Ahead of the Curve
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Tiger Woods gave his much ballyhooed mea culpa on Friday.  But to whom exactly was he apologizing?  You might think it was to family, friends and fans.  That's a sweet thought, but I don't think so.  The folks he was really speaking to were the Boards of Directors and golf blue-bloods that have invested major money in the Woods phenomenon.

No questions were allowed at the event.  But the media did their corporate duty by giving extreme TV coverage and then favorable polling afterwards, leaving nothing to chance.

You could almost feel the collective corporate sigh of relief as Woods took the podium.  Highball glasses were clinking in offices around the world.  Corporate calm was restored.

Those firms that stuck with Woods after the sex scandal broke (Nike / Gillette) have since been brain-storming as to how exactly they're going to re-invent The Machine.

Phase One was damage control: police and medical reports, local media, etcetera.

Phase Two checks the celebrity into a treatment facility ASAP.  The new twist here is the sex addiction excuse (Steve Phillips).  The sex tag can be a bit risky (Marv Albert), but better that tag than the two death knells of marketability: domestic abuse and illicit drugs.

Phase Three is the now standard public apology, sans reporter questions (Mark McGwire).

Phase Four is to sanitize and re-package the tarnished trademark.  It'll be interesting to see whether marketing people try to rehab Woods' image or instead craft a new one.  In the meantime, another Tiger charity will help that image.  The tax benefits are nice, too.

The Machine is lucky.  Celebrities who inhale too deeply that scent of immorality rarely reach Phase Four.  But Woods is much too big a corporate asset to allow his dissolution.

Normally I'd feel sympathy for someone in his position.  Everyone makes mistakes, no one's perfect: something along those lines.  But to make friends and family (Mom?) sit through that ridiculous dog & pony show?  That was brutal; PR effective, but brutal.

Woods could've ignored corporate directives, spared us the scripted apology and held a press conference for fifteen minutes.  He could afford the risk.

And what of the angry plea he made to paparazzi?  I'm not so sure Woods has earned the right to demand good manners of anyone.  Maybe if corporate controllers and the captured sports media had not hidden his golf course tirades from TV viewers for so many years, the man would've had to confront his arrogance much sooner.

Now we know what really drives Tiger Woods.  It's not golf, it's not family and it's not sex.  It's money that powers The Machine.  That's his real addiction.  I don't know if there's a treatment center for that one yet.   I'm thinking, maybe...somewhere in Cuba?

Steven Keys

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