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Sport and Society 12/31/09

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  • David P. Dillard
    . Date: Thu, 31 Dec 2009 20:54:40 -0500 (EST) From: Richard C. Crepeau Subject: Sport and Society 12/31/09 SPORT AND SOCIETY FOR
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      Date: Thu, 31 Dec 2009 20:54:40 -0500 (EST)
      From: Richard C. Crepeau <crepeau@...>
      Subject: Sport and Society 12/31/09


      SPORT AND SOCIETY FOR ARETE
      December 31, 2009

      It has been a December to remember.

      As the month comes to a close with a remarkable flurry of headline sports
      stories it's clear that this one month was not only one for the memory bank,
      but that it may have been the most fitting way to end a year that has certified
      the decade as the Naughty Naughties. What seemed like an awkward tag at the
      beginning of the new century has become a most appropriate signature phrase as
      this decade comes to its ignominious close.


      The first shock of the month was the fall from grace of the poster boy for
      clean living and family values. Tiger Woods has gone from the slickest brand in
      the American pantheon of commerce, to the butt of jokes and ridicule that has
      spread across the internet with speeds generally associated with a particle
      accelerator. The number of such internet messages is in the range of the number
      of Tiger's mistresses raised by the power of 100.


      As is usual in cases like this, the media that touted the Tiger Brand as the
      genuine article to a gullible public, turned with fury and self-righteousness
      on the former model of perfection. Everybody loved Tiger, admired Tiger, wanted
      to be like Tiger, pointed to him as a perfect role model, and the world said
      yes. IMG, the International Management Group, had persuaded nearly all the
      major corporate sponsors of sport that this man was their man: the perfect
      golfer with the perfect image, and the quintessential sportsman.


      We all got on board, even though we should have known better. America still
      wants its sports heroes cut from the Frank Merriwell at Yale mode, and Tiger
      Woods of Stanford looked like one of them. Instead Tiger is the perfect hollow
      man, lacking a center, lost without a compass, except for the one on his yacht
      that has become his shelter from the firestorm.


      The self-righteousness of the media has been amusing as it always is in these
      cases. Tiger went from perfection to the satanic in the wink of a jaundiced
      eye. Even more amusing is how quickly the corporate world has cut its ties to
      the feline philanderer. Tiger Woods has become a non-person in a manner that
      would have either embarrassed or created great envy from the experts in this
      field from the Stalinist universe.


      Accenture, one of the major corporations that identified its brand with his
      brand, began removing all images and mention of Woods from company posters,
      advertising, and web sites. The consultants who once assured us all that
      Accenture knew what it takes to be a Tiger, was doing a makeover, a process
      which they had some familiarity.


      Other sponsors have followed. Tag Hauer, the Swiss luxury watchmaker, announced
      it would scale down its association with Woods. Procter and Gamble lowered
      their Tiger profile withdrawing its Gillette ads featuring Woods. Then today
      AT&T pulled the plug on its Woods connection. Only Nike has remained faithful
      with Phil Knight saying that this whole thing was but a minor blip. There have
      been no TV commercials featuring Woods on television since late November.


      Indeed Tiger Woods has vanished from public view and from the branded world in
      which we live. It is doubtful however that sex has disappeared from the PGA
      tour or any other sporting venue.


      Sex and sport have been linked ever since the first whiff of testosterone was
      in the air. Faux sex surrounds all our sporting events where young women called
      "cheerleaders" and "dancers" decorate the landscape with wiggles, jiggles and
      giggles passing as a cross between glamorous role models and purveyors of
      sexual titillation.


      Real sex is also present in the person of those women who make themselves
      available sexually to athletes, something star athletes at all levels take as a
      perk of their position. From the first experiences in middle school through the
      open access of the professional sports world, not much changes in the basic
      script.


      In a very direct way the Tennessee Hostess Scandal is but an adjunct to the
      Tiger Woods affair. Sending young women from the University of Tennessee out to
      a high school football game on a recruiting trip is about as lame as it gets.
      Stories of attractive young women traveling hundreds of miles to see and be
      seen with nave high school athletes who are targets on the football recruiting
      board, point to the issues of sexual access and the insane pressures
      surrounding intercollegiate athletics.


      Such insanity was on display in the state of Florida in the last week when
      Urban Meyer, head football coach and minor deity, announced his retirement from
      coaching due to his health. This was followed by an outpouring of grief and
      angst throughout Gatorland. It was then followed by Meyer's reversal of his
      decision. He will now take a leave of absence until he gets control of his
      world. This is comparable to most of us giving up breathing until we could live
      without having to do it constantly.


      Meyer invoked health, family, and a sign from God in his decision, and in one
      of the best lines on the whole matter Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel
      described the reversal of the decision as Meyer calling an audible on God. The
      toll intercollegiate takes on coaches is well beyond that of only a decade ago
      when there was still a sliver of sanity to be found on some campuses. Today
      everyone must win now, and win every year, and not just have a winning record
      but win a national championship. And preferably more than one.


      Intercollegiate madness of a slightly different sort reared its ugly head in
      Lubbock, Texas, where Mike Leach was fired as head football coach at Texas Tech
      after ten winning seasons. Leach's problem was not unlike that of Urban Meyer
      only Leach took out the pressures on one of his players rather than on himself.
      As events unfolded it appeared that Leach had seen too many prison films as he
      locked up one of his players in isolation because the player couldn't perform
      on the field due to a concussion.


      By the end of the month it looked like sports was over-populated by people
      unable to function sensibly, and most of them, so far as we know, were not
      suffering the aftereffects of a blow to the head.


      On Sport and Society this is Dick Crepeau wishing you a Happy New Year while
      reminding you that you don't have to be a good sport to be a bad loser.



      Copyright 2009 by Richard C. Crepeau


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