Sport and Society 12/31/09
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
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
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