Monday, December 21, 2009

"The Big Three"

I know what Tiger Woods did, and I don’t like it. What I don’t understand – and this isn’t a pose, I really don’t get it – is why what Tiger Woods did is any of my business.

I’m not sure which of the dragons I can’t possibly slay I should take on first. There are three of them. Three core American values, synergizing like all get-out. You can’t stop ‘em, or even slow ‘em down. They’re way too powerful. But, what the heck. Let’s try.

We’ll start with this.

Even if it can be persuasively argued that other people’s actions – that do not rise to the level of a crime – are nobody else’s business, this would not, by at least one definition of “business” actually be the case. Exploiting people’s misbehavior is, in fact, one group’s enormous, and highly lucrative, business.

It’s the gossip business.

(And you don’t have to be famous to participate. Check out the White House gate crashers, the “Balloon Boy” family, and the couple with eight kids.)

A celebrity – or colorful “Nobody” – missteps, and the Gossip Machine instantly kicks into action. (I only know the celebrity ones.) Hugh Grant and a hooker. Mel Gibson and a female peace officer. Alec Baldwin, berating his daughter over the phone. Letterman and his interns. Tiger Woods and his ladies. There’s a leak or a reported arrest and it’s,

“Crank it up, Boys! We’ve got a Big One!”

Why do these stories bother me? Well, for one thing – as I’ve written elsewhere – I feel that when a hero of mine’s sordidity is made public, I – with no say in the matter whatsoever – immediately lose a hero. The great crooner, Bing Crosby, apparently, beat the bejeezus out of his kids. Now, during the Christmas season, every time I hear, Der Bingle warble,

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas..”

I hear, set to the same melody,

“I gave my kids a good beating…”

Let me be crystal clear. On the issue of child beating, put me down as “Strongly Against.” I’m also sensitive to the assertion that a hero who behaves that badly forfeits the right to remain a hero. The thing is that I worshipped Big Crosby as an entertainer. Now, that adulation seems hideously misplaced.

I had nothing to do with Bing Crosby’s mistreating his children, and on a practical level, there was nothing I could have done about it. The question then is, did they – “they” meaning the people who cashed in on the story – really need to make it public?

“They didn’t need to. But there’s no law against it. It fact, what they did was entirely natural.”


“It’s business. Free Enterprise.”

Say hello to Dragon Number One.

“Wait a minute. Are you against Free Enterprise?”

“Some of it.”

“We’re talking about a legitimate undertaking.”

“Disseminating gossip.”

“Disseminating information. Come on. It’s Free Speech.”


“You’re against Free Speech?”

“Some of it.”

“It’s in the frickin’ Constitution! The First Amendment. First! The most important one!”

“Well, actually, the current First Amendment was originally the Third Amendment. But the first two amendments didn’t pass, so it moved up to first.”

That was boring.”

“Just disseminating information.”

“Information nobody cares about.”

“And they care about Tiger Woods.”

“Ka-ching. Ka-ching.”

“I see. So if people are willing to pay for it, you feel totally justified making money from Tiger’s misfortune?”

“Oh, geez. Who is this guy?”

“Just a person who happens to believe that your way of getting extremely wealthy stinks up the place, and by ‘the place’ I mean what we expose to the world as American Culture.”

“Look! People in – Thank God! – enormous numbers choose to read gossip. Nobody’s twisting their arms. It’s Free Will. You’re not against Free Will, are you?”


“Okay, let’s sum up, here. You’re down on Free Enterprise. You question Free Speech. And you have problems with Free Will.”

“That’s right.”

“You know what that makes you, don’t you?




“And stupid.”


“And Un-American.”

“Here we go.”

“Listen, Smart Guy. You should be grateful you live in a country that gives you the freedom to write things that are wrong and stupid.”

“For a limited readership.”

“Hey, you could try gossip.”


Anonymous said...

I agree with you completely Earl. Tiger should be ashamed of himself but it's nobody's business but his own and his family's. And we should be ashamed of ourselves for that odious desire to know all the dirt and feel morally superior.

Max Clarke said...

I don't want to feel morally superior to Tiger Woods, I just want to feel superior in a golf match.

If we are to believe some of the books and stories that have been published about golfers and other sports stars, Tiger's behavior is expected.

The gossip industry does perform one function, they deflate instantly the false reputations that celebrities spend so much money to sustain. The best public relations that money can buy won't stand up well to the laser focus of the tabloids, if there is any truth behind the rumors.

Tiger is the first billionaire sports star the world has ever seen, so anything he does is news. When he became the youngest golfer to win the Masters, many golf fans were hoping he'd surpass Jack Nicklaus' record of 19 major championship wins, even Jack has said kind words about this. Now that the scandal has thrown Tiger's world upside down, it's debatable if he'll win another major championship. To the extent that means we won't see the sort of golf that only Tiger can play, it's a loss.

growingupartists said...

It's my business, because Sweden is my new pet project. All blondes, and all anti-Tiger Woods.

Oh, the possibilities provided by you blind men.

Steve Fay said...

Regarding Bing Crosby --
Earl, shortly after Crosby died there were two negative books about him, one by his oldest son, Gary, which described episodes of corporal punishment. Gary's brothers publicly denied his accusations about their father ruthlessly beating him or them. A year or so later, Gary himself denied ever having written some of the most egregious charges, when interviewed, leading one to wonder if any of this material was invented by his ghost writer. I have read Gary's book, and realized that I certainly would have gotten a lot of spankings at home if I were getting in several fights at school per week, from the first grade on. Years before Gary's book, in the 1950s, Bing publicly reported that he may have been too strict with his sons. The children of his second marriage, have spoken very kindly of their dad, particularly, Bing's only daughter, the actress Mary Crosby. As for the other book, The Hollow Man, its twisted and unsupported, and often self-contradictory claims would earn a grade of D in a Freshman College Writing course. If you or your blog followers want to understand Bing Crosby, his career and life, read the biography of him by Gary Giddens. Volume one is called "A Pocketful of Dreams," and volume two will come out in 2010. I agree that complex people might both inspire and appall us, though checking out rumors might give us some clarification. Best wishes to you.

Jarbie said...

I think there is now much evidence to show that the stories about Bing were grossly exaggerated. His nephew has gone on record as saying that Gary lied and other members of the family have said that the stories were largely fabricated or exaggerated. Bing admitted being strict. This was an era when corporal punishment was normal and it is clear that Gary (particularly) was a tearaway at school. He was getting the same punishments that most of his contemporaries were getting for similar transgressions.