'What a difference a year makes' is such a cliche that people often forget that, sometimes, a year barely makes any difference at all. President Obama is still President Obama, though with a new sense of compromise about him and some new Capitol Hill neighbors on the way (probably not a coincidence). The economy is still bad-ish. 'Global Warming' is still making its vernacular transition to 'Global Climate Change' as epic snow around the world continues to undercut some of Al Gore's favorite suppositions. US troops are still spending Christmas away from home and in foreign deserts. The budget is still unbalanced, the Treasury continues to print money, and China continues its march toward global economic dominance. Happy New Year indeed. With what might be an overwhelming sense of same-ness on the mind, one might be interested in revisiting the post below, which is from this time last year, through an eye tempered by the relevant intervening events of 2010. The original post can be found here.
Blawgconomics has spent a not insignificant amount of time ignoring 'TigerGate' the past few weeks, if for no other reason than privacy. True, there are interesting legal aspects to the situation, but the site believed that the position of many of Wood's peers that it was a personal matter for Woods and his family was the correct one to take. Frankly, there is an element of 'he who is without sin' that keeps coming to mind as well. However, as the story has escalated and claims have become more outrageous, an inescapable economic angle has developed that is quite fascinating; namely the impact that Tiger's actions are having not only on his own purse at the moment, but their potential to impact a whole sport.
One would be hard pressed to deliver any comparable example of one athlete's actions impacting the state of an entire sport in modern times. Perhaps the first name that comes to mind is Michael Jordan, but even during his 'retirements,' the NBA still thrived. However, it is not difficult to imagine the management of the PGA tour or the organizers of individual tournaments losing some sleep right now, haunted by the specter of declining viewership and attendance, and therefore sponsorships, at even the most prestigious events while Tiger's self-imposed hiatus is in force. I am sure everyone with as even cursory relationship to the Woods family throughout the golf world is hoping for the best, and would not begrudge the young family a chance at reconciliation. However, it is inescapable that the actions of one are impacting all.
The juxtaposition of the Woods Scandal with what was arguably the other biggest celebrity story of the year could not provide a more stark contrast. While Woods stands to lose hundreds of millions of sponsorship and winnings dollars and negatively impact an entire sport, Michael Jackson's death earlier this year kick-started a renaissance of the Cult of MJ. Despite years of Wacko Jacko headlines, erratic behavior, changing appearances, and allegations of crimes that, if substantiated, would have been far worse than anything Woods has done, personal pain to his family notwithstanding, Jackson's death is easily the best thing that could have happened to his image. In addition to image reparation, Jackson's death provided a windfall for his estate, with movies, re-releases and downloads all benefitting from the icon's passing.
What is the lesson here? I, for one, cannot claim to have either the wisdom or moral authority to have the answer to that question. However, it is interesting to note how these two stories and their resulting media frenzies have impacting the legacies and the wallets of the two icons involved. Looking back, there were certainly days, weeks, months and years where Michael Jackson was more vilified than Tiger Woods currently is; it is impossible to overstate how reviled Jackson was when allegations of molestation were in the air. However, the man's image, though he didn't live to see it, has been redeemed to the extent in the public consciousness that it has reclaimed a place as a very marketable commodity. Perhaps with time, and most certainly victories, Tiger Woods will be able to recoup lost reputation, and ultimately earnings. For one thing, he is young, and almost certainly has some very good golf ahead of him. For another, situations like the Kobe Bryant scandal have proven that marketability can be regained. For his sake, and for the sake of countless others involved in a sport that depends on him for visibility, popularity and marketability, I certainly hope so.