Guest post: The state of the Woods union

Students in J457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the sixth of these posts. John Dougherty of Goldsboro, N.C., is a senior in the news-ed sequence with a second major in environmental studies. He was on the Daily Tar Heel’s sports desk as a copy editor and writer once
upon a time. Last year, he worked as a media relations intern for the Carolina Hurricanes. He is currently working in the exciting field of new media, editing multimedia college sports text message alerts. Next year, he will be attending law school (not sure where yet).

I might not be Lou Gehrig, but I consider myself fairly lucky.

Thanks to the fortunate arrangement of Tiger Woods’ rehab schedule, the world’s most famous golfer and one the wealthiest athletes in sports history decided to speak publicly Friday for the first time since his November car accident. Of all days, Woods just so happened to pick the day I write my guest blog post.

His fellow golfers on the PGA tour and one of his largest former sponsors, Accenture, weren’t too pleased with the statement coinciding with round 3 of that weekend’s tournament. Well, tough.

My procrastination has paid off. You, my reader, should count your lucky stars as well. Rather than a grueling 8-paragraph post dissecting the distinction between “less” and “fewer,” I have the opportunity to discuss 21st century America’s favorite topics: celebrity strife and extramarital affairs!

Personally, I was excited about the prospect of Tiger finally making his feelings public (through a medium other than his personal Web site). It was on my mind going to bed last night and one of the first things I thought of once I woke up … right. So naturally I had to figure out where and when this statement would be televised.

Not a hard task I discovered. Within a matter a seconds of turning on ESPN, the scrolling ticker informed me I’d have to wait until 11 a.m.

As the morning progressed, I stayed turned to ESPN. I figured to catch the recap of last night’s Lakers/Celtics game. Maybe an update on the U.S. Olympic efforts. And if I was lucky, even hear mention of baseball’s spring training.

Obviously all those unimportant stories were being covered on ESPN 8 (The Ocho). Segment after segment, the broadcasters covered every trivial and insignificant detail of a speech they’d yet to hear. From how long the statement would last, to whether Tiger should cry and if his wife would be in attendance. I was a bit surprised the Disney executives didn’t invite George Stephanopoulos onto the morning “Sportscenter” to weigh in.

When Tiger’s moment of truth arrived, I gave a quick glance to see what else might be on, assuming whatever portion of the population didn’t tune in to ESPN was missing out. Shockingly, or probably not, I found missing out wasn’t really an option. Every major network had preempted their morning programming to cover Eldrick. Talk about the presidential treatment.

It’s not my intention to analyze Tiger’s words, though plenty can be said about them. And plenty was.
From ABC and CNN to ESPN, TMZ and even across the pond at BBC, the afternoon became another episode of (excuse my lack of originality) “Tigergate.”

Obviously, there is some news value in the first public statement by a desperately private public figure. My astonishment is in the amount of attention that was laid upon a 15-minute prepared address, in which Woods didn’t exactly shock the world.

His most aggressive and controversial statements came in relation to the constant hounding he and his family receive on a daily basis. What we weren’t surprised by was his admission to cheating on his wife or treatment at a rehab facility. The reason these things didn’t shock us? Consult the beginning of this paragraph.

I don’t condone Tiger’s hypocritical request for absolute privacy while gaining fistfuls of endorsement cash as a public name, but it is worrisome that the entire Western world’s news cycle shuts down for 15 minutes while an athlete admits to infidelity.

Eventually the Tiger storm will pass, and one day he might even go back to playing golf. The court of public opinion will inevitably give a verdict and life will move on. But until we’re all swept up in the frenzy of the next “___ gate” it might be worthwhile to re-examine America’s news judgment.

Until then, I’m going back to exploring ESPN.com for that Lakers score. It’ll probably be posted just next to Kobe’s opinion on Tiger.