The Tiger Zoo mailbag
Bill turns to the mailbag as he tackles the biggest sports story of the decade
If you missed Part 1 of my take on the "Tiger Zoo," click here. In Part 2, it's time for an all-Tiger mailbag, only the second time I have ever devoted an entire mailbag to one athlete. The other? It was Tom Brady. Just 15 months ago. After Bernard Pollard well you know. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.
Q: First the initial reports of Tiger's alleged infidelity. Then the crazy car accident. Now 10 days later his mistress list is allegedly up to nine (and counting), plus wild rumors of him drinking before his accident as well as using Ambien and Vicodin. I would not be shocked by any Tiger rumor or story anymore. Is this the fastest anyone has fallen into the Tyson Zone?
-- Sahadev, Chicago
SG: See, I'd go even further
Q: You have discussed the Tyson Zone for a while now, but with what has happened with Tiger Woods, who is in your Anti-Tyson Zone? Athletes who you are completely shocked to see in these kinds of situation?
-- Jeramy, Muncie, Ind.
SG: That's the wrinkle we needed! On paper, yes: Tiger belongs in the Tyson Zone because the stories have gotten so loony so fast. But I like Jeramy's wrinkle better. Tiger deserves his own zone: The Tiger Zone, for athletes who vault into the Tyson Zone even as people are in disbelief that it's happening. Isn't that more impressive than the Tyson Zone itself? I expect Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson and John Daly to end up in the Tyson Zone. But Tiger? Not in a million years. If you and nine friends had a fantasy draft in mid-November for "Who's the next athlete to end up in the Tyson Zone?" would Tiger have gone in the first 50 rounds? He deserves his own zone just for that.
Q: Amidst all the talk of image consultants and PR rehab for Tiger, haven't we missed the obvious solution: that he should go all the way in the other direction and become a WWE-type heel? Picture it: Tiger dumps Elin and the kids, moves into a penthouse suite at the Wynn or the Palms, grows a short-cropped Hollywood Hogan-style beard, sleeps his way through starlets and party girls and heads back to the Tour in annihilation mode. Women would start showing up at events to boo him, men would (secretly) cheer him, as he leaves nothing but destruction and mayhem in his wake. And if you're Tiger, what sounds more fun -- a decade of apologies, microscopically short leashes, the embarrassment of getting axed by sponsors, and no hope for business time with Elin, or just living the dream?
-- Name withheld (because my wife would divorce me for even thinking about this), New York City
SG: I can only tell you this: That would have been one of the five funniest "South Park" episodes ever.
Q: With Tiger in shambles, any chance Jack Nicklaus is sitting on the couch right now with a little smile on his face? With maybe a bottle of champagne on the table, a la the '72 Dolphins?
-- Burns, NYC
SG: Absolutely. Even two weeks later, I still picture Jack high-fiving family members and reacting like he just sank the putt on 17 at Augusta in 1986. And deep down, you know he wants to scream, "He might win more majors than me, but I never did THAT!" Gotta love the Golden Bear.
Q: You joked that Tiger broke two of the rules of Cheating 101. Are there more rules than those two? I am just curious.
-- Kelly, Tarzana, Calif.
SG: I attacked this from a different direction: Studying Tiger's pattern of behavior as a laundry list of things NOT to do if you were (allegedly) cheating on your wife. I came up with nine in all.
Rule No. 1: Never say your own name on an answering machine.
Rule No. 2: Never leave a message on an answering machine that's longer than four words.
Rule No. 3: Never get involved with a girl whose name ends with two n's or two e's, or a girl who has a name with two k's or two x's back to back.
Rule No. 4: Use a password for your BlackBerry at all times, and don't pick a password your wife could hack easily like "TIGER" or "GROWL."
Rule No. 5: Text only from your friend's phones and phones that can't be traced back to you. If drug dealers could successfully pull this off on "The Wire," so can you.
Rule No. 6: Don't hook up with a porn star or someone who wants to be on a reality show, because either of those things means they will do anything to become famous or make a few bucks.
Rule No. 7: Don't hook up with anyone who has a tattoo bigger than a softball on her lower back.
