It’s the tennis offseason and though there is tennis news today – notably, Amelie Mauresmo has retired – I’m going off into the world of golf to address the issue of privacy and Tiger Woods’s current predicament. After all, if Tiger’s good friend Roger Federer were caught in a similar muddle, I’m sure he’d be screaming for privacy too.
Here’s the story. Tiger drove his car into a fire hydrant and a neighbor’s tree last Friday night and his wife Elin smashed in the back window of his SUV with a golf club. Tiger’s initial statement made it look like Elin was trying to rescue him by breaking the window but it’s more likely that they were arguing about rumors of an affair between Tiger and a woman named Rachel Uchitel.
In the days after the accident, evidence of two more affairs arose which led Tiger to release a statement on his website admitting to transgressions. While he was at it he made it clear that being a high profile athlete doesn’t mean losing privacy:
…no matter how intense curiosity about public figures can be, there is an important and deep principle at stake which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy. …Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn’t have to mean public confessions.
To which I have to ask, where has Tiger been hiding for the past few decades?
Was he chained to the driving range whenBill Clinton went to disastrous lengths to deny having had sex with Monica Lewinsky? Did he forget that Lewinsky saved the semen-stained blue dress she was wearing when she had sex with Clinton?
Did he think his text messages and voicemails would vanish into thin air after he sent them to Jaimee Grubbs, a Los Angeles cocktail waitress who told US Magazine she had a 31 month affair with Tiger?
Was his television broken when baseball player Roger Clemens vehemently denied steroid use only to have his former trainer turn up with steroid tainted syringes with Clemens’ DNA on them? Did he not take note when Clemens’ running buddy Andy Pettite avoided similar grief by admitting to using human growth hormone?
Did he contract amnesia when his close friend Michael Jordan was sued by a former mistress for $5 million?
What does privacy mean in the era of text messages, cellphone cameras and youtube? Not much really. As for public confessions, if you have an extra-marital affair and you don’t confess, the object of your affections will.
The issue is not privacy; the issue is intelligently adjusting to the flow of cultural and technological change. If you get caught in an indiscretion, you have to know two things: 1. Evidence of your indiscretion exists and someone will take advantage of the notoriety that comes with reporting it. 2. The best strategy is full disclosure.
When someone tried to extort money from David Letterman by threatening to disclose his affairs with female employees on his staff, Letterman went on his show and admitted to the affairs. The only thing I’ve heard about lately is a joking reference to a “David Letterman Fidelity Retreat” on a radio commercial.
One last note. Younger high profile athletes should pay very close attention because how many of these athletes don’t end up having extramarital affairs? Whatever the number is, I guarantee you it’s very low.