There are an estimated 6.6 billion people in the world right now. And Tiger Woods may top the list of most recognizable names. Whatever he does is going to draw camera clicks.
For instance, if Woods is photographed out at 2 a.m. getting Taco Bell, it is news — even though it’s not really newsworthy. By the way, can you imagine how excited Taco Bell would be if a “run for the border” was his reason for the reckless ride at 2 a.m.?
While we dream of fame and fortune, the far extreme on that fame dial — for all its perks — is a sort of a prison, too. If you are super famous, and you value privacy, then you face a type of house arrest.
During all this hoopla, I learned that Woods’ massive yacht is named “Privacy,” a moniker that ironically draws considerable attention. Anyone sailing along on a dolphin tour who sees a 155-foot boat pass by with “Privacy” painted in big letters on the side is surely going to give up on porpoise watching, turning their binoculars on the luxury boat with the unusual name.
Woods bought the boat from a guy who signed a confidentiality agreement. That guy then appeared at boat shows with pictures of Woods in front of “Privacy.” Woods sued him and was awarded $1.6 million and a public apology from the guy who violated his privacy about his purchase of “Privacy.”
Woods really has no privacy. He has faced numerous allegations and rumors this week, ultimately admitting to “transgressions” — meaning infidelity. But is that really a public matter? I like watching the guy play golf. I don’t look to him for anything other than hitting a six iron 210 yards out of a sand trap to a tucked pin — those superhuman golf feats.
But if sponsors are uncomfortable with his personal issues, then that’s their business. And Woods will have to answer to them or perhaps face monetary losses. If people don’t want to pull for a guy over fidelity issues, then that’s up to them. But it’s not his responsibility to bare everything to them just because they’re curious. He had a legal right to remain silent about his accident and the story behind it. Whether he speaks to those closest to him is an entirely different matter.
All that said, Woods cannot slap a suit on the world like he did with the boat maker who violated his privacy. He cannot shut people up. The fact is, the car incident was bizarre and people can’t help but speculate when presented a compelling mystery. But there is a momentum to modern-day scandal that is troubling. And this goes beyond Woods’ fidelity issue. At a certain point, our over-the-top joyous voyeurism says less about the subject in question and more about our society — our voracious appetite for celebrity news and the fierce efforts by celebrity media to elbow each other for sniffs of celebrity dirt. There is a whole culture — including those who gather tabloid-style dirt and those who consume it — that desperately salivates at the heels of the famous, waiting for any juicy scrap. I guess that’s always been true, but I feel it’s getting worse.
We dream of being famous. Many are driven to work hard to achieve fame; others will sell out in any way to get 15 minutes. They show no shame. And our society seems to reward that “I’ll-do-anything-for-attention” behavior more and more. I find that very troubling.
But fame is not a possession. You can’t give it away once you have it, nor can you hold it for good. It possesses you in a way. And there is a darkness therein that most of us will never understand.
Woods is the source of envy for many men — and every golfer — in the world.
But I’d bet he envies everyone else at times, the ability to have some real privacy, not the “Privacy” plastered on a yacht.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.