Save the Tiger

What should Tiger Woods do?

Something other than what he’s doing, surely.

John Feinstein wrote Monday that Tiger, like most big businessmen, likes control. He’s carefully controlled his image and the media’s access to him, and now, by running down a fire hydrant and a tree, he’s lost control over the conversation about him.

Feinstein said Woods is probably being poorly advised. Just as likely, I’d say, that he’s ignoring advice. Hoping he can somehow hunker down, swear privately at the damned media (which, come on, is the conduit to the fans who give him his living) and feel like a victim. People with power love to blame the media for their own mistakes.

I know nothing of what happened, of course. Could be Woods was in a fight with his wife, over an affair or over salad, doesn’t matter, and he got royally pissed off and stormed out to his mini-tank and hit the gas. And the hydrant. And the tree. I’ve been that mad, done things that stupid, in fights with several wives (consecutive, not concurrent). Maybe his wife smashed the windows with a nice follow-through before he drove off, maybe after. Doesn’t matter.

If something like that happened, I’d advise Woods to say, “My wife and I got in a fight. Couples do. I did something incredibly stupid, and dangerous. For that, I’m sorry.” End of story. No more questions.

Feinstein offers this advice:

To speculate on what occurred is unfair. But only Woods can stop the speculation. Something got him into the car in a state so frazzled he literally couldn’t drive safely a few yards from his own driveway. He doesn’t need to go into a lot of detail, but it is best for Woods to admit that something happened because clearly something did. Woods should read this statement at a news conference and then answer questions. If anyone asks about the tabloid reports, he should smile and say, “Come on, guys, I told you what happened that caused me to leave the house; that should be enough. Can we please move on?”

What’s your crisis-management advice?

– Bruce Benidt
(Picture from Getty Images)

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60 Responses

  1. I call bullshit on anyone who asserts that Woods speaking up would end the speculation. That would be like pouring gas on the already burning napalm.

    Napalm that, by the way, has plenty more important shit to be reporting on.

    • Mike, I didn’t mean “end of story” literally — I see that that is unclear communication. I mean it’s the end of what Woods will say about the story. Clearly, the media, especially the whoring media that feeds on the public’s idiotic adulation of celebrities, will never let a story like this go, until the next OJ drives along. But for Woods, I would have said say that much and no more.

      Now, as crisis counselors, we need to make it clear to our clients that they have to tell us the truth, the whole story. We can’t give good advice to people who tell us only part of the story, only their version. If Woods won’t tell his advisors the truth, there’s no giving him good advice.

      Maybe he wasn’t even telling himself the truth. That’s the impossible client.

  2. More important perhaps, but certainly not more interesting (to the average Mike–come on, admit it, this is classic tabloid stuff).

    Bottom line–as long as there is something to give more fuel (ie, new information) to the fire, it will burn. Give them all the fuel at once and get it over with. Hope that good information (the truth?) will drive out bad information. Of course, we have no idea what is good and what is bad information, and until we do, journalists are going to keep at this.

    And it is legitimate interest. He is a public figure. You choose to live your life in public, this is part and parcel of the package. Bottom line, most powerful (read rich) people only want that to go one way (the control Benidt refers to). They don’t want to hear that. Every celebrity complains of this, as do most media figures and politicians. Welcome to the cult of celebrity!

    • I’m a huge Tiger fan, always have been. As an avid golfer and Tiger watcher, I would agree with Bruce that he is being poorly advised. Tell the truth in a beginning in a short statement and then move on. Now this will continue ad nauseum.

    • Yes, tabloid stuff. The CBS Evening News, among others, is not a damn tabloid, yet this was it’s lead story recently.

      I have trouble settling for “more important perhaps, but certainly not more interesting.” Primarily because that’s a horrible conceit for a journalist to make on a tabloid story, but also because I personally don’t give a shit why Tiger Woods hit a tree.

      Take 15 seconds to tell me it happened and note whether he’s dead or on the verge of death. And even then, I haven’t given a damn for the last 5 seconds.

      • MK–Of course you could care less why Tiger hit a tree but if this is the hot topic for tens of millions of viewers and your existence is dependent on ad revenue what do you do with the story? Sadly, jounalistic integrity goes out the widow, but we have an obligation to our audience don’t we?

