Tiger Woods: Too Big to Fail?

I guess it really is mid-December in NE Ohio. Had a great early a.m. run Saturday when it was cold, clear and amazingly silent. Then Sunday morning I fretted about what to do as I listened to the pitter-patter of freezing rain at 5 a.m. So I ended up chasing the belt on the treadmill. And I couldn’t avoid watching the recycled news shows with stories and commentary about Tiger Woods and his liaisons, hiatus from the pro golf tour and falling out with sponsors and, it appears, the world writ large.

Whew. Who’d a thunk it? Not me. For dead-tree scribblers, TV Talking Heads, pajama-clad citizen journalists and people everywhere, this story is the content gift that just keeps giving. And there is no end in sight.

So some random thoughts as we wait for the next disclosure and development:

  • When this story first surfaced and began to spread, the PR and crisis management gurus advised Tiger to spill his guts, tell all — and quickly. Would that have ended the story? No. One affair, maybe. But too many women involved — each, apparently, with a story to tell. To give advice — legal, PR, whatever — you really need all the facts — and there needs to be a two-way relationship of trust. Clearly none of that applied initially. And may not apply now with Woods and his advisers.
  • When I worked at Goodrich until a decade ago, we faced some tough and negative stories. The objective from a media and management standpoint was to make sure that the story never lasted for more than one day — at that time, realistically, that was the news cycle. That’s no longer true — and a story can go on indefinitely, no matter what you say or do. Just too many organizations and people out there now with megaphones and the ability to shout at or with an audience.
  • Why are we so fascinated with Tiger Woods? And why is there a sense that at some level he has deceived us, let down the public? At the most basic level he has hurt his wife and family. It’s interesting to me that we hold Woods, a sports figure, to a higher standard than we hold elected officials. And that’s a theme that I have opined on previously. There is a strong emotional bond with sports teams at all levels — and with athletes. But sure looks like there is a cautionary tale here with advertisers.
  • Is Tiger Woods too big to fail? Estimates put his endorsement income in the range of $100 million a year. But that doesn’t speak to the millions that he generates in sales for sponsors or the money he generates for charities. And how much in TV ratings (and income) and prize money at tour events is riding on Woods? I don’t know. But when you add it up, Woods might just be too big to let fail. Hey. We saved Government Motors. Why not Tiger?
  • And in the frenzy over the Woods story — which really does have it all: sex, sports, betrayal and money — does anyone else think it is ironic that there is a new member of the journalism fraternity. It’s Ashley Dupre, of Eliot Spitzer fame, who has a new gig writing a sex column for The New York Post. Woods appears to enjoy posting on his Web site. Maybe there is a career opportunity lurking here as well. Woot.

Oh well. This is what happens to small minds like mine when the pro football season is over — and you sit in front of the TV all afternoon wishing and hoping for just one goal so Akron would win the NCAA soccer title. Certainly a disappointing loss. But congrats to the Akron players and coaches for a great season.

And pretty soon the weekends will be filled with telecasts of golf tournaments.

Wonder if Tiger will be allowed out to play?


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