Tiger Woods delivered a prepared statement to his family, friends, and the media in which he apologized to his mother, who was sitting in the front row, and to everyone else he loved and his fans whom he had disappointed. (I didn’t have to tell you what I’m referring to, did I. You already knew. Everyone on planet earth knows.) Tiger Woods subsequently gave two one-on-one interviews to sports reporters from ESPN and The Golf Channel in which any questions they might choose to ask were fair game. And on Monday he conducted a full-scale press conference from Augusta National Golf Club on the eve of playing for the most coveted prize in golfdom, The Masters Championship.
Mr. Woods spoke with painful candor about his having been rampantly unfaithful to his wife. He acknowledged forthrightly the intensive treatment he has undergone and continues to pursue in search of a less negotiable ethic with respect to his sexual activities. He stated unreservedly his profound shame and disgrace at having become so egotistical that he felt exempt from common decency with respect to his wife and children. He even answered a reporter’s question about how he would discuss his infidelity with his children, a question that set new world records for intrusiveness and gall, a question that deserved in response nothing but a look of disgust.
But apparently all that is not enough. After each of Mr. Woods’ engagements with the press, reporters have raced each other to their keyboards or TV studios to intone menacingly what has now become a cliché: “But he still left a lot of questions unanswered, and he owes us those answers.” Tell us, they insist, exactly what happened that night when you crashed your car. Tell us exactly what has transpired between you and “Elin” (they all accord themselves the right to speak of his wife by her first name, even though they most assuredly do not have a first-name relationship with the woman). Tell us exactly the state and the future of your marriage.
One of the national morning TV shows featured a sportswriter and a psychiatrist discussing Mr. Woods’ situation. The psychiatrist lamented that Woods had not yet revealed to the public the diagnosis of his problem and the treatment protocol that had been prescribed for him. May we assume that this psychiatrist recommends that all her own patients seek opportunities to engage the media in order to provide comparable information to the public about their professional treatment at her hands?
No? You don’t think she recommends this for her own patients? Hmm.
Sheer insanity. What could possibly prompt a licensed psychiatrist presumably trained in the sanctity of physician/patient confidentiality to offer such an outrageous opinion? Physician, heal thyself. And if you figure out how to do that, then get to work on the rest of us, because we are really sick.
The voracious—no, vicious—appetite for intimate details about Tiger Woods’ troubles reveals as few other events in recent memory the pathetic depths to which prurient public interest has sunk. Everyone’s hands are dirty on this one. The ridiculous sense of entitlement which the media display in their pursuit of titillating details only reflects their sure knowledge that any such details will stimulate passionate attention from readers and viewers eager for a vicarious relationship with a celebrity. Ratings and reputations skyrocket on the basis of someone’s eliciting a juicy tidbit not previously trotted out before a slavering audience. This unholy symbiosis brings out the worst in everyone.
It seems we are terminally in the grip of a widespread and seemingly endless fascination with celebrities. Magazines and TV programs that traffic in celebrity gossip draw massive and appreciative audiences. Consumers pay billions of dollars each year for clothing that prominently bears either the name of the designer or the name of some athlete or both. And now teenagers—and, who knows, their parents, too?—slavishly log onto the Facebook and Twitter sites where celebrities treat them to real-time information about what they are doing right this instant: I’m getting ready to brush my teeth now. Armed with all this input about others’ lives, who’d even need to compose a life of their own?
Some years ago as the logo-clothing craze was becoming fully entrenched, a maker of fine leather goods named Bottega Veneta began selling products that were serenely devoid of any such décor, quietly stating this philosophy in its ads: “When your own initials are enough.” I liked that.
I also liked a cartoon from the New Yorker that showed a distinguished looking gentleman in three-piece suit looking with disdain at a haberdashery display of logo-bearing shirts and sniffing, “One supposes that if Mother and Father had wished for me to wear the monogram of Yves Saint Laurent they would have named me Yves Saint Laurent.”
One further supposes that if anyone has the right to know the private, painful, intimate details of Tiger and Elin Woods’ life together, their name would be Tiger or Elin Woods.