The XX Factor

Tiger Didn’t Fail Us. The Paparazzi Did.

Given the sad failure of a No. 12 to emerge, Tiger-watchers have turned, inevitably, to meta-analysis. Tina Brown says that we talk about Tiger because it’s a story we understand at a time when stories we don’t understand (the economy, the climate) are ascendant. Blogger Matt Feeney attributes public interest to the fact that Tiger once “seemed to illustrate the essential soundness and stability of our most important and worried-about institution,” but turned out to be “living in the bad old days we’re constantly telling ourselves we’d left behind.” First Things ’ James Poulos, always entertaining on these matters, says “we are chagrined and dismayed to see Tiger represent evidence that putting most of our effort into a life of demonstrated professional expertise will leave us with the sort of meaning deficit that nags in the kind of way that causes us to do reckless, irresponsible, indulgent, and, yes, even depraved things.”

The latter two of these explanations take it as given that we are “disappointed” in Tiger rather than just entertained by him, and so the Tiger story is different in kind than the celebutante tabloid fodder on which we normally subsist. I think this is arguable at best. It’s not clear to me that the enduring interest in Tiger even needs explanation. For a while there, every time we looked away, a new woman emerged with an even better set of semi-sordid details. The story propelled itself forward. The gift kept on giving.

Since the above should make it clear that any cultural analysis of Tiger tends toward projection of one’s personal anxieties, I’ll refrain from using the universal “we.” I feel let down not by Woods, but by the paparazzi on whom we all depend to keep us abreast of these things. The man was with 11 women over how many years and not so much as a snapshot surfaces? Where were you, X17? Where were your swarming, flashing hordes, your ravenous stalkerazzi instincts ? Does any photographer show up anywhere without a knowing tip-off from the entourage? My faith is broken.