Alright, let me apologize right off the bat for the misleading headline, but I had to do something to rise above the din. I've been waiting for everything to simmer down, but I couldn't wait anymore. This is too important. Forget the SNL appearance. I have the answer.
Tiger Woods should forfeit his professional status and compete as an amateur for the rest of his career.
(I'll save you the suspense. Yes, this is going to be one of those return-to-simplicity-and-let-your-heart-guide-your-way-especially-now-that-you've-amassed-hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars columns. If you really hate that kind of thing, the website is tmz.com.)
For those of you who don't know, and so that my advice carries its purported weight, please know that amateur golfers do not receive any prize money nor are they allowed paid sponsorship. Also, even though professional golfers who have held national prominence for more than five years normally will not be eligible for reinstatement of amateur status, something tells me that if Tiger Woods said that the only way he would compete from this day forward would be as an amateur, the red tape would part. In fact, if I had to go out on a limb, I'd say the PGA would have Tiger's amateur reinstatement application approved before, oh, the first week in April.
Also know that I don't mean this as a sentencing or even a public apology that Tiger should endure, or in the favored terminology of the media complex today, some grandiose mea culpa. Quite the opposite.
I'm saying that if Tiger were to compete as an amateur starting now, he would unlock the sleazy IMG sports agency chains that bind, escape the grimy corporate sponsor machinery, have the kind of fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants freedom he seems to be craving a LOT of these days, and be able to say the hell with everybody in general, which I would think might be really appealing right about now.
If we assume that he's already pocketed let's say $250 million (after divorce and mistress pay-offs), Tiger would have no problem affording to play as an amateur for the rest of his life. The upside is tremendous:
- He wouldn't have to answer to anyone ever again if he didn't want to.
- He would appear to be incredibly redemptive (whether he actually is or not).
- He could have fun without consequence. His definition of fun.
- What he would add to his already immortal legend probably couldn't be measured in our time.
- He would utterly blow our minds.
Wouldn't that be a blast? And we've cleared one major hurdle: we've established that Tiger's actually human and OMG does he likes to have him some fun.
Just picture it: Tiger Woods wins his fifth Masters championship as an amateur. Tiger Woods on bum knee beats Phil Mickelson in 18-hole playoff for U.S. Open title as an amateur. Tiger Woods first person in history with 14 major wins as a professional, and 5 as an amateur to narrowly edge Jack Nicklaus...Don't get me started, man. Don't even get me started.
In the interest of a new year, a new beginning, Tiger could do more than just wipe the slate clean. He could build a new kind of slate.
We know he can afford to. Can he afford not to at this point? The reason I ask is, and I'd advise you not to forget about that encroaching inevitability of steroid use discovery, I think Tiger's mammoth legend as a golfer could actually succumb to his off-course transgressions. But, I also think playing the remainder of his career as an amateur could sonic-boom his lore into an unexplored space so remote, his story would be the only one like it, forever. He would be the only example. (Enthusiasts might cite Bobby Jones, who also is a singular example with one hell of a life story, but Jones never had to suffer "redemption." He was an amateur from day one, never competing as a pro even in the face of temptation so bad it hurt, compiling major wins like nobody's business and never taking a dime for it much less a billion dollars, never having his life shattered by secrecy and media bloodlust.)
At this point, maybe some of you are thinking, "But Tiger Woods strikes me as the kind of guy who wants to be a brand more than an actual person." You might be saying, "Tiger just doesn't strike me as a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of guy." I wouldn't argue. I kind of feel that way, too. I think he takes pride in the number of sponsors he's coldly and calculatedly acquired. Some more than others, perhaps. (Nike puts him next to Michael Jordan in the endorsement iconography, for example.) But above all else, Tiger is most interested in being an immortal sports figure, and what I'm suggesting would cinch that. Even with umpteen mistresses and steroid use, and maybe especially so.
And if for no other reason, aren't we sick yet of the predictability of the sad superstar arc? You know: burst onto scene and intrigue public with robotic-like talent and winning smile and faultless persona, public accepts robot, public expects robot to perform, robot performs flawlessly, but then robot either bangs many a road-skank or shoots up a strip club or both, public then takes first chance possible to break robot apart and find what's inside, public waits to see if robot can put himself back together again without any help.
