Commentary Magazine


Topic: enormously wealthy married athlete

Hold That Tiger!

News flash: A married athlete has girlfriends on the side.

News flash: A celebrity married athlete has girlfriends on the side.

News flash: An enormously wealthy married athlete renowned for cherishing his “privacy” has girlfriends on the side.

News flash: None of this is news.

The United States is an inscrutable place in many ways. We live in a country in which it is likely a sixth state out of the 50 is going to legalize gay marriage in the next few weeks. On television, practically every night, one show or other features a scene of two women kissing. We do not judge illegitimacy any longer. And so on. We lived through a scandal a decade ago in which we learned the president of the United States had basically seduced a 21 year-old employee in his service—and tens of millions of people hotly defended his and her right to privacy and condemned the notion that there was any public interest served in the exploration of the subject of his misconduct.

Yet now, as 2009 draws to a close, someone who is famous and rich because he is a brilliant player of a game—someone, moreover, who is unique among American celebrities in his manifest refusal to do anything to court or interest or woo the audience that is so fascinated by him—drives his car into a tree, and for nearly two weeks, we are overrun with the details of his personal indiscretions. It is fascinating. If ever there were a subject that is truly and completely and without question nobody’s business, it is this one. He did not violate a public trust, he broke no law, evidently, in his traffic accident, and no legal action has been taken in the case. These would all ordinarily be the triggers for a news story and its continuation. But it is open season on Tiger Woods. Let anyone say there might be a legitimate debate to be conducted on the redefinition of marriage, which is a public-policy issue involving pretty much everybody, and that is considered beyond the bounds of reasonable discourse by a great many people slobbering over the discovery of the latest IHOP waitress to have caught Woods’s fancy.

I hold no brief for Tiger Woods’s behavior, but it strikes me as among the least surprising revelations in the course of human history. It is America’s prurience on this matter in the midst of its own cultural confusion on matters sexual and marital that surprises and confounds.

News flash: A married athlete has girlfriends on the side.

News flash: A celebrity married athlete has girlfriends on the side.

News flash: An enormously wealthy married athlete renowned for cherishing his “privacy” has girlfriends on the side.

News flash: None of this is news.

The United States is an inscrutable place in many ways. We live in a country in which it is likely a sixth state out of the 50 is going to legalize gay marriage in the next few weeks. On television, practically every night, one show or other features a scene of two women kissing. We do not judge illegitimacy any longer. And so on. We lived through a scandal a decade ago in which we learned the president of the United States had basically seduced a 21 year-old employee in his service—and tens of millions of people hotly defended his and her right to privacy and condemned the notion that there was any public interest served in the exploration of the subject of his misconduct.

Yet now, as 2009 draws to a close, someone who is famous and rich because he is a brilliant player of a game—someone, moreover, who is unique among American celebrities in his manifest refusal to do anything to court or interest or woo the audience that is so fascinated by him—drives his car into a tree, and for nearly two weeks, we are overrun with the details of his personal indiscretions. It is fascinating. If ever there were a subject that is truly and completely and without question nobody’s business, it is this one. He did not violate a public trust, he broke no law, evidently, in his traffic accident, and no legal action has been taken in the case. These would all ordinarily be the triggers for a news story and its continuation. But it is open season on Tiger Woods. Let anyone say there might be a legitimate debate to be conducted on the redefinition of marriage, which is a public-policy issue involving pretty much everybody, and that is considered beyond the bounds of reasonable discourse by a great many people slobbering over the discovery of the latest IHOP waitress to have caught Woods’s fancy.

I hold no brief for Tiger Woods’s behavior, but it strikes me as among the least surprising revelations in the course of human history. It is America’s prurience on this matter in the midst of its own cultural confusion on matters sexual and marital that surprises and confounds.

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