Rule No. 8: Don't cheat on your wife with people who look like your wife, because it will make your real wife feel like you thought she came off an assembly line.
Rule No. 9: Don't cheat in the first place.
(Important note: My lawyer urged me to include that last one.)
GREAT CALL OF THE WEEK
I took my 4-year-old daughter to the Clippers-Magic game Tuesday. Every Clips game turns her off on the NBA just a little bit more. After all, dead crowds and sloppy basketball isn't exactly a hook. She spends most of her time rooting for the cotton candy guy to walk by, asking if various players have "permanent tattoos" and listening to people in our section yell at the refs and Mike Dunleavy. Not the best way to develop a fledgling NBA fan.
In the second quarter, one official made a horrible call against the Clips that got a groan from our section. The guy behind us even screamed "Donaghy!!!!" My daughter was confused. "Why did he scream that?" (I explained that Donaghy was the name of a really bad ref.) "Is that Donaghy right there?" (No.) "Why was he a bad ref?" (Because he just was.) "But why?" (Now I'm debating whether to dive into the Donaghy scandal, ultimately deciding to repeat that he was just bad.) "Daddy, I want to know why Donaghy was bad."
Needing an answer she would understand, I fibbed and told her Donaghy was a bad ref because he punched the cotton candy guy once. She couldn't believe it. "He punched the cotton candy guy?" (Yup. And nobody got to eat cotton candy for the whole game.) "Are you making this up?" (Nope. That's what happened.) "Well, he's a very bad ref," she decided. "You shouldn't punch the cotton candy guy." (I agree.) And with that, she let it go and started watching the game again. Telling white lies to your kids so they'll finally be quiet -- that's my Great Call of the Week.
Q: We know that Tiger is one of two men in the conversation for "most dominant athlete of our time" status (the other being Roger Federer). We know he will probably eclipse Jack's 18 majors someday and make a billion dollars. But he may also be the biggest threat to another hallowed sports mark: Wilt Chamberlain's 20,000 women. He's only 33. I think he's the only true threat to The Stilt, right?
-- Joe, Philly
SG: Let's not get carried away. Tiger wasn't allegedly doing anything different than hundreds of celebrities and athletes were doing. It's a whole secret society that one of my connected friends jokingly calls "The Red Rope Club." Ropes get lifted, celebs stride through with their chests puffed out, paid connections bring over women to make it more of a party, money starts flying around, bottle service is ordered and occasionally stuff happens. None of this means Tiger was the next Wilt, or even more of a horndog than other current celebs who run in the same circles. For the media to pretend otherwise is disingenuous. Especially when it looked the other way with almost everyone else.
Semi-related point: In the recent episode of "Joe Buck Live," Floyd Mayweather, Michael Strahan and Mark Wahlberg were inexplicably thrown on stage together for a few minutes. What happens in December 2009 when four people who have little in common have to fill time on live TV? Naturally, the conversation drifts to Tiger. Wahlberg makes an innocuous but revealing joke, talking about how Tiger ruined it for everyone else and saying that now everyone's wife and girlfriend is checking their cell phones. Everyone laughs. You know what was really funny? This couldn't be more true.
Remember when that idiot shoe bomber Richard Reid tried to blow up his shoes on an airplane? He failed, yet for the past eight years we've had to take our shoes off during the boarding process. This incompetent dimwit cost us who knows how many hours of our time by FAILING to blow up a plane. I hate him every time I'm standing barefoot in an airport. Anyway, Tiger is the Richard Reid of wealthy celebrity horndogs. By failing, and by making some of the dumbest moves in the history of adultery, Tiger ruined things for more than a few celebrity horndogs. At least for a few months. With the O.J. saga, the sub-story was domestic violence. With Tiger, it's going to be this ritzy (and lucrative) world of celebrity debauchery. You watch. Miami, Vegas, Manhattan, Hollywood a big shiny spotlight is about to be turned on you.
