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Voice of the 'Fan

No one is immune to scandal

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Call it the Gillette Curse, if you like, but it seems rather odd that two prominent athletes who've endorsed Gillette products in recent years have embroiled themselves in scandal in recent weeks.

French soccer star Thierry Henry had been previously known to American audiences as "Who's that guy?" with Tiger Woods & Roger Federer in a Gillette ad campaign about a year or so ago. As a result, Woods & Federer were given a new playmate this year in baseball superstar Derek Jeter, who, like Woods, didn't need another endorsement deal. Right before Thanksgiving, however, Henry got caught red-handed----literally---in a World Cup qualifier between France and Ireland. Henry made a hand pass on a crucial goal that enabled the French to win the game. Henry has apologized publicly, but FIFA, the governing body of the sport, has chosen to punish the game officials who blew the call. Henry is willing to accept any sort of punishment, but as of now, none is forthcoming.

And, then, there is Woods, the #1 golfer in the world, the latest celebrity to feel the heat of tabloid media's relentless scrutiny. A simple auto accident on 11/27 has mushroomed into another case of a sports hero hiding some tawdry indiscretions, and of course tabloids like the National Enquirer and the NY Post will jump all over it. In the case of the Post, Woods' alleged secret girlfriends are more important than the President's plans for military movements overseas, insofar as their front page is concerned. Hard news always takes a backseat to scandal.

I got a kick out of a remark Woods made in a statement issued 12/1, claiming he didn't know how severe the tabloid coverage would be. He knows now, just like so many others before him, including fellow golfer John Daly, who's been quick to defend Woods, knowing first-hand what the tabloids will do to destroy a man's reputation for the sake of a few extra bucks at the checkout counter.

Sportswriters like "Around the Horn" panelist Bill Plaschke of the LA Times believed Woods didn't owe the public any sort of explanation for his Black Friday mishap. Woods has issued his apology, like his friend Henry, but at this stage, an apology is like a piece of paper flying in the winds of scandal.

Woods & Henry will both recover from their miscues, Henry likely sooner, since the American press doesn't give soccer as much play as they would most sports, golf included. Woods, because of his many endorsement deals, is stuck in the eye of the storm because of how today's society has been conditioned to learn every detail, no matter how minute it might be, no matter if it's true or false. As long as his case remains unresolved, he'll remain a top story on "Inside Edition", "The Insider", etc., because, to paraphrase Eric Bischoff, controversy creates ratings, moreso than Woods' exploits on the course.

It just never fails. When a top athlete is poised on the cusp of history, as Woods is with his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' record for golf majors, he gets blindsided by the darker side of fame. The mountain adds another peak in the middle, making the quest that much harder to complete. Woods has risen from adversity before, and who knows? Maybe when the Masters rolls around in 4 months' time, this will all be forgotten. We can only hope.
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