Lawrence Donegan: Woods is no messiah
Just because Tiger Woods is a magnificent golfer, most people assumed he is a magnificent person
Happy now? Happy now we have all had the chance to listen to a distraught Swedish woman on the phone to the Florida emergency services, apparently believing her mother has just collapsed and died on the bathroom floor? Happy now this woman is being lampooned for allegedly striking her philandering husband with a golf club?
The last time I looked, domestic violence was a serious criminal offence and to accuse someone of such requires a level of evidence beyond the suppositions and innuendos of the ever?resourceful TMZ.com. But clearly the rules have been suspended in the case of Elin Nordegren, who by virtue of marrying a philanderer has been denied the rights and privileges the rest of us cherish.
That Nordegren’s husband, Tiger Woods, is a cad of the first order is now surely beyond dispute. He has been hoist by his own “transgressions”, to use the mealy-mouthed euphemism he adopted before descending into the bunker with his highly paid, highly enabling, highly useless agents and advisers.
In performing this disappearing act, in effect abandoning Nordegren to her fate, Woods has revealed himself to be a coward and the rest of us to be an angry mob, incensed that someone who personified our idealised sense of what a top-class athlete should be – moral, steadfast, unbeatable – turned out to be the opposite of that ideal.
Nothing disappoints like disappointment – just ask Alan Shearer and Martin Johnson, two iconic sporting figures who have been the beneficiaries and the victims of what we could call the messiah complex. Both were rightly revered as greats in their respective sports. For reasons that had everything to do with admiration they garnered during their playing days and had nothing to do with rational thinking, people assumed they would do great things as managers, of Newcastle United and England’s rugby union team respectively.
When this didn’t prove to be the case the criticism was fierce and, frankly, way out of proportion to their “crimes” of failure. Shearer and Johnson may have failed to live up to expectations but mainly because, as messiahs, expectations for them were too high in the first place.
The Woods case is merely the most extreme example of this complex. There is no doubt that he played the principal role in the mass deception, but we have to take some responsibility too. Just because Woods is a magnificent golfer, most people assumed he was a magnificent person.
Why? After all, those who were prepared to look would have found plenty of clues to suggest he wasn’t exactly a role model – his disgraceful on-course behaviour over the last year or so being the most obvious one.
The last thing a journalist might want to do right now is argue for a little less scrutiny of the romantic lives of the rich and powerful – trust me I’ve tried it a couple of times in recent days and it is a lonely place to be – but if, as the majority of commentators seem to believe, Woods lost any right to privacy when he took the money from his sponsors, is it too much to ask for at least some proportionality?
It takes a rare form of inhumanity to argue that the public’s “right to know” means the public has a right to revel in the misogynistic portrayal of Elin Nordegren as the villain of the piece when she appears to be one of the main victims. Did people really fight and die for the right of porn stars to claim they had clandestine affairs with world-famous golfers and that this idle boasting would then be treated as the gospel truth?
Maybe they did, but I can’t believe these people will be happy to see what has been done in their name; to see the mob, angry at the betrayal of an athlete they stupidly elevated to the status of a deity and intent on extracting maximum revenge for no better reason than it feels good.
If we have learned anything at all from the Tiger Woods “scandal” it is that Woods, when he eventually crawls out of his cave, will have to change his behaviour. But we will also have to change our behaviour – and we can begin by abandoning our misplaced belief in the athlete as a messiah.
Campbell free to give lift to struggling Glazers
No offence to Sol Campbell, who was a great player in his day, but the notion that a 35-year-old centre-half who has not played a competitive game for months might have been the answer to the defensive problems of a team chasing European football’s biggest prizes served only to make one wonder exactly what the question was.
In the case of Manchester United, who dismissed as “nonsense” an interest in signing the former Tottenham, Arsenal and Portsmouth player, perhaps the question was this: exactly how parlous are the finances at Old Trafford?
First, there was the mystery of what happened to the first instalment of Ronaldo’s £80m transfer fee, little of which was reinvested in the squad. Then there were rumblings around European football. “Maybe they have a little financial crisis,” the Partizan Belgrade president suggested recently after United pulled out of signing one of his players.
Most worryingly of all for United fans, there was the suggestion at the weekend that the Glazers had tried and failed to refinance part of the debt they acquired in order to buy the club – some £175m, which is ticking over a 14.25% interest. That amounts to almost £25m a year, which brings us back to Campbell.
Why would anyone even entertain the notion that United might be interested in signing such a player? Well, maybe because they knew he would be cheap.
Race to Dubai’s major sponsor in a real state
In other financial news optimism has a new name and it is called the European Tour, which this week announced its schedule for the 2010 season under the banner of the Race to Dubai.
As was the case this year, the season will climax in the benighted Emirate where, if everything goes to plan, the best players in Europe will compete at the Dubai World Championship for a total prize fund of almost £10m.
It all sounds great, although perhaps not to those people who are owned money by the development company, Nakheel, which sponsors the Race to Dubai. Yesterday Nakheel, which is already seeking to delay repayment of its debts, announced losses for the first half of this year of more than £2bn. In such circumstances, how on earth could the company justify sponsoring a golf tournament?
Strike up the Ibrox band for dignified Smith
He won’t win the Sports Personality of the Year, he won’t even get a mention, but while the baubles are being handed out this week it is worth mentioning the Rangers manager Walter Smith, whose dignity (and modest success) in the face of his club’s financial problems has been something to behold.
Smith has not been able to buy a player for 18 months but still led his team to last season’s Scottish Premier League. Now he (along with his backroom staff) has agreed to continue as Rangers manager, working without a contract in the hope that it will help the club attract a new owner.
“If someone came in and wanted to let us go, we would be entitled to a nice pay-off [if there was a contract],” Smith explained. “But every one of us is aware of the club’s circumstances and every one of us agreed that this is what we should do. If it works out for us then fine. If it doesn’t then we can go away. But we are happy with the decision we have made.”
Never mind a contract, give that man some kind of award.
Copyright © 2009 Guardian News & Media Limited 2009