(This is just one of the reasons I think ESPN should launch a nightly show at midnight on ESPN2 called "The Tiger Zoo," a little like the way "Nightline" was spawned during the Iran hostage crisis. You're telling me we couldn't fill 22 minutes of content every night? Or that the ratings wouldn't be good? I watched Herm Edwards on Wednesday morning's "SportsCenter" venting about Tiger with advice like, "He doesn't need any sponsors! He doesn't need any more money! This guy needs someone to help him with his life!" and "Shame on the people who watched this guy go down this road and didn't tell him, 'You know what? DON'T GO DOWN THAT ROAD!'" You're telling me he couldn't co-host "The Tiger Zoo" every night? We can't build on this?)
Q: Is there any chance Tiger plays the sex addiction card? Also, is it too late for Playboy and ESPN to team up for a Tiger-related "30 for 30"?
-- Rick Casagrande, New York
Good idea. We're frantically scheduling a "30 for 30" meeting at the Playboy Mansion for Friday, 11 p.m. (Whoops, that's how Tiger got into trouble. Let's make that 11 a.m.) But clearly this has reached the point that he has to play an addiction card to win back some public empathy, and really, you don't exactly have 52 cards to choose from here. Gambling, sex, drugs, drinking, eating, painkillers, porn that's about it. America is always more forgiving when the word "addiction" is introduced. That is what hurt Michael Vick: Because he couldn't say he was addicted to fighting dogs, he didn't have an out. He just seemed like a mean, inhumane guy. Hey, speaking of "30 for 30"
Q: I just got the new Golf Digest in the mail. Did you see the cover? It may be the best example of unintentional comedy ever. You have Obama lining up a putt and Tiger standing behind him as his caddy. The headline reads, "10 Tips Obama Can Take From Tiger." To make this even better, Tiger answers a question from a reader that asks him how life is on the road now that he has a family.
-- John, Hull, Mass.
SG: It's the single funniest magazine cover since Sports Illustrated's "Sportsman of the Year" cover of McGwire and Sosa. I also think it's going to have legs when you consider the date (January 2010) and the headline itself. What could be a stranger and more improbable combo given the timing? Clinton and O.J. in July 1994? What an incredible stroke of bad luck (for Obama) and good luck (for everyone else). Although I think even Obama would find this funny. I am almost positive.
You know what would be a better cover for a magazine? "10 Tips Tiger Could Have Used From Dan Klores." If you don't know Klores, he was the best PR guy in New York for years before becoming a filmmaker. Just recently, his "30 for 30" documentary about Reggie Miller was accepted to Sundance. Dan Klores should have been Tiger's first phone call when this story broke. Dan Klores should be everyone's first phone call when anything breaks.
Klores offers these three rules for any athlete who fancies himself a philanderer: "Have no more than one girlfriend at a time if you stay married but keep doing what you were doing," "Have no more than three girlfriends at a time if you become single" and "Renegotiate your prenup the moment you trick yourself into thinking you're in love." Since Tiger is apparently well past that point, Klores offers six other tips:
1. If you can't tell your wife the truth from the get-go, recognize immediately that you shouldn't marry again, and that the grass isn't always greener from the other side.
2. Hit the links, start giving huge bucks to African-American charities, show up at church, double your dose of Viagra and use it for your wife, understand "it's never going to be the same," see a shrink two to three times per week minimum, do Larry King, then a few weeks later do Leno.
3. Demand your money back from The Enquirer, and demand your money back from any of the girlfriends.
4. Ignore every so-called "crisis communication" expert who sought a headline by claiming you didn't get out in front of the story, because they have obviously never been caught cheating on their wives.
5. Attend the NBA All-Star Weekend's slam dunk contest.
6. Tell the world that Sarah Palin is an idiot so at least 52.9 percent of Americans will agree with you.
Q: Do you think that after Tiger pulled out of his own tournament following intense marital strife, Al Michaels could have aptly stated that Tiger was "out with a wife"?
