Monday, November 30, 2009

The Cult of Personality.

The Tiger Woods story is a microcosm of how we view and treat celebrities and how they treat us. I'll spare you the sordid details, since you've probably already read or heard enough to write your own blog. Suffice it to say the whole story smells and one wonders about the golf club damage to his vehicle and the cuts on his face to the point that we ... um ... wonder.
What I'm getting out of the story (after days of agonizing analysis) is a lesson in celebrity treatment and what the public wants from them, which is usually more than they're willing to give.
Celebrities want the limelight, the money and fame but when it comes to sharing the intimate details of their social life, they draw a thick line. Unless you're Madonna-esq, in which case you write a book detailing your sexual escapades.
But if you drive an Escalade and play golf for a living, you tend to be a lot more close mouthed about your dalliances and the goings-on of your family life. But the celebrity in you makes it acceptable or even necessary for those of us in the [quote] real world [unquote] to pry into your life because - well - we think you owe us the sordid details. We want to hear about your troubles because maybe it will make you look a little more like us and maybe we like it when you drop a rung or two on the ladder because, as Don Henley once sang, "We love dirty laundry."
On the other hand...
You don't want to tell us because your personal life is your business, and if you don't want to talk to the police or hold a press conference describing how your vehicle turned into a wreck, that's your business and none of ours. You are a private citizen and if you don't want to talk you don't have to. You don't owe us anything but your efforts on the golf course, stage or TV screen and if we don't like it, well ... we can ... um ... lump it.
You see, celebrities are just like us; only they have a larger audience. Our world consists of our family, friends and co-workers. The difference is that our dalliances can cost us our jobs, while celebrities' escapades make them more interesting somehow. If I carried a gun onto an airplane and got caught I'd probably lose my job. If Charles Barkley does it he's a quirky goofball who flaunts the rules for his own benefit and his life goes merrily onward. Not that Charles would do that ... I'm just saying.
If I ran into a few stationary objects in my neighborhood at 2:25am and refused to speak to police, I'd guess that I'd have some questions to answer, but if I didn't want to tell anybody they wouldn't know. And no, I wouldn't blog about it.
The difference between me and Tiger (outside of a 100 handicap) is that when he does it, it's newsworthy because ... well, he's Tiger Woods - the Muhammad Ali of our generation. Maybe he understands that or maybe he doesn't. Either way, we think he owes us an explanation, but all he owes us is 4 rounds of golf every week.
The bigger issue is the Internet, The National Enquirer and 24/7 talk radio and media outlets. Maybe Bobby Jones drove into a lake once or Arnold Palmer cussed-out a kid? We might never know because either the media wasn't around, nobody had a cell phone camera or there just wasn't enough interest. The presence of modern technology (including the recording of 911 calls) makes it impossible to lead a normal life - even if you're a normal person. Ask Michael Phelps about that one.
When we stop treating celebrities like Gods and remember that they are fallible humans like the rest of us - albeit with a larger audience - we'll be better off.
Leave him alone and let him play golf. You don't really care if his wife beat him with a golf club. Do you?

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