This story was written by Paul Gassee, writer and radio host of "Your Sports Night Cap"
This week, the most recognizable athlete in the world makes his return to the discipline he has mastered above all else. In the quiet (some say stuffy), controlled confines of Augusta National, Tiger Woods will try to put the difficult last few months behind him, and attempt to regain the form that has made him the world's greatest golfer.
Over the recent few years, the Modern Professional Athlete has had to adapt to a new world. With the explosion of Twitter, Facebook, sports blogs, shortened news cycles, and invasive paparazzi, the sportsman of today has had to be even more careful about who he associates with and how he portrays himself to the outside world. In the case of Tiger Woods, one of the most famous people in the world, these principles get even more exacerbated. Contemporary pro jocks: take note. The following lessons will serve you well, as you navigate through an increasingly tricky landscape.
1) Don't Take The Plunge
Many have already voiced this large disparity between two of the foremost American athletes of the last decade. What is the biggest difference between the way we have portrayed Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter and Tiger Woods? One of them said "I do". Over the years, and his many conquests, Jeter has been known as a ladies' man, a playboy of sorts. But the media has never painted an ugly picture of the Yankee Captain's womanizing ways. Instead he has been lauded by most men, as a guy's guy who has been able to "land" numerous beautiful women. A good looking, rich, famous man making the most of his status in New York and around the nation at large. Why? Because, as opposed to Woods who committed himself to his wife Elin, Jeter has largely been noncommittal. And that made him non-hypocritical, at ease with his lifestyle, and free to chase Manhattan skirts to his heart's content without us frowning down upon him. One cannot say the same thing about Tiger.
2) Cheat with Your Equal
If you are going to engage in extra-marital affairs, there are things you can do to prevent the most damaging aspects of a scandal. Let's conduct a quick thought experiment. If Tiger had chosen to cheat with someone that would be considered his equal (or closer to his equal) there is a good chance that quite a few stories would have been kept quiet. Why, you ask? His counterpart would have had as much (or close to as much) to lose in such a scandal were it to be made public. Don't you think a high-powered married New York business woman would have much more to lose by outing Tiger than a young waitress serving pancakes at IHOP? There is less incentive for such a mate to bury Woods. Tiger's choices in mates however--it would seem--were often women in the latter category. These were women that had a lot to gain in "outing" him, and very little to lose (except, perhaps some dignity).
3) Maximize Cell Phones, Minimize Sexting
The danger with reaching the status of a Tiger Woods is that you start thinking you are bulletproof. Any time you have been in a bind, you have been able to get someone to clean up your mess. Until your world comes crashing down as your Escalade collides with a fire hydrant one Thanksgiving night. If Tiger had invested in one extra cell phone (or in his case, several others, considering his busy sexual exploits) for his extra-marital communications, he would have maintained a cleaner break between his above-board activities and those of the purely carnal variety. That now-famous voicemail that was replayed ad nauseum on what-seemed-like every radio show would never have even surfaced. Meanwhile, Tiger's flirty texts to his porn star mistress revealed that the man isn't necessarily a fan of what the French call a "bon mot." His SMS messages were crude, lewd, and full of logistical arrangements. In short: dull and off-putting. But the greater point, here, and yet another lesson for our Modern Professional Athlete is: why leave an electronic paper trail that can be later published and disseminated for all to see?
4) Protect Yourself
I'm not talking about protecting yourself from death threats, bodily injuries, or other potential mishaps that should be considered if you are a mega celebrity of Tiger's stature. Nor am I meaning talking about purchasing a firearm. Quite a few modern professional athletes have shown an incapability of being responsible with that kind of protection. Gilbert Arenas, Plaxico Burress, can you hear me? I am speaking of protection during intimate relations. According to many of his mistresses, Tiger preferred to proceed without taking those "necessary precautions". Without getting into the medical consideration of disease transmission, there is that rather small other concern called natural reproduction. Do the names Travis Henry, Evander Holyfield, or Shawn Kemp ring a bell? Each man fathered children with several different women. The financial burden of child support payments didn't initially dissuade these men from procreating without restraint or forethought. No, no. These men did it with reckless abandon. And Tiger seemed to be on the same path. The same invincible feeling that once had him conquer the most difficult golf courses in the world now had him believe that he would not impregnate any of the women he was engaging with. Tiger would have done better to protect himself, thereby reducing the risk of embarrassment and the heavy pecuniary liability that engulfed the Henrys, Holyfields, and Kemps of the world.
5) Don't be a Victim of Your Own PR
There is very little doubt in anyone's mind that Tiger's handlers, marketers, and PR folks wanted to maximize their client's earning potential. In order to do that, one must create a well-crafted image that ensures credibility as an endorser of major brands. Thus far, the reasoning is rather straightforward. Where Tiger's advisors erred was in creating the illusion of perfection for their client. Had they allowed him a few endearing flaws instead of creating a robotic winning machine, it surely would have made him more relatable to the rest of us mere mortals. And there is a good chance that Tiger's collapse would have been much less severe. Had Tiger's image been crafted around a man who dominated the game of golf, but who was "one of the boys" off the course, the general public's surprise and subsequent disappointment would have been lessened after learning of his numerous, colorful, carnal endeavors.