-- Charlie H., New York
SG: Absolutely. That was one of my favorite wrinkles of this whole saga: Tiger pulling out of his own tournament, then NBC pretending like this wasn't the elephant in the room for the entire weekend. Although maybe they were afraid to say the words "Tiger pulled out" in any context. Four other underrated wrinkles from the Tiger Zoo:
1. Should we have really been surprised that a dude named Eldrick who went by the nickname "Tiger" turned out to be something of a cad? Let's say you show up for college freshman year and meet everyone on your floor. One guy introduces himself by saying "Hi, I'm Tiger" and follows that up with, "I'm here on a golf scholarship." Is this someone you would have trusted with your younger sister or girlfriend-you-were-on-a-break-with at 2:30 a.m. after a few drinks? I bet not. You don't think this exchange would happen?
Buddy: "Yo, where's your sis? She was bombed."
You: "She's fine, she's hanging out with Tiger, the captain of the golf team."
2. The Sports Gal is excited to watch golf majors now. Why? So she can root against Tiger. She hates him now. (Note: I'm not saying it's rational, just passing it along.) What if there are more women out there like her? Can you think of another incident that gave female non-sports fans a reason to start watching a sport? I feel like my wife would root against Tiger during the Ryder Cup at this point. Stay tuned.
3. When Vanity Fair does a splashy, 12-page investigative feature on this scandal in a few months -- and you know it's coming -- I think IMG (Tiger's agency) will be revealed as a bumbling group of nitwits on par with the Watergate burglars, the people who ran the ABA, the brain trust behind the 2007 screen writer's strike and every Washington bureaucrat who believed anyone else over Jack Bauer. I particularly liked the alleged plan to throw The National Enquirer's parent company an exclusive interview with Men's Fitness in exchange for the Enquirer dropping a damaging Tiger story two years ago. Like that wasn't going to eventually come out. What's wrong with these people?
4. We knew the count would climb quickly for bimbettes claiming to have gone a few holes with Tiger. Right around No. 8 or No. 9, one of them claimed that Tiger was a 12 out of 10 in bed. Maybe this is true. But if I were Tiger, I would have paid someone to say that. Once that alleged hookup number climbed past six, nobody cares about the final tally, anyway. What's the difference between 15 and 16? So why not pay someone relatively early to establish that you're great in bed (and possess other traits as well)? Don't you want to beat to the punch any disgruntled hookup who might say differently? Wait, am I saying this out loud?
Q: What is the stupidest theory you've thrown at somebody during Tiger's scandal that could be somewhat believed? Mine was that Tiger was found snoring because he ate too much turkey on Thanksgiving and turkey makes you tired.
-- Gerry, Rye, New York
SG: I have told numerous people that you could talk me into the "Mrs. Tiger chasing him out of the house and breaking the windows as he was driving away" theory for one reason: She's Nordic. And Nordic women, by nature, are icy, tough-as-nails, family-oriented women who would react angrily in Mrs. Tiger's situation. Do I have any real evidence of this? Of course not! I think I have met three Nordic people in my life. I have no idea what they are like. It just sounds good. It's a fun theory. Don't mess with Nordic women. You know who Nordic women married back in the days? Vikings. Would you mess with a Viking? No. They are one notch behind Sicilian women on the "Spouses You Don't Want To Mess With" scale. Again, I have no evidence of this. It's all generalization. The important thing is that I believe it. Just like Gerry believes in his turkey theory.
Q: If you could put any sports figure under the lie detector and drill him with questions, who would it be? Bonds and possible steroids? Lance and possible enhancers? Tiger and why his bombshell wife had to free him from his SUV with a golf club at 2:30 in the morning?
-- Cole T., Japan
SG: David Stern. With Jack Bauer interrogating him. Did you suspend MJ for gambling? DID YOU SUSPEND MJ FOR GAMBLING????"
Q: I doubt I'm the only one who thought this and I know it's all speculation at this point, but my first reaction to the Tiger Woods "accident" was "he's been spending way too much time with MJ and Barkley." Can't you picture them giving Tiger endless crap for skipping out on a party because he has to get home to the kids? Tiger's cool and all, but he's not NBA-superstar cool.
-- Mike R., Ann Arbor, Mich.