  3. I was hoping you folks would tackle this communcations crisis. Makes for entertaining conjecture. The thing is whatever PR course taken, the reality is that after smoldering for a time it all blows away. Kobe Bryant, Marv Albert, Michael Vick, etc, etc..– the celebrities will take some hits and land face up.

  4. Dennis nailed it. Our communications training tells us to acknowledge it, ask forgiveness, etc. In reality, America’s attention span is extremely short and we’ve come to expect this from celebrities.

    The best advice at this point is probably “go win your next tournament.” If he doesn’t do well his next time on the course that will lead to a short burst of “is the incident impacting his game” speculation.

  5. You guys are all wrapped up in communications strategy.

    I thought it impossible to find a reason to stray from Ms. Nordegren (Mrs. Woods). But then I found pictures of the other woman:

    http://www.americansuperstarmag.com/sites/default/files/images/rachel-uchitel.jpg

    I might have crashed my car too. My sympathies lie with Tiger. He has a difficult choice before him.

  6. The reason to disclose early and thoroughly is to limit the number of stories and days of stories. A day or two of stories is much less memorable than a month or two of stories, simply because repetition helps things stick longer in memory.

    Tiger is accustomed to getting what he wants, and he wants to hide the truth. But given his Tigerness, the truth about this incident will likely come out, if not in the coming days, perhaps in a bestselling book from the ex-wife or family “friend.” The only thing they gain by not disclosing is more stories, more crazy speculation, more days of personal anguish and more lasting reputation damage.

    • Don’t you think celebrities play by different rules when it comes to a damaged reputation? Dennis cited Kobe Bryant as the perfect example. Sure, he did a press conference and said he was sorry, but he never admitted to much. It didn’t take long before he was one of the most popular players in the league again.

      It’s a different ballgame with business leaders. You’re damaging an entire companies reputation, which can impact who wants to partner with you, who wants to buy from you, who wants to work for you, etc.

      But I can’t see any permanent damage to Tiger’s reputation stemming from this whether he ever “comes clean” or not.

      • I agree athletes have a longer leash than business or political leaders. Particularly with the NBA, a certain amount of bad boy in the persona isn’t the end of the world. But with most ultra cautious corporate sponsors, the value drops when the reputation gets dinged. The PGA and NBA are worlds apart in terms of bad boy tolerance.

        The underlying issue matters. If they were just having an argument, no long term problem with the sponsors. If there was abuse, big problem with sponsors. Problem is, the fact that Tiger is mum on the subject has imaginations going wild. If it was an argument, I just don’t see the downside of saying “we had an argument.”

  7. This thing reminds me of the Eliot Spitzer episode. Drip, drip, drip, whoosh …

    I hope to God that Tiger doesn’t take the podium and give a mea culpa with his wife standing silently next to him. Whoever thought that was a good strategy is dead wrong. It makes the wife look like a betrodden bimbo and the husband exploitative of the wife.

    • I agree. Who would have thought that we’d be seeing so much of that particular scene–Spitzer, Sanford–takes me back to the good old days when this just happened to televangelists, and not politicians!

  8. So what about the damage to his reputation (which I assure you — guaranteed — will be short-term damage, unless he is found to have been roughing up the missus)? He doesn’t need more money.

    • That’s difficult to say. Kobe Bryant skated after he had his way with a hotel desk clerk. There didn’t seem to be any lasting fallout.

      Now in Tiger’s case, the mistress – or the current wife – could be a game changer if either decides to tell all. In which case it would be entirely out of Tiger’s control.

    • Damage to reputation? No, the opposite. A virtue of necessity–yes, Tiger is at least part human. Some of us can relate to that. If you or I had that power, and wealth and world renown we wouldn’t even squirm. Either is Tiger.

      • I spoke too soon. Here comes the floodgates …

        Several other women are coming forward claiming they had affairs with Tiger Woods, RadarOnline.com has learned exclusively.

        What’s more, one of these women claims to have proof in the form of voice mails from the golfing great. The voice mails are said to be explosive.

  9. Tiger appears to be a full-fledged Kennedy!

  10. Hey Newt–Way to stay on top of a breaking story. You’re the man (or woman).

  11. Here’s a rather intelligent take on the whole clusterfuck and, more interestingly, what it signifies about changes in the media landscape:

    http://sportsjournalism.org/sports-media-news/what-coverage-of-tiger-woods-crash-says-about-the-future-of-mainsteam-medias-efforts-to-cover-celebrity-news/

  12. I never did much care for golf.

  13. I’ve heard always heard that Tiger was a prima donna. This seals the deal.

  14. Well, it appears he is finally admitting his mistakes and saying he is sorry. So, to me, he is human. He made some big mistakes that he should have admitted right off the bat. He is still the best golfer ever — nothing diminshed there, but the image of Tiger the role model will never be the same, no matter how much time passes.

