I’d love to hear the adjectives that pop into everyone’s minds when they see that graphic. Is Fudgie the Whale moonlighting? What the hell is going on up there? Anyway, I heard fleetingly that a Tiger tweet the other day set off a rampage that momentarily sent Twitter crashing down. Egomaniacs around the world were forced to drop their cell phones for a moment and stare into a mirror (I missed the incident as it happened. I was checking my blog stats). It was Tiger’s first appearance on the social networking site in a long time, and obviously everyone wanted a piece of that, because you know Tiger, the guy is an open book. The tweets look to be part of a multi-pronged attack to rehab Tiger’s image and create a connection with the fans. He’s gone on Mike and Mike, he wrote a guest essay for Newsweek, and now he’s trying out Twitter. Brilliant plan, but there’s a far simpler one if Tiger can manage it. It involves only one step. Win a golf tournament. And, win it huge.
I think Tiger turning to these tactics says a lot about the state of his game. He has to know that some success is all it would take. In fact, part of me thinks we are a year late on this, because arrogant Tiger assumed he’d back on top by now. I’m sure he’s familiar with the case of Michael Vick. Vick spent last year trying to do image rehab and the reaction was a collective yawn. On the field Vick looked like he was swimming upstream and people complained he was breaking Donovan McNabb’s rhythm. No one wanted to read tweets from Vick, or hear him do interviews. What they wanted, they are getting this year, and that is dominance on the football field. The old speed, the old play-making ability, it is all back. And, for the most part, so are the fans. A group of people will always hate Vick for what he did, but that group is a lost cause, anyway. He can do image rehab for the next 50 years and it won’t help.
I’m sure there are a group of people who will never come back to Tiger as well, and so his recent actions are a bit puzzling. I have never heard anyone pining away for Tiger to be “nice,” or “accessible.” I’ve never heard, “You know who would be great on Twitter? Tiger Woods.” Following this cookie cutter model to redemption, or whatever you’d like to call it, is pointless for Woods. He’s got the fan base in place, but he’s got to give them something to cheer for. Tiger fans are in hibernation. The former World #1 hasn’t had a sniff (of a trophy) since the U.S. Open. So, he can sit around and do talk shows, tweet about Charlie eating Cheerios, but no one is really going to care until he wins again.
I don’t know what the consensus is, but image rehabilitation in general and in sports in particular is a false concept to me. Plenty of athletes have comeback from incidents or scandal, but I can’t think of many cases where I would say a person has definitely changed. Maybe in the case of some athletes that have overcome drug addiction or abuse you can say they accomplished something to be sure, but at the end of the day, is their image really changed or are they just someone who doesn’t do drugs anymore?
Or what about Kobe? Do you think he’s a great guy now, or has enough time passed and has he created enough headlines with his play to water down the negativity that surrounded his scandal? If Kobe was an a-hole before, I’d be quite certain that he still is one, but he’s been replaced. Just like Tiger replaced Vick, and Roethlisberger replaced Tiger, and Favre replaced Big Ben. All these guys are on different spots on the comeback tour, but the only surefire way to make people think you’ve changed is to go back to doing what you do best. In Tiger’s case that’s winning golf tournaments.