SG: You just nailed an essential component to this story: the School of MJ. Jordan is that buddy our wives and girlfriends hate. The one who's always trying to get you to go to Vegas, the one who keeps you out until 7 a.m., the one who spends ungodly amounts of money and expects you to keep up, the one who indulges in every vice to excess. In 2001, I was told by someone I trusted that Antoine Walker (whom MJ had taken under his wing) would go bankrupt trying to keep up with Jordan. He did. Again, MJ is a man of excess. And Tiger had the background of a child actor or a hotshot tennis player who was hitting 10 hours of balls a day from ages 6 to 18, the son of a military dad, who obviously wasn't letting off a ton of steam in his formative years. Throwing him to MJ's crew was like throwing young Bud Fox into Gordon Gekko's world. And look how that ended.
Q: Tiger is getting absolutely crushed by the media. Do you think he responds by going in full "eff you" mode this season on the tour? Over/under on three majors?
-- Jake, Miami
SG: Best sports question in a long time. Here's my prediction
1. Tiger finally responds publicly, plays the apology/addiction card to a tee, then disappears for a few months. He stays married and goes to counseling. His wife stays with him for now. So do his sponsors.
2. Tiger returns in February in what will invariably be the biggest sports "comeback" since Jordan returned to the Bulls in March 1995. What we forget is that he's coming back to golf, a sport that doesn't allow much booing or heckling. So either the galleries will be super-supportive or there will be a nonstop awkward vibe along the lines of how it feels when a family outcast randomly shows up for a holiday meal.
3. In the words of T.J. Lavin, I think he kills it. Great athletes have a way of channeling their emotions into a specific game, fight or match. Ali beat Foreman in Zaire with his life falling apart. Jordan played out of his mind in the 1993 playoffs with his personal life spiraling out of control. Brett Favre had that famous Monday night game right after his pops died. The list goes on. I am predicting Eff You mode along the lines of the 2007 Pats in those first few games after Spygate broke.
WEEK 14 PICKS
Home team in caps
SAINTS (-10.5) over Falcons
RAVENS (-13.5) over Lions
Packers (-3.5) over BEARS
Seahawks (+7) over TEXANS (-7)
Broncos (+7) over COLTS
Dolphins (+3) over JAGS
Bills (+1) over CHIEFS
Bengals (+6.5) over VIKINGS
Panthers (+13) over PATRIOTS
BUCS (+4.5) over Jets
Rams (+13) over TITANS
RAIDERS (+1) over Redskins
Chargers (+3) over COWBOYS
GIANTS (PK) over Eagles
NINERS (+3.5) over Cardinals
This Week: 1-0
Last Week: 4-12
4. The galleries will root for him because fans are suckers and we love nothing more than a great comeback. Especially if Tiger is contrite. (And I think he will be.) And also because the PGA will be tasering anyone who even starts to scream "CHEATER!!!!!!!" or anything of that ilk.
5. Assuming the previous four things happen, how great is the 2010 Masters going to be? What chain of events would have to happen for you to miss it? What kind of rating will it get? Will it be like the Saints-Pats game in New Orleans last week, only for the entire country, and 67 percent of all TV sets will be tuned in? Will the gallery be rooting for or against Tiger? And what happens if Tiger wins??? What will be Jim Nantz's pre-prepared one-liner as the tournament-winning putt drops in? (I bet it's not this one: "The Tiger is back on the prowl!") What will be the funniest pre-prepared one-liner from Nantz in that same situation? (I vote for this: "Huge quickly TIGER!") How great would the post-tournament ceremony be as Angel Cabrera fits Tiger for the 2010 green jacket with Nantz grinning maniacally in the background? Would we have to take a work holiday on Monday to properly digest everything?
6. I can't wait for this. All of it. You thought Favre coming back to Lambeau was big? What about Tiger coming back to Augusta? And what if he's winning tournaments and leaving a trail of conquests behind him? (Um, by conquests, I mean golfers.) I can't wait. Eventually, all the soap opera stuff will fade away and this will turn into one of the more compelling sports stories in recent memory. Eventually.
Q: Until this week, I never knew Tiger took the "Just Do It" mantra so literally.
-- Cliff, Fall River, Mass.
