Well, everyone who knows me should know how I feel about how Tiger Woods conducted his personal life. And everyone has commented on his apology – Did he mean it? Is he truly sorry? Is it really any of our business?
Of course there’s no way to resolve that. You can’t see into his heart and soul and know for sure. But you can measure life experience and use it to sniff out someone who’s apologizing just because they got caught. There’s something missing from someone who can’t put their hat in their hands, accept blame and apologize without condition. Just because you apologize doesn’t mean you get forgiven, you have to be contrite to deserve it.
And now Nike gives us a commercial, featuring Woods’ late father in voice over, asking what he was thinking. Tiger, grim faced in black and white, stares out at the screen in a mask of…what? You could read it as controlled pain and frustration. You could read it as a poker face, someone trying not to let you glean what cards he’s holding. You could read it as spare footage Nike had laying around and they were happy to have a use for it.
Perhaps all three.
What’s most telling about the commercial, though, is what it tells us about our culture as a whole. The simple fact of the matter is, we consider a commercial as a valid means of personal communication regardless of how we feel about Tiger’s sincerity. Think about that. It’s like we’re living a chapter out of The Space Merchants already.
We have legitimized product, advertising and brand loyalty to the point that it’s a valid form of personal communication. This is a no-lose situation for Nike. People are talking about the commercial and people know that Nike did it, and so they’re reinforcing their brand.
Tiger gets to act as spokesman – justifying their rather expensive investment in him as a product as well – without having to utter a word and therefore spur angry protests from people who feel that he’s too reprehensible a person to speak to us about what items of clothing we should wear or sports drink we should consume. Naturally, because they don’t see that it highlights the absurdity of the celebrity spokesman in the first place, or the tendency of people to view celebrities as metaphysical validators of their choices.
And weirdest of all it keeps the discussion going. Instead of shrugging it off and viewing it as nothing more than a means for Nike to lodge more firmly in your brain so that you choose their product when you buy a pair of running shoes to wear on the escalator to purchase a burger at the food court, we’ve accepted it as a valid forum for discussing Woods’ actions as a man, a husband, a father and a professional.
I can’t possibly be the only person who sees the absurdity there. I know that. It’s like a nightmare bizarro world. We believe in loyalty to our iPods, our running shoes, “our brands” – though out of the same mouth many of us condemn the people that run them as vile greed-mongers with the audacity to get paid millions of dollars when our compulsive spending habits give them millions of dollars to make.
We show disdain for people that make millions of dollars. We look to strike them low as the emotional balance to continue funneling them their salaries one movie ticket or football game at a time. Be successful, but not too successful – we have the right to hate you for what we willingly give to you.
I realize that in some ways I’m off-topic now. But everything is interconnected.
We define ourselves by our brands. We judge people harshly while at the same time refusing to allow our own choices to be judged – and then align ourselves based on a subliminal uniform. You have an iPod? Excellent, that means we are of the same hive mind. You wear Nike shoes? Excellent, then we can both get shot for our Air Jordans.
We refuse to accept responsibility for our actions, because we laud those whom we condemn for theirs, so we can feel powerful in our forgiveness of them. Think about it – people place themselves in a psychological position to feel like they are more powerful than Tiger, or Britney or Angelina or whomever. It’s how we level the playing field and, in a way, I think it’s a way to salve our own consciences at our inability to improve ourselves. Maybe on some level we consider it part of what we purchase when we go to the movies or buy their product.
Look at the Star Wars fan base, just to show I’m not above turning on my own kind. They consider it their purchased right to act as arbiters of George Lucas’ artistic efforts, because they make the choice to go out and buy as many products related to it as possible. They then (I’m generalizing here) consider it not the least bit hypocritical to turn on their heel and use phrases like “raped my childhood” when they refer to the products they continue to purchase. They level personal accusations and criticisms at Mr. Lucas like they know him personally – and either they want to put on a dress and date him or kill him, or first one then the other in no specific order. The level of vitriol is amazing.
But at the same time, they get to exercise a power that this man worth $5 Billion can never take away. So long as you don’t point out their own rank hypocrisies, because then they hide behind the banner of relativism, saying you can’t judge them.
Believe it or not, I believe in the basic God-given goodness of spirit in people. We aren’t born this way, we’ve allowed our own bad decisions to be the sliding scale for our common moral code. In a way it’s a bit of history repeating; whenever any civilization becomes powerful and decadent, it decays into oblivion. It’s sad, and it’s preventable.
But we probably won’t, which is sad. But that’s OK too. After night there is day and after every storm is peace. Nothing is permanent, especially not the bad stuff. So as critical as all of this may sound, I’m not the least bit upset.
I’m just disappointed because we do know better and we have history to show us how to change. Either after a fall or hopefully before, we’ll get back to what matters and try again. I know that.
So I guess the closing point is, Nike is to blame for this long-winded blog.