The XX Factor

The Miseducation of Tiger Woods

I’ve just finished reading the latest Vanity Fair opus on Tiger Woods. The revelations in this one were low-impact, considering how much has already emerged. Writer Mark Seal speaks to four different mistresses including a hostess, a madam, an escort, and a Vegas club girl, and they rehash stories about sexy texts and hotel room rendezvous. What is different about this article is that Seal attempts to deflect some of the blame placed on Tiger. He paints Tiger as a victim of racism (he was tied to a tree as the only black kindergartener at his elementary school- though this anecdote has been hotly disputed ); as a casualty of a philandering, greedy, alcoholic, egotistical father (Earl Woods once said, “Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity”); and finally, as a naif who turned bad because he started running with a fast crowd consisting of Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley.

This last explanation for Tiger’s bad behavior is the least satisfying. Seal quotes John Merchant, an African-American attorney who was an adviser of the Woods’ in the ‘90s, who says, “I told [Tiger], ‘Stay away from that son of a bitch [Jordan] because he doesn’t have anything to offer the fucking world in which he lives except playing basketball, which he did yesterday. … Are they [Jordan and Barkley] his black role models? You’ve got to be kidding me.” Then later in the piece, Seal quotes Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Norm Clarke, who says, “It became a testosterone game: they were surrounded by all these star-banging gold diggers, and Vegas makes you think you can get away with anything. Tiger wanted to show he could play in Jordan and Barkley’s league.”

The implication is that poor young Tiger was blinded by the glamour of the fading basketball stars and their gambling, drinking, carousing ways. If he had not started hanging out with them, he would not have gotten himself into so much trouble. Somehow, I think Tiger would have discovered the joys of gambling, drinking and carousing even without the devil (in the form of a grinning Charles Barkley) sitting on his shoulder.