SG: That was the most common Tiger/Nike joke over the past two weeks, narrowly edging readers begging for someone to splice one of Nike's old Tiger ads with shots of disgraced cheaters like Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford and LeAnn Rimes speaking as "I am Tiger Woods" is dubbed over their voices.
Q: With the Woods mess in the news, I am reminded of how I feel about him -- amazed at his skill, but not a fan. He has modeled his life and career after his hero, Michael Jordan, and I felt the same way about him. It got me to thinking about what Jordan has created, the mega-sports star with huge endorsement clout that we marvel at but don't necessarily like. At the very least we are indifferent to many of sports' biggest stars. Think about this list: Jordan, Woods, Kobe, Federer, Jimmie Johnson, Beckham. All worldwide money machines, but how do we really feel about them? Indifferent. Arnold Palmer was the first modern-day mega-star and paved the way in the endorsement business for an athlete who was real AND likeable. Who is today's Arnie? Do we have one?
-- Matt, Phoenix
SG: Well, LeBron isn't quite ready yet. I think it will be him soon. But for now right now I mean this kills me to say it but isn't it Peyton Manning?
(I will now pretend that my face is the back window of a Cadillac Escalade and try to break it with a 9-iron.)
Q: I'd love to see you talk about Tiger's issues in light of your long-standing observation about how much more private and controlled (from a PR standpoint) athletes are today than they used to be. My take on Tiger -- the more you control your image, the more ravenous the media is when something even somewhat salacious comes to light. Granted, this stuff is really crude, but I can't help thinking that if Tiger hadn't been so Soviet-like with his personal life, that the tabloids wouldn't be so out of control in pursuit of the story.
-- David, Portland, Ore.
SG: Probably true. And there has definitely been a twinge of "Ha ha, you made it clear for this entire decade that you didn't need us, now watch this!" to many of the columns, radio rants and TV rants. But why do media members resent him so much for "controlling" his image? Wouldn't you if you were him? What obligation does he have to sit down with any magazine writer or author who wants to talk to him? So they can make money off him? How is that part of the deal of being a pro golfer? Even if Tiger was Soviet-like with his personal life, couldn't you say the same about Jack Nicholson these past 30 years? Don't a bunch of celebrities play that card? How can anyone look into a TV camera with a straight face and say the media wouldn't be covering this so gleefully if he had "played ball" a little more? Really? They would have backed off from a car crash, a possible domestic violence cover-up and skanky women coming out of the woodwork like termites?
The larger point: Media members keep pushing the theme that the Tiger Zoo proves our society is more celebrity-obsessed and scandal-obsessed than ever. Haven't we always been this way? Yeah, we have celebs getting sneak-attacked outside clubs with camera phones, and nobody can take their garbage out anymore without a neighbor snapping a picture. But it's not like the '90s weren't just as crazy: In the span of three years, we had the O.J. trial and Princess Di getting killed by paparazzi, for God's sake. Going back further, we drove Michael Jackson crazy, and Elvis before him, and Marilyn Monroe before them. This is what we do to superstars. We don't let them feel normal for a second, and eventually they stop feeling normal and start acting crazy which is exactly when we start making fun of them. They can't win. This is why so many of them "shut us out," so to speak. Fame can and will cause you to lose perspective.
For instance, at an US Weekly "Young Hollywood" party a few weeks ago, Levi Johnston showed up with four bodyguards. The lead bodyguard tried to cut the line of people waiting outside the club. The person running the line told the bodyguard they'd have to wait. The bodyguard said, "Do you know who this is? This is Levi Johnston. He's in Playgirl this month. Levi Johnston don't wait in no line!" You know what happened? Levi ended up waiting in line. But that's what fame does. Even someone like Levi Johnston -- a nobody, an opportunist, someone who became famous only because he knocked up his high school girlfriend in Alaska -- can spend three weeks being famous and suddenly think he doesn't have to wait in a line.
