He had a memorable grin and tons of athletic talent. He was a phenom who made millions before turning 30. And he used his All American Boy image to cash in with endorsements.
Except the fallen star I’m referring to used a baseball bat, not golf clubs. Before the current Tiger Woods mess, you may remember that Chipper Jones, the cornerstone of the Atlanta Braves during their glory days, had an adultery scandal of his own. However, Woods can take a few tips about the way Jones handled his.
In 1998, Jones was riding high, having played on two World Series teams with the Braves. However, he shocked Atlanta and baseball by acknowledging that he had fathered a child out of wedlock. The woman, a Hooters waitress, gave birth to his son in ’98.
Unlike Woods, though, Jones ‘fessed up. He delivered the story to the Georgia-based Morris News Service on the condition that Jones could control the release date; that’s above board in news circles. But Jones did so out of guilt (and likely advice from lawyers and sponsors) over the fact that he was cashing in on a wholesome image while keeping an out-of-wedlock child a secret.
Yes, from a PR standpoint, it’s better if you spill your own beans rather than be found out. The story raised quite a few eyebrows, but had no real lingering effect on Jones. In the twilight of his career now, he’s still the face of the franchise.
Tiger’s situation is far different. He has remained out of sight as a parade of women claimed romantic links in tabloid stories; adding to the scandal was the recent 911 call involving his mother in law and obviously anguished wife. The man apparently has been keeping quite a few secrets, keeping his image and endorsements afloat.
(Updated 12/12/09: Woods has announced that he will take an “indefinite” leave from golf, and his statement used the word “infidelities.”)
(Updated 2/18/2010: Woods will make his first public appearance before news media Friday at PGA Tour HQ in Florida.)
I feel something of a connection with Woods, too. He’s part of the culture in Orange County, CA, where he graduated from Western High in Anaheim. As a longtime journalist in The OC, I was involved in quite a few stories about Woods as his career ascended at Stanford, then on the PGA Tour. Even in my San Diego journalism days, junior golf stories about Woods and parallel San Diego phenom Phil Mickelson would pop up.
Already, Woods’ problems have had a ripple effect in his home area. The Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, a $20 million facility, is a direct beneficiary of the Chevron World Challenge tournament that Woods had to withdraw from in December.
So the longer Woods remains secluded, the more people are going to joke, wonder and speculate. Perhaps he’s waiting to see exactly how much damage he has to control. There reportedly were facial injuries from the crash; perhaps he’s waiting for those to heal. But until we hear from the horse’s mouth about all this, what can we do?
No way to know how much Woods will suffer financially. The PGA Tour season starts in January, and Woods will have to dust off the cobwebs on the course before then. But remember that Chipper Jones won a National League MVP award after his disclosure. He was free of guilt and controversy. With Tiger, it may be just starting.