Now that the nation has pilloried Tiger Woods for more than four months, we’re in a new mode of Tiger analysis: the sympathy mode. I pointed out last week that Vanity Fair ‘s Mark Seal provided three emotional explanations for Tiger’s outsize philandering: the bad influence of Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan, Tiger’s experience with racism, and Tiger’s complicated relationship with his father. In a new commercial, Nike takes this last explanation and exploits it to make Tiger into a conflicted, thoughtful creature rather than a sex machine.
The ad, embedded below, shows Tiger looking straight into the camera , appearing bleary and contrite. The voiceover is Tiger’s deceased father, Earl Woods, saying “Tiger? I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion. I want to find out what your thinking was, I want to find out what your feelings are, and did you learn anything?” The commercial is telling the audience, in a subtle, smart way: Stop judging Tiger! Look into his soul instead. It’s a brilliant move on Nike’s part, one that goes perfectly with Tiger’s therapy-speak press conferences .