Saturday, December 5, 2009

Current Events Round-up: Crash Into Me(dia)

What a difference a week makes. Just eight days ago, Tiger Woods was still a faithful husband and the White House was still the safest place on Earth. Now, two of the planet's most beloved half-black celebrities are struggling with the fallout of two headline-hogging scandals, so much so that I needn't even summarize them here. Everybody knows what I'm talking about . . . and everybody has an opinion. I've tried not to feel anything other than amusement at these stories, because neither affect my life personally, but hearing others' opinions has inadvertently inspired me to formulate my own. Funny how that happens.

So, based on the initial evidence of Tiger's crash Thanksgiving night, my girlfriend, my best friend, and I pieced together what took most media outlets days to conclude -- that Woods' wife didn't rescue him from a wayward drive in the front yard but instead unwittingly caused it by chasing him with the golf club originally rumored to have saved his life. The information that has been released since that night has cracked Tiger's reclusive resolve as much as his car was, but none of it has surprised me. I understand how cheaters need to retain complete control over their lives, which is what that leaked voice mail to Mistress #2 was all about. Just like superheroes, cheaters lead multiple lives and do their best to keep a fine line drawn between them. That voice mail message was Tiger's eleventh hour contingency plan, like Superman's phone call to his shapeshifting buddy Martian Manhunter to do a Clark Kent impression with him in the same room as Lois Lane. Obviously, ultimately neither plan worked out very well.

I can't judge Tiger Woods for cheating on his wife, nor should anyone in the media, since they're also in show business and undoubtedly understand the pressures of 24-hour worldwide scrutiny coupled with the discreet relief frequent global travel could offer. In this context, nor will I demand the Woods family deserves its privacy; we revere celebrities and athletes and if they don't know the dangers of their lifestyles by now, they're stupid and their wealth is undeserved. (Personally, the only reason I justify celebrities having vocal political opinions is our corresponding right to know where they eat or who they're dating, but that's another story.) No, the biggest issue I have with Tiger, Tiger's burning plight is the demand that his behavior violates his place as a role model.

Again, my best friend put it best: "If Tiger Woods is a role model, what's the role?" If America's perpetually susceptible children should consider Woods a role model, it shouldn't be for marital faithfulness -- but for, I don't know . . . how about golf? Still, since I've spent a third of my life trying as a role model for kids -- for a living -- I always wonder (I did earlier this year, in fact) why actors, musicians, and athletes are role models more than teachers, or plumbers, or (gasp) lawyers. Sure, the former get paid more, but the latter actually went to school for their trades, and all achieve success by striving for excellence. That's the real life lesson offered by anyone that masters their field of work, as Tiger has: be the best at what you love to do (uh, or at what your daddy made you do, if I want to include Andre Agassi in that parable). Nowhere in his training as a golfer did he agree to remain faithful to his wife, so in his role as a golfer (the only role that has made him a household name), he should be absolved of these sins. His corporate sponsors think so . . . until this controversy actually affects his game, they probably couldn't care less.

That's why I don't, either. I'm amused, but ultimately apathetic about the outcome, which is why I'm also grateful that this story has legs. It could go on forever and I'd be endlessly entertained . . . honestly more so than I've ever been by golf.

Crashing into things has been the story of the week, between Tiger and that odd couple that snuck into the White House State Dinner. I'm equally frustrated with the media's judgment of the Salahis, and I can sum up why in one light-shedding sentence: No one has tried to get on television harder than the newscasters and commentators that have criticized the Salahis for trying hard to get on television. This hasty, hypocritical scrutiny is why they've become a laughing stock, scrambling to find some story other than the obvious truth: they just wanted to be on television. Mingle and flirt with celebrity. In a culture that nominates nobodies for stardom through singing and dancing contests, we have no right to judge anyone for jumping in front of a camera when opportunity knocks. Heck, essentially breaking into the White House takes more talent than most American Idol contestants have!

Indeed, the grasp for celebrity has become as integral to the American dream as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, from the number of followers one has on Twitter on up to the airwave-choking trend of reality television. Considering the way we adore them, who can blame us? Or do you think I'm blogging for my health? Now, the Salahis are learning the hard way that our stargazing includes an eagerness to see them fall. Interestingly, in contrast to the Woods, nobody has commented on the Salahis' teamwork in crashing the President's party. They're the model for a marriage with singular purpose! Or is the sanctity of the White House guest list more important than family values? Just what we'd expect from a Democrat, eh?

When intertwined, these tales have a clear moral, just like an Aesop fable: Be careful what you wish for. The more you strive to be on the top, the farther you can fall. If you're going to cheat on your wife or sneak into the White House State Dinner, have an alibi. Even the best laid plans have a way of crashing down around you. What a difference a week makes.

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