And aren't we sick yet of our sports heroes becoming product? Brand. Tiger suffers this immensely, and is rivaled only by Jordan in this area. You'll often hear him being described by international branding consultants as a "perfect promotional vehicle" with a "commercial identity" that's "too valuable a product commodity." What fun.
But that's always been the kicker with Tiger. Not just the divine golf career, but also this kind of cyborgian ability to be perfect at everything, including being a brand. Not just win tournament, but win tournament/say correct thing to media two minutes after winning tournament/be great pitchman for consumer product before-during-after tournament/repeat. Time after time after time.
Well, now we know that Tiger is definitely not a cyborg. We also know he'd practically have to be just to get through a day in the life unscathed. Consider how complex this guy's set-up really is. Not that this column is afforded nearly enough space to provide the full picture, but try this on for size:
- Tiger's life is sponsored. Literally.
- Tiger is referred to as a billion-dollar brand almost as often as he is referred to as a golfer.
- The most critical and lucrative of Tiger's sponsors, Nike, is currently worth an estimated $105 million over five years. Doesn't sound overly impressive in today's billion-this, billion-that world? (See next bullet.)
- Nike did not even have a golf line until they made their initial deal with Tiger in 1996. One day there was nothing but sneakers and an aging Michael Jordan, the next day they shifted their entire business plan around the unknown success ratio of a 20-year old golfer who had never won a professional tournament. Walk a mile in those shoes.
- Tiger's deal with Nike was and still is unparalleled in sports sponsorship in that Nike bought the rights to almost every aspect of the Tiger Woods brand, and a piece of almost every marketing appearance he made. Hence, Woods is obligated to wear Nike apparel and gear, even when he's pitching other products from other sponsors, or during any interview. Maybe you've noticed the swoosh.
- Basically, Tiger is contractually obligated to remind us he's a brand, everywhere, all the time.
And that's just Nike.
Which was just the beginning of what has become an incomparable professional vitae. But holy mackerel does it ever scream here's a guy that not only should break loose! here's a guy that needs to break loose! Here's a guy that should get himself a super-mongo RV, put a big banner on it that says "Maybe You Can Catch Tiger by His Tail ;) !! Last Stop, Vegas!!" with quotes and italics and exclamation points and emoticons indicating innuendo and everything, barnstorm the nation, play where he wants when he wants, beat guys like Phil Mickelson and not get any money for it (which, I don't have the space here to explain but, trust me, would be a particularly embarrassing kind of dig to Mickelson and other competitors with any self-respect), answer only to himself, and bang all the road-skank his warped I-was-a-child-prodigy-whose-Vietnam-drill-sergeant-dad-said-could-be-the-next-Gandhi mind demands. Weirdest thing? Maybe he's earned the right.
My guess is Tiger Woods has already been counseled on the potential of a short sports-viewing public memory. But whoever has whispered this in his ear does not have his best interest in mind because, for one, that's not really true and, for another, that's just a convenient absolution concocted by a sports management team with only their money on their minds.
Joe Redden Tigan’s first novel does not have enough commas. It says so right there in the Foreword magazine review. Despite that, Waggle was bumped to iUniverse's Star Book program and is currently being considered for an Independent Publisher’s Book Award.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
12.23.09 @ 1:31p
What? are you suggesting that he ... that he ... play strictly for the love of the sport? BLASPHEMER! BLASPHEMER, I SAY!
Everyone knows the American public would much rather watch an obscenely paid "athlete" or "celebrity" crash and burn in a public way a la Lindsey Lohan or Robert Downey Jr. or Michael Vick. It's a large part of the reason we buy Bud Light and Nikes and Buicks and pay obscene money for both movie tickets and stadium seats. You think people pay that kind of money to these guys just to watch 'em play their sports or act on the silver screen? BAH! We want to see them blow up real good.
The bigger their talent, the more we want to see their self-destruction. Hell, I'm just waiting on Tom Hanks to freakin' lose it one day.
joe redden tigan
12.24.09 @ 11:46a
Forgive me, Tim. I know not what I do.
And the day Hanks gets busted for snorting ambien off the backsides of random road-skank is the day I move to Greenland.
