Tiger Woods is all about power. Whether it be his jaw dropping golf talent, his steely will and determination, his disciplined competitive drive, his incomprehensible wealth, his record breaking endorsement deals, his global fame, or his megawatt charisma, it all adds up to a powerhouse image, honed and carefully constructed since he was a child. Once we saw little Tiger swinging a golf club on Johnny Carson's show, he became a part of our culture, a culture that has fueled his enormous success with its lust for athletic brilliance and unquenchable voyeuristic thirst. He has, up until very recently, successfully used his considerable power to demand a certain level of privacy. But all bets are off now despite the thinly veiled punitive annoyance woven through his meticulously crafted website postings. Tiger is used to being in charge and is quickly learning what it feels like to be, well, not Tiger.
Others have written and will write about whether taking hundreds of millions in endorsement money carries with it a certain responsibility to the public, morally or otherwise. And both sides were argued on the front page of USA Today on Thursday. Others will ponder whether the scandal will affect his glorious golf career and if his fans will abandon him or hang on for the ride.
But I'm more interested in the politics of sex and power and what could have possibly possessed a young billionaire with the world at his feet to rely on the loyalty of a Los Angeles cocktail waitress (LACW), and others of the same ilk, to protect his personal and professional domain. Why did she betray Tiger when surely he would be willing to pay far more for her silence than any tabloid would for her story? One tabloid correspondent answered by saying the LACW was hurt by stories that Tiger had other mistresses because she thought herself to be Tiger's special girl. She hoped that he could forgive her for going public. But she must have suspected things may come to this at some point. I mean, who saves 300 text messages unless they think they might need them someday? LACW indeed.
But back to the politics of sex and power. In the case of sexual abuse, for example, which experts say is about power rather than sex, abusers retain that power through secrecy and silence thus insuring that victims remain under their control. Due to the dynamics inherent in such relationships, victims rarely realize that "telling" has the potential to instantly strip an abuser of his power, thus turning the victim into a survivor.
Obviously Tiger's affairs were consensual and most likely his partners were more than willing to contribute what they could to Team Tiger. Did Tiger assume they would keep his secret forever just for the chance to be with him? Probably. In her recent Diane Sawyer interview, Rihanna spoke about fame and its illusions. There is no right or wrong, you're never told no, you believe you are entitled to whatever you want and you set your own standards.
First we saw Tiger working the Florida authorities and defending his wife's heroic actions in trying to save him after his crash. You can almost sense the measured approach to the crisis with Tiger in full control. But the moment the LACW spoke, voice mails and text messages in tow, he had no choice but to admit and acknowledge. I think we gave Tiger way too much credit and gave the LACW way too little. She understood the power of telling, he apparently did not. She turned the tables and suddenly it's Tiger who is brought to his knees.
If you think women everywhere aren't saying "you go, girl" to the LACW, you're in denial. She took back the power and will be well rewarded for it. As for Mrs. Tiger, she'll have some difficult choices to make but with plenty of resources at her disposal.
Tiger got what he deserves and the measure of the man will be what he does going forward. It may make winning next year's Grand Slam look easy. Take your medicine, Tiger, and step into the best opportunity you will ever have to be a role model.