Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Tiger Ad

What is the Tiger sex scandal about? I think it's always been pretty obvious that the only reason Tiger's affairs are a scandal is that he's a black man playing a white man's sport, and married to a white woman. Emphasis on white man's sport and white woman. Nobody cares that Michael Jordan cheated on his wife; most people don't remember he had a wife. No one cares that Kobe cheated on his, that Shaq cheated on his, no one cared when Superhead talked about fucking a married Allen Iverson in her book. No one even cares that there are people in the NFL who killed people. That's just what basketball and football players do. And fine, it is, and I'd be okay if the reason white people didn't care was because they just didn't care about athletes' infidelity (why should we? These guys aren't preachers or even politicians), but I'm afraid the real reason is something way more along the lines of, "those guys are animals married to other animals, who cares if Animal A is unfaithful to Animal B, I still enjoy watching him jump with his freakish animal skills." How else do you explain Tiger? It isn't even that golf's this more genteel sport and that we expect more of golfers or tennis players, no one gives a fuck if Phil Mickelson cheats on his model wife, if Andy Roddick cheats on his long-time model girlfriend. It's not that Tiger's such a big star that he plays by different rules, no one cared about Muhammad Ali's infidelities. It's that he's a black guy playing a very white game and married to a seemingly nice, non-bimbo Swedish woman and therefore he's got to be extra well-behaved. I mean, when else in the history of the fucking world has a man given a press conference to talk about cheating on his wife? I can think of Bill Clinton and 80s televangelist Jimmy Swaggart. If you actually think about it for a second it's utterly absurd. People act like 20 cocktail waitresses is a lot of cocktail waitresses. How many times have you heard some idiot on TV say that "the women keep coming and coming"? We're talking about 20 women over a six year period, that's about a new waitress every three months. And that's a sex addiction he needs to be in a clinic for, when maybe 50 such women throw themselves at him a day? It's pretty absurd.

So Nike stands by Tiger, and why the fuck not, who can better sell sports gear and golf balls, and now that they have a hold over him, being his biggest and only huge sponsor deal left, they actually get the guy to stand for 30 seconds and sniffle into a camera while audio of his dead father plays asking him what he's learned. If you were going to lose respect for Tiger, now is the time. Imagine if someone came to you and said they'd found some audio of your deceased father and they'd like it if you'd stand there while dead Pops gave you a little talking-to about cheating on your wife on national television. If you do that for them and consent to your father's voice being used in this way, they'll give you a ton of money. Who accepts that? And the worst part of it is, you know damn well that Tiger didn't put up a fight, probably didn't even mind the idea, but rather is thinking, "aw shit, what a clever idea, this can build up my brand back because now I'll seem HUMAN. As I have not in my insanely robotic and overcoached statements on this matter." A lot of commentary on this ad tomorrow will say that Nike is pimping Tiger, that this is all about the (white) corporation doing really sick shit so they can salvage the value of their black pitchman, but Tiger acquiesced and probably for the same reasons that Nike thinks this is a good idea. Which of course it is, the ad is brilliant. Through this ad, Nike becomes not only the brand of Just Doing It, but of life as the school of hard knocks, of learning your lesson and facing up to shit like a man (which is another flavor of Just Doing It), of painful defeat and the big comeback. It's probably the best sports ad in years. And easily the most reprehensible. Then again, maybe not. Consider Tiger's agency in this regard. Let's suppose that Tiger is sincerely sorry about what he did, and wishes he knew how to say so more articulately. Maybe he likes this ad, not just for the sake of the money it will save him, but because it's his way of saying he's sorry, the only way he knows how, through the voice of an ad agency. If so I think you have to respect his choice, though I don't see why he need apologize to us, and I'm not crazy about the use of his father.