  15. Mike, I hear you. And I would say any of us who look to celebrities or sports figures or anybody with great wealth as role models is generally looking in the wrong place.

    Power corrupts. Money in great piles corrupts. The desire for each corrupts, I’d say. So the people who have money and power are highly unlikely to be great role models — as human beings.

    The role models are the people I watched on CNN Heroes on Thanksgiving night — the bus driver who every night after his shift feeds 140 poor and homeless day workers in Queens. My niece’s teachers are the role models. The nurses at HCMC are the role models. Real people doing good things. And yes, role models can be human, can transgress. Martin Luther King Jr. had flings. But he was a hero, he was a role model in living his principles in the face of deadly opposition. People who do great things have flaws — but they can still be role models. We can’t mix up truly great things — bringing the pain and horror of segregation to the attention of the nation and creating change — with trivial “great” things — hitting a baseball well, amassing great wealth. When trivial greats have flaws we’re disappointed. When truly great hearts have flaws, we understand.

    Remember the rich man and the camel and the eye of the needle… If you can’t get to heaven, you can’t be a role model.

    • I absolutely agree with you on role models. There are very few star athletes who make good role models. A large part of the reason for that is, of course, the way we (the public) treats them. Our expectations are very low (and our tolerance is high), and we tend to get what we expect (and tolerate).

    • Many, many months ago on this blog, I believe it was Loveland who referred to a study of a community in–I don’t recall–Finland (?) By most criteria a living standard near poverty but with an increbilble sense of togetherness, regard for others and personal fulfillment without material riches. In other words–happy. Don’t you think in our culture we’re driven by our expectations for ouselves? How can a celebrity athlete fail to become a role model when on the surface he has achieved the wealth and adulation, the accomplishment and recognition that is in some way what we learn to aspire toward? Isn’t it how we’ve come to define “success”?

  16. “Transgression.” Is that what the kids call it these days?

  17. Bruce:

    I absolutely agree. You are no role model if you have amazing athletic skills or can pretend to be someone else on film or can sing and make hit records — you just get paid extremely well because people are willing to watch it and pay for it and you are in a minority of people who have that/those skills.

    What I am saying is that Tiger has been a role model off the course. He stayed out of trouble (no crimes), donates time, money and his name to various charities and has inspired kids to play a sport that was looked at as a rich, white-guy sport (and still is to a lesser extent). There has been a lot to admire about him.

    Tiger is not King, for sure. However, diifferent people have different role models for different reasons. I don’t like to place value judgements on who someone should look up to and why — after all, that is a value judgement. Did I lose some respect for King after learning he bedded various ladies? Yep. Did that tarnish his image, in my mind, as a great leader for human dignity and human rights? No. We all make mistakes, even our role models or heroes.

    Finally, I have many heroes from different walks of life– some of whom were/are filthy rich. I think people like John D. Rockefeller is a hero. He provided a better standard of living for millions in this country and donated most of his wealth to charities. We have Carnegie Mellon and the National Gallery of Art, in great part, because of Andrew Carnegie.

    And Bill and Melinda Gates are helping the poor in Africa as well as other countries around the world get access to better medicines, and Warren Buffet plans to leave as much as 90 percent of his wealth to charity. I could go on with other examples, but my point is that I don’t see money or power as necessarily disqualifying someone from doing a “world of good.”

    • Whoops, that should have been Andrew Mellon (don’t think Carnegie had much to do with the National Gallery of Art, but I could be wrong).

      • Carnegie was a hero (a status he acquired much later in his life–certainly not something that happened as he acquired his enormous wealth) because of what he did WITH his wealth–not because of how he got it. He endowed libraries all across the country, and really became the first philanthropist in the United States. Read “The Gospel of Wealth” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gospel_of_Wealth ) for what I think is still the best statement of social responsibility, as well as THE embodiment of American capitalism and social mobility.

  18. Tiger’s dad must be rolling over in his grave. He was a hero.

  19. PM–So Carnegie becomes “heroic” only through his later altruism not through his personal resourcefulness, acumen and achievement in building an empire (also to the benefit of others)? If Keliher is out there I wonder what the Ayn Rand perspective might be.

