The Emperor Has No Clothes

When I saw the February cover of Vanity Fair magazine with a shirtless Tiger Woods on the cover my eyes shot wide open and my mouth dropped closed and tight. Mr. Woods had clearly taken this scantily clad, fairly grimacing photo with famed – or infamous depending on who you ask – photographer Annie Leibovitz long before his truck crashed, long before his wife left him and long before many of his corporate sponsors followed Mrs. Woods out the door.

For weeks I have refrained from commenting on the Tiger Woods ‘scandal’ because I learned years ago that the public was no place for the truth. And surely, that’s what I would want to talk about as it relates to Mr. Woods and truly no one would really want to hear it. But alas, the Vanity Fair cover has pushed me to my limits and I must share my own humble opinion.

Succinctly, the February cover illustrates to the world the narrative that has been in play all along. It is just a pity that it took this long for someone to bring light to it. The emperor has no clothes.  Walk with me through the analogy that Tiger Woods is the emperor who has been caught with no clothes on.

For year’s media talking heads, advertisers and a general public have been feeding off of each other and eating and drinking each other full with a romance of a young man who was not just a perfect athlete but perfect person. As a result whatever he and his handlers were selling whether it was golf clubs, financial services, the American dream or the fairytale of a post racial American society, the masses were buying in bulk. Things were wonderful in Tiger land. Then in late 2009 torrid tales of infidelity began to seep onto the pages of the story, soaking it in shame and outrage.  “How could the Emperor have done such a thing?” people cried out. The image of the golden boy was now turning to a rusty medal. This news story of Tiger Woods and his infidelity with dozens of blonds, brunettes and red heads was getting as much media attention as the embattled health care bill in Congress. The man who everyone thought could walk on water was now drowning.

 But who is to blame, Tiger Woods? Hell no. People still aren’t blaming former President George Bush for charging into Iraq to seize weapons of mass destruction that weren’t found but cost the US lives and billions of dollars. Where were those to question the President? Where were the analytical thinkers who could make their own decisions about supporting such an act? Not around. We live in a society where it is easier to eat what’s being served rather than cook something yourself. It is also easier these days to believe what you are told rather than think for yourself. A public and men and women in suits in boardrooms across the globe wanted everyone to believe that Tiger Woods was free of human imperfection and they placed their money on him rather than in the quality of their services and products or in the people in their communities who truly are heroes and heroines. Just put a trusted celebrity in the ad campaign. “Let’s have the emperor promote it!”

 Now that it seems Tiger Woods cheated on his wife, mother of his children, some folks (you can hear the implication in my voice) are angry. Well, if every man or woman that cheated on their spouse was fired from their job I’d bet my life savings that the nation’s already high unemployment numbers would increase by another 7 or 8%. I don’t condone what he did but I do believe that it is a matter for him and his family to work through. I can’t be angry at him for what he did to his wife. I am not his wife. I can’t belittle him for making a personal decision to step outside his marriage. I’ve got my own list of possible sins and indiscretions to worry about. Charles Barkley may be a prophet. He caught hell years ago when he told the press he wasn’t a role model. Pastor Barkley may have been on to something.

What further exacerbates the ongoing media flurry and fury over Tiger Woods is that he is an emperor without a kingdom. I have looked on many world maps and have yet to find Cablasia. You either hear mistresses telling their story, talking heads offering their best PR advice or sad poorly crafted statements on the Tiger Woods website talking about the issue. There is no one from the island (?) or nation of Cablasia speaking out for Tiger Woods. Maybe that was another misstep made years ago when he was asked how he identified himself and he answered cablasian. When he needs a tribe and allies there are few if any speaking out or up for him.

 So, maybe the Vanity Fair cover of a bare-chested Tiger Woods for the world to see should have come out in February 2009 instead of 2010. It would have given a lot more people a chance to see him for who he truly is – just a man.

I pray that he does find a way to work through this time period in his life and that neither he, his wife nor children are left too scarred by the public dissection of an already much too open wound. Hearts and families need proper healing and that comes with time. As for the consumers of mass media narratives, I pray that we stop making man into myth.

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