by | Apr 16, 2010 | Detroit Free Press, Sports | 0 comments

Let’s talk about that commercial. You know the one. Tiger Woods staring into the camera, looking forlorn, as his dead father’s voice talks about being “inquisitive” and “prone to discussion” and ends with the words, “Did you learn anything?”

Ha. If he’d learned anything, Tiger would have told whatever Nike genius came up with this idea, “No way. We don’t exploit my deceased father to sell my contrition.” After all, didn’t he say, in his first news conference after a five-month exile, that what really mattered now was family?

Instead, Woods willingly agreed to the father’s ghost ad, even endorsed it to the media once it came out, calling it “very apropos.” This makes you wonder if Tiger actually lives on the same planet as his body and mouth.

Remember, this is the guy who promised, days before the Masters, to no longer get so “hot” on the course, to show more “respect” to the game. Yet in the first round, he was yelling after bad shots. And by the weekend, he’d used the Lord’s name in vain, hollered “Jesus Christ” (and not in the prayerful manner) and at one point screamed, “Tiger Woods…you suck!”

Those words would have gotten a fan thrown out of Augusta.

Nobody threw Tiger out.

But everyone was listening. Enter the spin doctors

I’m sure Tiger and his corporate army had been privately hoping for a single-splash redemption at the Masters. It would have gone like this: 1) Come back at the biggest event of the year. 2) Wow the press with your new attitude. 3) Win, proving you are the greatest golfer on the planet. 4) Make all the sex scandal stuff go away.

Obviously, they bogeyed that plan. In truth, as the Masters went on, as that commercial aired, as Woods was both ungracious AND unable to claim the leaderboard, I think he did more damage to himself than if he’d stayed away a while longer.

The ad, in particular, was a disaster. Many found it creepy. There are even reports that Woods’ wife, Elin, was put off by it. What amazed me is how clumsily Woods and Nike stumbled into this mess. Didn’t they realize that using Earl Woods as some kind of Obi-Wan Kenobi would make people wonder where the voice came from?

Didn’t they think we would discover that Earl hadn’t been speaking to Tiger when he said those things? That he had been talking in a 2004 documentary about the difference between him and his wife?

Undeterred, Nike found the sound of Earl saying “Tiger,” spliced it into the front of the other sentences, and made it seem as if he were speaking from the grave to the son he often referred to as a messiah.

The whole commercial was a fraud.

And fraud is the last thing Tiger should be dallying with. Actions speak volumes

Now, I have said many times that Woods’ sex life and marriage are none of our business. And the media pile-on was disgraceful, as it always is.

But when Woods wanted privacy, it was generally granted. You can’t then decide, “OK, now I want to use the media I chased away to re-shape my image.” You don’t use your dead father as a marketing tool after you’ve been complaining about intrusions on your private life.

Personally, I doubted Woods’ sincerity the moment he refused to admit what he’d been in rehab for, telling a news conference, “that’s personal,” even though the whole world knew it was some kind of sex therapy. It’s as if Woods believes we are all puppets in the Nike universe, there to be spun, manipulated and cashed out, totally controlled by what he does or doesn’t reveal.

The truth is, Woods revealed a lot when he said he only entered the Masters to win it, so the return was a failure for him. He revealed a lot when he potty-mouthed on the course. He revealed a lot in participating in that shameless commercial.

Mostly he revealed, when his father’s voice asks chillingly, “Did you learn anything?” that the answer, for now, is no.

Contact MITCH ALBOM: 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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