  20. I would argue Carnegie was also a hero, making improvements in people’s lives through the use of the steel that his plants made (at lower cost than competitors). Not only that, but his plants employed thousands and ultimately he donated hundreds of millions (billions in today’s dollars) for world peace, libraries, universities and other works of good.

    Wealthy capitalists don’t just profit at the expense of the rest of society in a zero-sum game, no matter how many people attempt to foster that myth in their classrooms. As Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises wrote:

    “Every advance first comes into being as the luxury of a few rich people only to become, after time, the indispensable necessity taken for granted by everyone. “

  21. By the way, the classroom comment was not a swipe at anyone here, including you, Bruce. It actually was a bit of a Freudian slip in that my son’s high school economics teacher keeps bashing capitalism and wealthy people (it isn’t going anywhere with Alex Keaton — I mean Alex Kennedy).

    I have extended an offer through my son, to hold a civil debate between me and said teacher so that the class can hear another side. I think a good debate would be instructional.

  22. I would argue that it is the ends that determine a hero, not the means. there will always be a “worlds greatest golfer”, a ‘world’s richest human”, a producer of the “world’s cheapest steel”, a “world’s greatest inventor” or “scientist”, etc. Every successful capitalist will benefit people by doing something cheaper, faster, better. Big deal. That is the nature (and beauty) of the system, and is no reflection on the individual. Successful entrepreneurs/capitalists are simply cogs in the system just as the workers are cogs in that exact same system. Amassing wealth is something that the system makes possible, and the benefits of that are benefits of the system.

    We know how they get to be the “World’s Greatest Whatever”, and there will always be someone to fill that role. I hate to point it out, but these people are, frankly, a dime a dozen. Sure, they are undoubtedly better at what they do (or have done) than I, but that isn’t sufficient to make them a hero.

    What makes them a hero is what they decide to do with what they have built or gained, how they choose to spend the capital they have created. Do they really care for other people, or only for themselves? Are they capable of seeing beyond their own success and status, or is that the limit of their vision? That is how I judge a hero.

    And that criteria applies to everyone, in every role–as Bruce points out. Heros can be bus drivers, just as they can be rich as hell. It isn’t what you have, but what you do with what you have that makes you a hero.

  23. Well, if you are trying to say that the capitalist system is a heroic system for the opportunities it provides and the way of life it can help create for millions, I’m not going to argue with you.

    But when you come up with ways to improve people’s lives, it benefits all of society and you have done what few have done. No, it’s not what you have — for me — that defines whether a person is a hero. It’s how you got it and then what you did with it. To leave out the former doesn’t make a whit of sense to me. Just because Joe Blow inherited billions and then gave most of it to charity doesn’t, in my mind, make him a hero.

    Building it, improving people’s lives along the way and then improving them more by leaving it for the greater good makes him a hero. But reasonable people can disagree, as we do.

  24. Mike, your point illustrates the fundamental divide between capitalism and socialism. Capitalism unquestionably helps more people, more significantly.It’s indisputable.

    Opponents of capitalism have a value system that emphasizes an egalitarian outcome for all, no matter how low the bar.

    Which brings me to my point: Who has helped more people, more significantly: Bill Gates or Mother Theresa?

    • Wow, cool question Newt: How do we quantify the beneficence of Bill Gates vs. Mother Theresa? Never thought of that before. I suspect that there’s room in the game for both and for very quiet but largely unrecognized contributions of great personal significance.

      By the way my recollection of Carnegie dates from high school. For all I know he may have had a highly malevolent side and grossly exploited the working class. The argument goes that in single-mindedly pursuing his self-interest, pulling himself up from nothing at whatever the cost to others, he made an ultimate contribution to society even if he never became philanthropic. Does it hold up? And didn’t this conversation start with Tiger’s curious PR strategy?

  25. One of the tenants of economics is that through our own self interest (earning money) we benefit others (supplying what they want and need). So I don’t think there is anything bad about pursuing self interest. So, Dennis, at least in my mind, he might have made a huge benefit to society if he never contributed a dime. It is funny (and fun) to see what directions debate takes us.

    Newt, I agree with you on capitalism. What other system has provided the innovation, growth and standard of living? Our economy is not built on total, unfettered capitalism, true. But if I would have to choose between total capitalism or total socialism, there isn’t any question which one I think would do more good.

