A couple of weeks ago we were asked by one media outlet to comment upon the Gosselin divorce. While this certainly was a “media opportunity” the plain truth is that there was not a great deal to say that would have been newsworthy.
The Gosselins were a phenomenon created by the media. While their family situation was most unusual, they were not unique nor newsworthy but for the fact that they had so many children and that got them a television show. In the end, their notoriety made them somewhat wealthy and newsworthy but there was no true staying power to the story. One has to wonder whether their marriage would have survived had they been the same people they started out as; a young couple with a large family struggling to make it all work. Ten years from now, they will be a trivia question and little more.
The Woods situation is quite different. It is clear to anyone who can read a newspaper or click onto “The Golf Channel” that Mr. Woods changed the sport in a way much as Arnold Palmer did in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He is the face of the sport. But fame comes at a price and brings with it many complications far beyond the ken of the young people upon whom the fame is bestowed.
We have no real familiarity with the situation but Mr. Woods was “built” from birth to become a world class golfer. And in that aspect, he succeeded admirably. But we commend to you a careful reading of Andre Agassi’s autobiography “Open”. It describes a childhood not unlike that experienced by children who worked in coal mines in the early 20th century. Yes, Mr. Agassi was hitting tennis balls in exclusive clubs throughout his childhood but after one has hit 1,000 serves during the course of a weekend of practice, is the result any more enjoyable than separating bituminous from anthracite coal on a conveyor belt? Woods has not yet written his story and chances are it will be some time before he does but we suspect that while most of us were at proms and hanging out during high school at the neighbor’s pool, Mr. Woods was devoting his time to safely exiting sandtraps and pot bunkers. Having devoted his childhood and the first decade of his adult life almost exclusively to golf, it is little wonder that he may have been tempted to indulge in other sports.
From a divorce side, the fascination for us is in the “issue” of brand value. We are told that Mr. Woods has earned more than $1 billion dollars in his relatively short career. But the brand produced as much as $100 million dollars a year in revenue and until a month ago that brand seemed to have no foreseeable end. Thus, it made perfect sense for him to renegotiate with his wife what was a $20 million payout after ten years (the couple has been married for five) and “up” the payments to $80 million if it would buy silence and peace for the “Woods brand” This revelation however, only caused the number of sexual claimants to multiply. If Ms. Wood’s can quadruple her “take” in exchange for her silence, why can’t every woman who kissed, slept or claims to have had a relationship with Mr. Woods sign on for some kind of remuneration or a moment of fame. In a word, the levee broke and we now have an entire coterie of women claiming that they were involved in some way or another.
The reason why Mr. Woods could earn $100 million a year was because he was not only a fabulous golfer but was perceived to be squeaky clean. John Daley could win the grand slam and four other majors and never hope to equal that kind of income. So, if guilty, it is only fair that the endorsements depart and Mr. Wood’s will have to resort to a journeyman’s income of $20-30 million. But what is sad, and often lost in this the race to “the truth” is that two young people with small children are caught in a maelstrom of controversy that only hurts them and their offspring. Their advisers are largely “friends” who feel badly for her and who live from the income that his huge prestige has provided. Most of us will never know what that kind of wealth and notoriety bring. But they come with a price and that is the complete loss of privacy not only for one’s self but for family as well. And while we often find ourselves coveting the wealth and notoriety of others, realize as well that these blessings come at a price that is almost as great as the benefits they bestow.
There is also very real contrast to be drawn. The media made the Gosselins and, we can speculate, by making them famous, they planted the seeds of marital destruction. It may have happened in any event but, as with the Woods family, fame and wealth created temptations. But Mr. Woods’ talent will afford him the capacity to make many millions more. The Gosselins are famous by circumstance and the television show that made them famous was among the first to reject them when their fantasy world crumbled. We all aspire to be rich and famous but, as they approach this season of thanksgiving we suspect that wealth and fame are not being celebrated in two households that started 2009 as our vision of ultimate success stories.