By Steve Stajich
Oh the sadness and disappointment when our heroes sometimes trip and fall, revealing that they are normal size and strength humans just like us. Of course it’s our own fault for believing that once someone has become any sort of living legend they will never let us down by suffering the same sort of bad luck or unpleasantness we all have to deal with in our lives.
Tiger Woods won America’s hearts and respect by being a champion who earned everything that came to him by hard work, discipline, and respecting the guidance of his father. He was old school that way, and thus we held him close. He became ours, a product of our yearning for our children to be like him and to hug their parents after winning a major golf title.
And then late one night, there was some kind of dust-up at his home… a domestic disturbance. Thanks to that brush fire we learned that, not unlike a lot of other men, Tiger enjoyed the company of exotic dancers. And then last Monday Woods was arrested for driving under the influence. Thanks to the Internet, which always adds a double dose of speed to any story with the potential to bring people down to size, the core information #Tiger #DUI #AsleepAtTheWheel blazed through the Media Dome. It didn’t help that it was Memorial Day weekend, allowing for an extra dollop of “Uh huh, I see…” on the incident.
I had not heard of Tiger’s bust or the exact nature of it via any legitimate media until after I read snarky posts on Facebook. Based on the emotions that were being “expressed” on FB, I was certain that Woods had been caught with illegal drugs or what we still quaintly call a “hooker.” The schadenfreude raining down on Woods seemed way out of proportion to his being found intoxicated and alone on a roadside.
And then, Act Two. Tests revealed that Woods had no alcohol in his system. Now his explanation of having “an unexpected reaction” to prescription pain medicine seemed not only more credible but likely. This new scenario was something more like we would expect from a champ suffering with back pain. Cue music and tender words of forgiveness.
But social media was able to get the knives out before all the facts were known. And that’s something worth noting in a society that still needs to lift people up on its shoulders. Of course that particular hinge in our culture bends both ways. We tend to forgive many who are often not worthy of forgiveness when it simply works for us to do that. The Boston Patriots get a pass as often as they catch a pass. Rappers, Kardashians, evangelical TV preachers… that hinge will often bend the other way so that those folks can remain where we want them to be.
This is where it might feel like enough just to drag out the old saw about how everybody puts their pants on one leg at a time. And it’s a human foible to get some tiny tidbit of information and run with it burning in your hands before you’ve given the situation time to fully reveal it.
But here’s my modest proposal: Resist the temptation to think that your own opinion on some news event must be delivered to social media within 24 hours or less. Of late, Facebook has become just one big Alpenhorn (the thing played on ads for Ricola Cough Drops) where all your friends line up to blow their note immediately after some news out of Washington. Understand, I’m not asking people to cease and desist on the resistance; just the opposite: Give yourself the benefit of time to guide your next expression of resistance so that perhaps the gelling of a cohesive opposing constituency can take place.
As far as taking it easy on celebrities, I think we’re past any hope of redemption there. Not that long ago, fans pressed celebrities for their autograph. That’s no longer enough. Now, regardless of whether someone who works in TV or film for a living is simply out walking their dog or taking their child to the zoo, fans demand a photograph that proves they just had an encounter. Demand? If for some reason you want the knives to come out as they did for Tiger, just say “No” when they ask for a selfie. You’ll be social media toast by morning.
This is where I’m tempted to recommend director John Schlesinger’s superb film, “Day of the Locusts,” and advise substituting Internet posting riots with the riot depicted near the end of that movie. But I don’t really think we’re all that intense. I do think we should examine our new-found ability to make a solid from vapor – the vapor of our private thoughts solidifying as posts – to make sure we don’t pull the starter cord on our digital chainsaws without first considering all that the trees in the forest provide: Shade, beauty, shelter. That goes for the need to protect endangered species, such as tigers. Thank you, but I’m now out metaphors.