December 12, 2009


Two weeks that shattered the legend of Tiger Woods,/a> (TIM DAHLBERG, 12/12/09, AP)

By now, events were clearly spiraling far beyond anything Woods could have ever imagined. In less than a week he had gone from being one of the most admired people in the world to a punch line to jokes flowing freely in offices everywhere and on late-night television.

His popularity ratings were plunging. Crisis management experts around the country crowded in front of news cameras urging him to stop hiding behind Web site statements and come clean to the public — and quick.

Still, there was no sight of Woods. The statements stopped, and he remained in seclusion.

His alleged lovers weren't so shy. Suddenly women began appearing seemingly everywhere on Web sites and magazines to claim they had affairs with Woods. Two became four, four began eight, and by some counts 10 or 12 or more.

Worse yet, they didn't mind sharing intimate details about the alleged encounters. Soon, anyone with a computer or iPhone was privy to what they claimed to know about Woods and what he liked to do behind closed doors.

Woods spent almost all his life keeping score on the golf course. Now people were keeping score on him.

Nothing, it seemed, could satisfy the insatiable appetite of the celebrity media to find out more about Woods, and their reports had no trouble finding an audience. Traffic to the biggest sites jumped 50 percent or more, and major portals weren't shy about further blurring the line between gossip and real news by blogging along details without necessarily checking out the source.

With good reason. Yahoo Inc. CEO Carol Bartz told an investor conference that the Woods story was "better than Michael Jackson dying" for bringing people to her site and helping the company sell enough extra advertising to boost profits.

The mayor of Las Vegas thought the same thing. With many of Woods' alleged lovers having links to the city and with Woods well known in Vegas casinos and nightclubs, Oscar Goodman said it would provide a boost to the local economy even if people no longer believed that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Still, Woods remained in seclusion.

A story not lacking in merely prurient interest does contain one important lesson: the same rules apply to everyone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 12, 2009 6:37 PM
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