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Is Incessant Media Coverage The Best Way To Punish Tiger Woods?

This Tiger Woods story from December just refuses to skulk away in disgrace. The morning greeted us with a new Tiger mistress exposé in Vanity Fair and a New York Times Opinionator post evaluating the damage Woods has done to America. Even if Robert Wright is right about the Tiger story incinerating American culture, no one wants this story to die more than Tiger Woods, which is exactly why we should keep writing about it.

The Vanity Fair article is straightforward, sleazy and, if you’re into that sort of thing, wildly entertaining. The Opinionator piece is a thoughtful conversation-starter questioning what message it would send American children if Woods managed to come out of this scandal a golf legend having only to give up a couple of million dollars (not all that much for Woods) and an hour with Oprah Winfrey. “Does redemption that comes easily, without major atonement, send a message that transgression is no big deal, and wind up encouraging self-destruction?” he asks. The answer is yes, it does, but just because Woods is trying to avoid to spotlight doesn’t mean it has been– and will continue to be– a difficult experience for him. And the media is mostly to blame for that.

Tiger Woods was not a compelling human being before his sex scandal and even given the most interesting narrative a mundane person could get, a bout with “sex addiction,” he is still generally uninteresting. Even his mistresses are only remarkable in number, not style. But sex sells no matter how boring the participant, so media outlets are keeping the ball rolling for as long as they can cash in. They are, however, also indefinitely prolonging Woods’ public shame and misery, and the longer that goes on, the more of an example he becomes for public figures who consider behaving badly.

To think the psychological consequences of being the laughingstock of a nation will be lost on someone whose only focus in life (besides the waitresses) was his career is a bit short-sighted. From the comfort and anonymity of our computers, of course being a topic on The Insider for four months doesn’t exactly sound like a prison sentence, but it’s nothing to scoff at, either. Woods lost all of his public dignity literally overnight– more than enough to drive anyone insane. His transgressions, however, are grave enough to merit that and much more, and it’s the responsibility of the entertainment industry he works for to hold him accountable. Unfortunately, that means the Vanity Fair article won’t be the last of it, and the light at the end of the tunnel is nowhere in sight, but America will just have to suffer right along with him.

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