger's brand.
But who I really am pointing the finger at, once again, is us: the consumers. Are we going to go along for this ride? Are we going to play stooges again? Buy into Tiger's comeback, his resurrection, and spiritual awakening story, imprinted with a Nike swish for good measure? Come on people, just don't do it all over again.
Don't get me wrong. I'm watching the Masters this weekend and with great curiosity to see if the brother's golf game is as strong as it was a few months ago when he was ploughing not just through the competition, but well seemingly everyone else as well. But spare me Nike. Don't tell me what to think about the dude. Don't just do me the same you want me to just do it. And well, yeah thanks for dropping the Just Do It from Tiger's new commercial. Way to stay classy.
Gotham Chopra regularly blogs at www.intent.com