Something About Tiger…
18 February 2010
Something About Tiger
Maybe it’s just the first step in a master plan that ultimately will be seen as a brilliant exercise in reputation rehabilitation.
Or maybe this was a rushed move to get out ahead of new unflattering developments.
Or maybe he’s promised an exclusive to SI, or Vanity Fair, or Esquire, and this is just an effort to set that up.
Maybe it’s all of the above. Or none.
But on its face, the announcement by Team Tiger to stage a “friends only” and no-questions-allowed event appears to be a ham-handed attempt at a pressure-release mechanism that shows a wholesale lack of understanding of the public’s mood and media dynamics; suggests a fear on Tiger’s part; and is ultimately doomed to fail.
Moreover, announcing this three days ahead of time simply gives the media a head-start to tear this apart. Tiger will have lost the battle before he even gets to the microphone.
(Not to mention pulling this stunt in the middle of Accenture’s golf tournament. Not only must this annoy Accenture to no end, but also the players in the tournament who are now faced with this distraction. And despite his efforts to put a positive spin on it, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem cannot possibly be pleased with this. )
The Danger of Living Inside the Ropes
Tiger has lived his entire life “inside the ropes” where he is seen by the masses, but not accessible. Where his entire life is sheltered and programmed.
This first step at coming out appears to be an attempt to remain inside the ropes. And strictly in that regard it will succeed. No one will get to him.
(BTW, this reminds me of the “town halls” organized by the Nixon campaign in ‘68 where all the participants were hand-picked and no one was permitted to say anything impolite.)
But the media are angry, and the public feels deceived.
What they are looking for is for Tiger to dive into the mosh pit. Acknowledge his indiscretions. Demonstrate his remorse. Make his apologies. Explain his absence. Discuss his future. And, most important, give the fans a reason to support him again.
Certainly a frightening prospect that is sure to lead to bruises. But for someone with as much nerve and guts as Tiger, who routinely stares down unmake-able puts on the 18th green on Sunday before tens of millions of people, this should be make-able.
As bad as their own crisis handling was seen, Tiger runs the risk of being unfavorably compared to Mark McGuire, Michael Vick, Pete Rose, Kobe Bryant, etc. Imagine that!
And to those who insist this is just a personal matter, forget it. The statement on Tiger’s website (“While Tiger feels that what happened is fundamentally a matter between him and his wife…”) simply underscores the fact that Tiger and his handlers are either delusional or just don’t get it.
The moment he withdrew from the tour Tiger turned this from “fundamentally a matter between him and his wife” to a business issue affecting many companies, hundreds of millions of dollars and the very viability of the PGA tour.
Tiger is a guy whose ambition – it seems – has been to become a fusion of Roy Hobbs and George Washington – both the greatest there ever was and the most admired.
This is no way to get there.
Want to Succeed? Go Outside the Ropes
But there is hope. His goal may be attainable. But it will require a wholesale redesign of his strategy:
1. Get outside the ropes. Learn some lessons from Arnold Palmer – one of the greatest who achieved fame not only by winning, but by being a populist (right now “Tiger’s Army” looks more like a small platoon), and acting responsibly.
2. Get back on your winning ways.
3. Act responsibly.
The public is terrifically forgiving, but they need a reason to believe. They won’t forget, and there will need to be an adjustment to a new normal, but the Tiger brand can be repaired.