SPORT / Earl From the Grave : Tiger and the Nike Ad

The Nike ad:
Tiger the Brand finally conquers Tiger the Man

By Dave Zirin / April 9, 2010

Why is the new Nike ad with a downcast yet proudly resilient Tiger Woods hearing the voice of his dead father making me so furious? It defies logic.

After all, we just came through a week during which we saw film footage of the U.S. military taking part in what is being called “collateral murder.” Death threats have been sent to Democratic members of Congress by right wing lunatics for the crime of passing a healthcare bill that could have been penned by Mitt Romney. And then take Pope Benedict and his Catholic defenders. Seriously. Please take them. I’d suggest somewhere hot.

In the context of our enduring global fever-dream, a tacky ad in which Nike and Tiger conspire to exploit the memory of Earl Woods is hardly that big a deal — particularly since if Earl Woods were alive, he would have supported this exercise in grave robbing 100 percent.

But the idea that Tiger and Nike would see the incredible turmoil that has engulfed Tiger’s life as an opportunity to rebrand Tiger and sell us more swoosh-laden crap is simply sickening. Every single member of the golf media and every fan who has felt sympathy for his self-destructive plight should feel like a grade-A sucker.

Every person impressed with his professed recommitment to the Buddhist faith and his family should be deeply offended that it was all just a springboard aimed at cashing in. And every golf fan and pro golfer should be furious that he’s shellacked another layer of controversy onto the most prestigious tournament on the tour, the Masters at Augusta.

There is a small part of me delighted that Tiger’s awful ad will further cloud an event whose history of segregation and exclusion would even give pause to our Confederate Governor of Virginia, “Robert E.” McDonnell.

But any joy at the discomfort of grown men with ten-figure bank accounts named Hootie and Billy is outpaced by the sheer cultural rock bottom that this ad represents, not to mention what it says about Woods himself.

I really believed that in the wake of his Odyssey of scandal and humiliation, there would be a showdown inside Tiger’s soul between the brand and the man. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There is no man, only brand.

If he wants to dehumanize himself on his own time then more power to him. But this ad dehumanizes all of us. One thing however is abundantly clear: If Tiger loses this weekend, Nike loses as well. Neither deserve to make the cut, on the course or otherwise. Tiger the brand has now wholly consumed Tiger the man.

[Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love (Scribner) Receive his column every week by emailing Contact him at]

Source / The Nation

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2 Responses to SPORT / Earl From the Grave : Tiger and the Nike Ad

  1. “Tiger the brand has now totally consumed Tiger the man.”

    And thus he is a paradigm of the times, is he not?

    Dave, did you actually know Tiger the man b4 he was exposed as a cheating husband, another over-wealthy “athlete” who can have whatever he wants because of WHO (the brand) he is? Just asking … because if you were really a close personal friend maybe you would have had a clue what was going on? Or are you simply another person who has been sucked into the “persona” marketed for and by Tiger Woods since he became a celebrated pro golfer?

    I never met the man, but was not surprised by either his serial infidelity or his comeback as a “new, improved” Tiger. You are only disappointed if you expect something different.

    Love your column; love to have it here in the Rag Blog — but none of us have any reason to be MAD at Tiger, or Nike, that we didn’t already have, did we?

    And even Buddhists gotta make a living, unless we go out with the ol’ begging bowl… personally, I would LIKE to sell or barter a few hand-made Dharma Wheels to Buddhist and/or Hindu devotees! Maybe I should try to get an endorsement from TW or his dead Dad?

    *** ATTN: Thorne, I’m sorry if that last bit violates the Rag Blog’s anti-commerciality rule. Trying to make a point about how society works, and the nuttiness of thinking Tige ISN’T in it for the money! Figure out a way to accept advertising dollars and I will figure out a way to pay you!

  2. I was stunned at the ad’ – I really thought it was a bogus, one-time item and then learned it wasn’t. So tasteless!!!

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