December 3, 2009

I Did Not Have Sex with That Man

Just to set the record straight, I was not the brunette that allegedly had a dalliance with Tiger Woods earlier this year when he played at a charity tournament in our neighborhood. Not that I couldn’t have been – after all, it seems like Tiger was pretty available and indiscriminate about some aspects of his personal life.

Watching this whole saga unfold is really just so much déjà vu all over again. Tiger has joined a long list of folks who are apparently blinded by their own celebrity, addicted to what that celebrity brings, and now in the ranks of those tarnished by their ‘celebrity behavior’:

  • Politicians including JFK, Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, and Wilbur Mills (remember Fanne Fox?)
  • Newt Gingrich famously taking divorce papers to his wife in the hospital, so he could marry his mistress.
  • More recent flameouts like Eliot Spitzer and Mark Sanford.
  • Wilt Chamberlain, who boasted that he had slept with 20,000 women.
  • Kobe Bryant who bought his wife that huge apology diamond.
  • Magic Johnson – enough said.
  • David Letterman, who admitted sleeping with people who worked on his show.
  • Any business leader with a trophy wife…any rock start with a groupie…any actor with a ‘sex addiction’…

So, what do all of these have in common? Well, other than men behaving badly, they all have women behaving badly too. For the most part --  maybe not in all cases but for the most part --  it seems the women were willing accomplices, not forced into what they did, as far as we know. And absent accomplices, whether amateurs or professionals (in Spitzer’s case, at least), these guys would have likely found something else to do. 

Instead of going to Vegas for the VIP clubs and the ‘hostesses’ that work at them, or the cocktail waitresses (Michael Phelps), they could have been gambling and helping the economy, for example. They could have been home with their families, or working at soup kitchens, or teaching kids to read or play basketball or golf or to tell funny jokes or sitting around watching the news or reading the tabloids, rather than being the news or tabloid fodder.

The more recent cases also have the public apology component in common. Press conferences, ‘mea culpa’ interviews (Hugh Grant’s on the Tonight Show was a great one), or in Tiger’s case, a statement on his web site, begging for forgiveness and privacy while the family works it out. 


After the apologies come the speculations: will they stay together? Will his career be ruined? Will the sponsors drop them (in the case of athletes, actors and musicians)?

They also have in common a public forgiveness component. For all their foibles, the majority of us are collectively eager to welcome them back after they come clean. We’ll continue to watch them, read them, listen to them, support them. We’ll continue to pay to see them do their jobs, whether it’s giving a speech or playing a game or writing a column or selling books or running for office, even as we study them and remember them for their failures.

The biggest problem for them is of their own making. The biggest problem for us is, why do we put these folks on a pedestal in the first place?

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