Did we underestimate the effects of fame in his formative years on Tiger? Become famous at an early age and invariably you "mature" into someone who can't remember anything other than being famous. Most (if not all) of your interactions are with people who are impressed by you or want something from you. You don't have to win anyone over. You don't have to work on being a better person, or funnier, or nicer, or anything. You don't want to make new friends because you can't tell if any prospective friends want to be friends because you're who you are, so you end up gravitating toward other famous people, most of whom are just as messed up as you. You can get away with almost any indiscretion and be forgiven. Your only responsibility is to stay yourself, but you became this twisted, self-aware version of you without even knowing it. And that's when the trouble starts.
We expected Tiger to handle everything well. Maybe we expected too much. Of course
Q: The other night I was examining the Tiger Woods scenario, and it hit me. Tiger Woods' situation is exactly like that of Don Draper in "Mad Men." Both of their wives are beautiful. They both have kids. They're both rich. Both women found out from outside sources (Betty from Jimmy Barrett, Tiger's wife from his cell phone). Am I crazy?
-- Josh Peterson, Omaha
SG: Over the past two weeks, maybe six readers made that connection, and every time I was furious I didn't think of it first. It's a mildly mind-blowing analogy. In Season 1, Don Draper was the golden boy with the perfect life on paper who thought the rules didn't apply to him. In Season 2, everything fell apart and his web of secrets began to surface. In Season 3, the secrets finally came out. Humbled, he tried to pick up the pieces, lost his family, lost his mojo to some degree and eventually ended up taking a huge career gamble. Sound familiar? Like Draper, Tiger is the absolute best at what he does. And like Draper, no matter how much turmoil there is, he will survive. People will always forgive the best as long as they're the best. That's just the way life works.
Throw in the moral component (the husband and father who betrayed his family) and that's where these things get dicey for fans. We only know Tiger the golfer. Really, that's all we want to know. Whether his marriage heals or disintegrates isn't really our business. But we are voyeurs when it comes to our favorite athletes. They thrill us, keep us guessing, keep us on our toes, keep us watching. During the average golf tournament, cameras capture every reaction and emotion from the closest of angles -- triumph, anguish, fury, frustration, panic, you name it -- which deceives us into thinking we know these guys better than we do. How many times did you hear someone say "Can you believe Tiger did that?" over these past two weeks. Like we knew him. And we didn't.
During the last episode of Season 1, Don Draper gave a sales presentation to a camera company. At this point, through 12-plus episodes, the viewer was still trying to figure him out as a human being. What's important to him? What's his background? What are his morals? Does he live by any code? He's a hero and an anti-hero, the leading man who might be leading us astray. Draper turns off the lights and shows a series of slides to the camera people, pitching them on an idea called "The Carousel."
The angle is nostalgia. The slides are pictures of his family. Draper starts flicking through them, preys on their emotions and goes for the kill.
"In Greek," he says, "nostalgia literally means 'the pain from an old wound.' It's a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn't a spaceship. It's a time machine. It goes backward, forward. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again."
Now Draper finds himself getting pulled into the moment. Here are these pictures of the perfect American family -- his family -- only he can't feel any connection to them at all. Really, it's more of a Perfect American Family On Paper. They might as well be a new Cadillac or a house with a fence. Just because your family looks perfect doesn't mean you're a family man. The realization makes his eyes glisten. Or so we think.
"It's not called the wheel," he continues, his speech slowing. "It's called the Carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels. Round and around and back home again. To a place where we know we're loved."
Draper clicks through the last slide. It's a picture of him and his blonde wife on their wedding day. The end. The rest of the room remains frozen in awe. Even Draper seems a little choked up. One of his co-workers (who was having problems with his marriage) hustles out of the room, fighting off tears. The lights go on. And just like that, Draper doesn't seem so choked up anymore. There's a hint of a satisfied smile on his face. Just for a second. Was it a performance? Did he feel the connection? Was it a little of both?
It's the best scene in the history of the show. It tells you everything you would ever want to know about Don Draper. Only he knows how he felt, or if he was feeling anything at all. But he should have been feeling something. You could say the same thing about Tiger Woods, a public figure handling a decidedly private matter right now. He needs a Carousel. He needs to go backward. He needs to go round and around and back home again. And he can't.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for ESPN.com. For every Simmons column, as well as podcasts, videos and more, check out Sports Guy's World. His new book, "The Book of Basketball", is now available.
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