December 22nd, 2009
04:40 PM ET

Forgetting Tiger

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Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

The Tiger Woods story has triggered a memory that led me to two old photos. One photo is real. One is doctored.

The Book of Laughter & Forgetting Tiger

I read about the photos 30 years ago in the Czech author Milan Kundera’s “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.”

The original photo, on the left, was taken in February of 1948.

In Kundera’s account, this moment represented the birth of communism in Czechoslovakia.

The Czech Communist leader, Klement Gottwald, [the man on the right of the photo] had just stepped out on the balcony of a Baroque palace in Prague, before “hundreds of thousands of citizens massed in the Old Town Square. Gottwald was flanked by his comrades, with (Vladimir) Clementis [two faces to the left] standing close to him. It was snowing and cold, and Gottwald was bearheaded.”

Kundera continues:

“Bursting with solicitude, Clementis took off his fur hat and set it on Gottwald’s head.”

So, that fur hat you see on Gottwald’s head was given to him by comrade Clementis, who sacrificed his own warmth for his comrade’s.

That gesture of communist solidarity caught the attention of the Communist Party propaganda machine.

They “made hundreds of thousands of copies of the photograph taken on the balcony, where Gottwald, in a fur hat and surrounded by his comrades, spoke to the people.

Every child knew that photograph, from seeing it on posters and in schoolbooks and museums.

Four years later, Clementis was charged with treason and hanged.

The propaganda section immediately made him vanish from history and, of course, from all photographs.

Ever since, Gottwald has been alone on the balcony. Where Clementis stood, there is only the bare palace wall.

Nothing remains of Clementis but the fur hat on Gottwald’s head."

The doctored photo on the right is all that remained – until the age of the internet brought back the original.

Those photos make me think of Tiger.

Airbrushing Tiger

Tiger Woods’ acknowledgment of “transgressions,” has spurred a similar reaction to his omnipresent images from some free enterprise business comrades.

The huge consulting firm Accenture has treated Tiger the way so many felt: as if he’d committed treason against the brand. It dropped its sponsorship of Woods, saying he “just wasn’t a metaphor for high performance anymore.”

The New York Times describes how, “hours after Accenture ended its sponsorship deal, the golfer’s face was replaced by an anonymous skier on the company’s home page. His name was scrubbed almost completely from the rest of the web site.”

But images of Tiger endorsing the Accenture brand survive. So many airport terminals. So many corporate tchotchkes. So many web sites. It’s harder to make people disappear in the age of the internet than it was back in the 20th Century.

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Tiger on Newsstands Today

I just picked up the Golf Digest January 2010 cover story headlined “10 Tips Obama Can Take From Tiger” (pre disclosure.) The issue is irresistible.

And Tiger’s words in that issue before his transgressions were acknowledged, are extremely valuable lessons for a large segment of the population. His advice in that piece convinces me that Tiger Woods will never be out of the picture. Here’s a brief excerpt.

(Editor’s note: please resist the urge to read double meanings into every sentence that follows.)

“AS a result of recent swing changes, it’s easier for me to shape tee shots, even my natural draw. I’m letting the club release along the line of my setup instead of muscling the ball with my upper body, which I did at times when my bad knee prevented a good shift into impact.”

Tiger continues:

“At the tour level you have to be able to hit different sand shots, because the bunkers are so varied and a stroke saved can make all the difference.” (please! You weren’t paying attention to the editor’s note on that last phrase.) “To hit a longer bunker shot, I rotate my body faster to the finish.”

OK – enough.

The point is this.

If you’re serious about golfing, you’ll want to see and hear from Tiger again.

Closeup shots of his back swing. And his short game. And his putts. And his body alignments.

Even if you’re not a golfer, you’ll probably want to hear from him. Golf is a mind game. And who’s not rightfully curious about whether he’ll get his mind back in the game.

Tiger Woods’ each individual twist and turn is not of great consequence.

But the universally fascinating question, in his tragic fall, is this.

Will Tiger be back in the picture again?

I think the answer is this.

Tiger Woods will be back in the picture if Tiger Woods chooses to be back in the picture.

But I don’t expect we’ll ever see the same image.

soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. J.V.Hodgson

    Oh my god he's a human being and a man who committed sins, and also true that probably 60% of the whole world wide male population has done the same! (most do not get caught.) More % if you include religious groups that allow multiple "wives"!!
    I personally do not agree with his actions but:-
    1) It has nothing to do with his golf skills unless you believe that s....ing around helps!?!?
    2) What happens next between him, his wife and children especially is for them to decide, no one else. that is really private and should remain so to all!!
    His sponsors do not need media advice about what to do, they are part of the Media!!So news media stop advising or hinting to them what they have to do. Tiger, his agents and they can decide!

    December 23, 2009 at 3:18 am |
  2. Larry

    Great read:) I'm a longtime fan of Tiger Woods the golfer as well as Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, etc. Its about their performance on any given course that makes me a fan who loves to watch them play the game. The tabloid stuff I leave to the folk that get their jollies out of that kind of material.

    December 22, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  3. Rachael

    He is a human and humans make mistakes. The same thing happened to Bill C. They smear his name for making a mistake. But we only need tiger to be good at golf and we only needed Bill to be a good president. The rest is not important. The only person that Tiger should have to answer to now is his wife.

    December 22, 2009 at 5:30 pm |
  4. Linda B., Ga.

    Michael, this is a GREAT READ and I totally agree with you.

    Tiger should come back, he's one of the BEST golfers that ever lived, IF not THE BEST. As far as his transgressions go (ahem!) does anybody think for 1 minute that he is the ONLY one that ever committed them....NOT!!!! There are too many hypocritics walking around, in, this world, casting way to many stones...

    It's time to get back to the sport of Golf, with TIGER in competition....he's a major draw to the sport....

    Thanks for the article 🙂

    December 22, 2009 at 3:16 pm |
  5. Leone

    Tiger never claimed to be good at anything except golf.

    Yet, we expect that if one excells in one area, one excells in al all areas. Renaissance Man is no longer attainable, and only the foolish reach for it as a goal. "I" v "We", or "Team" as all those motivational folks like to note.

    December 22, 2009 at 1:07 pm |