A tiger tamed

With the news that Tiger Woods has supposedly paid his wife $5 million in compensation for his marital indiscretions, the recriminations show no sign of abating. Public interest in what began as an innocuous story about a man crashing his car is accelerating almost as quickly as Woods can reverse into a fire hydrant. But what do we find so intriguing about cases of infidelity in public life, and do we have a right to know all the gory details?

The first is an easier question to answer. Whether it be jealousy or curiosity (and it’s most likely to be a mixture of the two) we enjoy the type of safe voyeurism that allows us to bear witness to the mistakes and transgressions of  ‘our’ celebrities. There is something strangely satisfying about the moments in which we discover that those in the public eye are as fallible as the rest of us.

Curiosity is a uniquely human trait but does it entitle me to know the private and intimate details of a marriage, and a family, on the brink of collapsing? A successful sportsman should not be subject to intense personal scrutiny solely because they are talented and ambitious. A private life should be a right that everyone is entitled to, regardless of one’s profession. However, when private actions compromise the integrity of the individual’s public behaviour, or raise questions over his or her honesty and job performance, the line becomes a little more blurred.

If Max Mosley enjoys spending his Saturday afternoons being told how naughty a boy he’s been, is it anything more than a slight embarrassment? If, however, those disciplinarians were dressed as figures from the Third Reich, throwing salutes to a large swastika, legitimate questions could be raised about the impartiality of Mr Mosley’s decision making.

The issue with the Tiger Woods story is not that his adultery will serve to the detriment of his golfing performance (unless the golf club his wife used to smash the card window was an irreplaceable possession capable of acts of wizardry), but it does raise questions about ‘Brand Tiger’. When one cultivates an image, amassing a small fortune on the back of various product endorsements and sponsorship deals, greater public scrutiny will surely follow and people will ask whether they can still buy into what is, in effect, a tarnished product.

Or perhaps we are all making a jungle out of a tree and Tiger’s image will remain a lucrative money-spinner. After all, faithful and unfaithful men alike still need to shave, and nice watches are not the preserve of the pious.

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