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The Descent of Pan

All my life I’ve been a fanatical all-round sports fan but the incident in which Tiger Woods was arrested for ‘DUI’ [driving under the influence] on Monday 29th May has caused plenty of reaction and had me wracking my brains.

In the UK I must have since read at least a dozen articles by senior/star ‘name’ journalists in the national newspapers either announcing this episode as effectively marking the end of Woods’ elite golfing career and/or writing about it in the past tense as if they have been drafting a ‘living obituary’.

The tougher of them actually took the trouble to shake themselves free of the traditional (“You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”) Devil’s Pact between hacks and sporting stars (or general celebrities) whereby – provided the latter don’t transgress the unwritten ‘integrity/decency’ media code – in return for scoops and/or insider (publicist-controlled) tit-bits of information that they can spice up their articles with, Fleet Street’s finest will turn a blind eye to the odd extra-marital affair, boozy night out and/or other minor indiscretion.

The other side of that coin, of course, is that – if any such star or celebrity should at any point suddenly be convicted of tax fraud, paedophilia, drunk driving and/or indeed be caught doing anything else upon an endless list that would warrant coverage of them being instantly switched from the sports or gossip sections to front page headline status – then the aforementioned Devil’s Pact is automatically jettisoned and the media hounds are unleashed with complete freedom to condemn and vilify said unfortunates howsoever they wish for the delectation of the general public.

Tiger2In Tiger Woods’ case there seemed to be a common theme running through this week’s media comments upon his DUI misfortune – which he and his people have subsequently and categorically stated was caused by an unexpected reaction to medication and certainly not by alcohol abuse.

It was to the effect that, beneath the scrupulously devised and constructed public edifice of Woods (i.e. as the ‘born fully-formed’ golfing genius prodigy who grew up into being the greatest sports ‘family man’, wholesome, league-ahead-of-the-others, sponsor-friendly money-making machine of all time) there has always been a much more complicated, darker, more insecure, troubled and frankly unpleasant personality.

It was carefully hidden from public view, of course, both by Woods (probably under instruction by his handlers) and his management and ‘people’.

The impression given by some of these articles was that – for what, fifteen to twenty years? – the Woods brand was able to maintain the fictions that supported its image as the ultimate one-man sporting icon in the world – on the back of which countless other young sporting careers (and also some very nice incomes indeed thank you) were launched and sprang into flower. Everybody and every corporation that has been successfully involved in modern golf to a degree owes it all to the Woods phenomenon.

Tiger3Until that pesky fire hydrant a few blocks down from his supposedly perfect house – and perfect marriage – got in the way and the avalanche of allegations about drunkenness, whores, good-time girls, one-night stands and god-knows-what-else dribbled out … and exposed Woods’ dodgy feet of clay.

Since then – with his career total of Major titles stalled on 14, four behind Jack Nicklaus, since 2008 – Woods’ descent from the summit of sport’s Mount Olympus to where he is now has been accompanied by a slew of serious injuries or niggles to his knees and most particularly his back – on which he is still having operations.

Will he ever play top-flight golf again? Will he ever regain his self-respect? Will he ever become a revered elder statesman of the sport at which he was certainly one of the most talented ever to walk the greens of Augusta? Will he ever get his life back on track?

It’s a sad, sad tale.



On top of which, ever since I saw Tiger’s police mug shot after his arrest last Monday, something was bothering me.

Where had I seen that tired, disheartened, haggard, bloated, dishevelled visage before?

Last night it came to me out of the blue. It was in the Popeye cartoons that I was addicted to when I was a small boy.

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods

You know Bluto, Popeye’s muscle-bound adversary and rival for the hand of Olive Oyl, don’t you? ….


About Tom Hollingworth

Tom Hollingsworth is a former deputy sports editor of the Daily Express. For many years he worked in a sports agency, representing mainly football players and motor racing drivers. Tom holds a private pilot’s licence and flying is his principal recreation. More Posts