Tiger’s Collapse. And Now His Resurrection?


On December 14th, I shared some thoughts about what might happen to the Tiger Woods brand/franchise in light of his personal travails. I  really had no idea how it would all unfold given the enormity of the Woods brand and the incredible symbolic power of his personality.  Another way of saying this is that  few personalities touched by scandal have had as far to fall.

Well, he fell.  And then fell some more.

As each sponsor either fired him outright or more subtly distanced themselves, it became clear that the whole brand had been anchored by his perceived reliability, toughness, persistence, and solidity.  To use one overused phrase: Tiger was someone you could take to the bank.  To use one even more overused: When the going gets tough, Tiger gets going.

OK, I’ll stop.

The point is that his transgressions were not peripheral to his mythology. They were a direct contradiction of the whole structure of the franchise.  And many of the sponsors capitalizing on  his identity couldn’t run for cover fast enough.

But here is the main point I want to make: Everything we know about the social and economic functions of celebrity suggests that his resurrection  is at hand. Again and again — especially when  the potential financial rewards for so many parties are so enormous — our culture enables even the most tarnished brand to be revived. Apologies are given, forgiveness is sought, and the fallen idol slowly begins the ascent back to the top. We  love the drama of  atonement.

In class, I sometimes state it in the form of a “law:”

The speed with which a public figure falls from grace is only exceeded by the speed with which he or she seeks forgiveness and  is allowed  to return to prominence.

We’ll see.

2 thoughts on “Tiger’s Collapse. And Now His Resurrection?

  1. I totally agree on the fact that we love drama, and especially, as an audience, watching a very famous person trying to compensate what someone would deem a sin, a crime, or sometimes, an unforgivable wrong. If what they say, you cannot separate the man from the athlete, then how come there are people who can enjoy each individual, at their best and worst in both aspects, and still be able to separate the professional from the personal, without judging. Granted it is a human instinct to witness someone with either or both powers, fall. We tend to become mesmerized and intrigued by the steps one would take to pick up themselves up again, especially when so many fingers are pointed at them.

    • My interest in all this celebrity nonsense is not something I especially enjoy. Neither do I celebrate all of the public fascination. I just dont see a way for a student of media and culture to ignore society’s fascinations, espcially when they are this intense.

      I may wish society was fasacinated with climate change or childhood poverty, and — to be sure — society is not completely apathetic about these things. But I am a professor who HAS to account for, and understand, these nonsensical fascinations, especially if we want to undertstand how to galvanize the public when it comes to serious matters.

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