    • Luckily, that is a false choice. And I agree with you that our system has been the most productive, innovative economic system in history–which isn’t to say that it could not be better than it is. I will be very interested to see how it continues to develop and change over time, how it compares to what we see emerging in China and India and Europe and other places in the world.

  26. BTW, I am amazed at the popularity of this thread…..

    • You’re right. It will be interesting to see how China and India evolve. I also am keen on watching some of the former Soviet influenced countries and the continuing development of Singapore, Hong Kong and other Asian countries that have grown so much during the past 20 yearw. I’m surprised at the thread as well. Every time Bruce makes a post, it seems to generate a lot of fun discussion.

      • One of the things that I am interested in is how the economic performance of a country depends on it’s economic system versus other attributes–demographics, for example (one of the current strengths of China and India, and a weakness of Europe), the size of internal markets, natural resources (interesting how oil wealth seems to be inversely related to economic performance, for instance), etc.

  27. That’s because I make measured, thoughtful statements like “Rich people cause cancer.”

  28. And also because you so rarely repeat yourself. (sorry–couldn’t resist)

  29. Is it time for Tiger jokes yet?

    The police asked Tiger’s wife how many times she hit him. “I don’t know exactly…put me down for a 5.”

  30. Bruce:

    I love those measured, thoughtful statements. I’m capable of making them myself (just ask my wife). We spent a long weekend with her two sisters and their husbands and we were the token conservatives among some quite liberal people. Surprisingly, I didn’t say anything that inflamed anyone and we all agreed more than disagreed (Patty’s youngest sister got her MBA not too long ago and we wound up often on the same sides of discussions).

    I also am interested why many countries with all kinds of natural resources are so poor (undemocratic governments and lack of free markets are two good indicators).

  31. Tiger is up to 7 women now. My God, he has the stamina of a Kennedy or a Clinton!

    Misogynists of the world rejoyce!

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/2760424/Tiger-Woods-women-cash-in-with-big-money-deals.html

  32. Thanks for the update Newt. Yes, confirming that Tiger is a superstar of many dimensions. Who knew?

  33. I have a feeling 7 is the tip of the iceberg.

    Tiger must have been wearing the beer goggles. Some of these women are hideous. No wonder his wife is mad.

    • Agreed, superstar status retracted. At least Warren Beatty–the standard of a bygone generation–had consistently good taste, but of course wasn’t burdened by a marriage. That said, let’s not overlook the possibilty of these women possessing admirable skill sets not typically found at home. (And “the Sun” a worthy example of contemporary journalism. Give the audience what they want to read.)

      • “That said, let’s not overlook the possibilty of these women possessing admirable skill sets not typically found at home.”

        Well said, sir. I’m glad pointing that out wasn’t left to the likes of me; it surely would have offended many.

      • MK –Why would anyone be offended by an oblique reference to the artistry of nouveau Mid-Eastern cuisine, perhaps not in the kitchen repetoire (sp?) of the lovely Elin? Just a guess. If so, my apologies to the masses.

  34. Most of the women linked to Woods are models or work at some of the country’s swankiest nightclubs, but Lawton, 33, who disclosed her alleged relationship to Britain’s News of the World, worked for $8 an hour at a Perkins restaurant in Orlando.

    “Sometimes I looked like a rag doll after we’d made love,” she told the paper. “He really did like it quite rough. He wanted to spank me and loved pulling my hair as we had sex. He also liked me to talk dirty to him, but hair-pulling was what really turned him on.

    For one year, beginning in 2006, Lawton said she and Woods regularly saw each for sex, partying at Orlando’s Blue Martini club and having sex in the golfer’s home and in his car parked in a church parking lot.

    One of those backseat trysts was reportedly caught on film by photographers working for the National Enquirer in 2007. The story was quashed and the affair covered up when Woods agreed to appear on the cover of Men’s Fitness, a title also owned by American media, in a quid pro quo with the publishing company, according to U.K.’s Mirror tabloid.

    • Thanks for that colorful dispatch, Newt. Is someone checking IDs at the door to make sure we’re all adults here?

  35. My, my. The Church Ladies in this thread are a little sensitive today.

    • I think that they are just concerned that you might be violating some “blue laws”. Worried that an out of work trial lawyer might see this as an opportunity to create a job or two….

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