12.24.09 @ 12:50p
If Tiger were to "break bad" in this way, just for the sport and to act as we suppose he wants to in public, I don't think he needs to go amateur. Sure, ditch sponsors, especially any who ditch him first. But stay loyal to those who stuck by him. Why leave people who are ok with it? Plus, totally take skin / prize money. Why not get paid for winning? Screw that.
joe redden tigan
12.24.09 @ 10:13p
I guess this column is my 1,486-word way of saying "Yeah. But where's the fun in that?"
Also, I really do think Tiger's going to get popped for steroid use. At the very least, I think his career will end up being marred by some serious fan suspicion of it. While his rep has already been badly damaged and possibly permanently, steroids are going to make these last few weeks look like a 95-yard wedge from the middle of the fairway. If you want my opinion, I think Tiger's hiding right now until the cuts on his face are gone and he can piss clean. Because the PGA won't be giving him the usual breaks anymore. When the roids are discovered through the standard-issue slimeballs that had a hand in dealing them to Tiger and now need a $100K boost from TMZ, this will disintegrate the core of what Tiger is supposed to be, a blessed, god-given talent. It will also align the game of golf with things like baseball and olympic gymnastics. Ouch. When you start from there, Tiger going amateur is not just a form of redemption (let's face it, the guy probably couldn't give two shits), and it's not just salvaging his legend. It's creating one like no other, something I think he does give two shits about. And 20 years from now could be more profitable than anything Nike could ever dream up.
Or, yeah, he could just keep taking the money and whatever sponsors will have him. But that just puts him in the junk box with A-Rod, Manny-Ram, Giambi, Clemens, McGuire, Sosa..oh hell, I could be here all night.
12.25.09 @ 8:07p
Tiger should retire, wait until he's 65, come out of retirement, and win the final 5 major's to eclispe Jack's record. I think that is better than amateur status.
You are onto something in regards to Tiger's alleged steroid use. Some guy will come forward years from now detailing the use of steroids by Tiger. He'll be able to back it up with saved cell phone messages left by Tiger.
"Hey, this is Tiger, could you remove my name from your appointment book, and delete any cell phone messages that I may of left. The public thinks I may be using steroids That would be HUGE if you could do that for me."
By the way, I think Tiger should be talking to the Las Vegas Board of Tourism to be the spokesperson for "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!" That brand totally needs an overhaul after this Tiger fiasco.
joe redden tigan
12.28.09 @ 9:03p
Why put off til you're 65 what you can do today, I always say.
12.31.09 @ 3:29p
Ok, I agree, 65 is stretching it. After all, Jack won his final major at 46. however, if Tiger is indeed using Steroids, everything he did prior to now would have an asterisk by his name.
The Tom Watson moment at the British Open this year was incredible. It would have been a historical event for him to win the tourney, but the 72nd hole turned out to be one hole too many. Does anyone think Watson was using steroids? I don't!
Now, think of a slender, less muscular Tiger at age 46 plus. Walking the British Open on his last day tied for the lead needing a 10 foot put to win it all. His 4th wife, an ex-stripper from a Vegas nightclub is watching him rooting him on (ZINGER, ZAPPER, POW, BAM). He's tired, his body isn't what it used to be. He only needs 10 more feet to win the major to overtake Jack's record. The sweat drips from his cap, he removes it, wipes it away, and stares at the put, which breaks gently left to right. He's done this a million times.
Get my point. That would be awesome.
joe redden tigan
1.7.10 @ 11:08a
Asterisk. Yes. Subject for a whole nother column, but suffice it to say that Tiger on steroids would produce the biggest asterisk the world has ever known, ever. Bigger than the Mayans', even.
2.2.10 @ 12:26a
The day Mark McGuire came out and admitted steroid use, Goose Gossage was on ESPN radio commenting on McGuire's revaltions. He said, "I used to stand in the bull pen watching both McGuire and Canseco warm up at batting practice. Balls one after the other would fly out of the park. Dennis Eckersly told me, look at their bat speed. We were both amazed at how quickly they got around the ball. It was truly amazing to watch these guys swing the bat. We were in awe of these guys.
It seems to me that BAT SWING is the one thing that separate's the steroid hitters from the non steroid hitters. You could argue that club swing could also be improved by taking steroids, not to mention endurance, etc... It's a given, Tiger has taken steroids, as probably most big time multi million dollar athletes have. I wonder if you can add Jordan to that list as well?