Tiger Woods is the most spectacular golfer who has ever lived.  The skill with which he participates in the sport has made him an incredibly wealthy man.  His earnings have topped a billion dollars.  He is indeed a public icon.  Many people are naturally interested in what he says and does.

But question:  should Mr. Woods's status as a public figure deny him personal privacy?  When he walks down the street, people intrude upon him to ask for his autograph or attempt to engage him in conversation.  He is constantly bombarded and pestered by the public wherever he goes and whatever he does.  Like a number of other celebrities, Mr. Woods is paying an enormous price for his fame.  But at what point, if any, should the media be absent from his life?

Let me suggest that, with the exception of golf games in which he competes, the media should have no right and no power to question him about anything that would not be grounds for interrogating an average person.  Subjects forbidden to the media include, but are not limited to, how he and his wife, pictured above, get along with each other, how he relates to his children, and, yes, the "other women," if any, in his life?  All these matters should be off limits. 

Mr. Woods is a human being.  He is not perfect and will never be.  Many temptations undoubtedly present themselves to him.  Whether he withstands them I cannot say.  Nor do I really concern myself.  It is primarily between Mr. Woods, his family, and God.  Everyone has sufficient stress in his life without trying to nose into another person's business.

If and when Mr. Woods is involved in a legal action requiring him to answer specific questions, then let those questions be asked and answered.  If the resulting information is not shielded from public disclosure, then so be it.  But, for goodness sake, let's move on!

So why the disgusting media frenzy over an incident in Mr. Woods's driveway, involving him and his wife?  It reveals much more about us – and our own moral and spiritual bankruptcy – than about them.  What path have we followed as a people that leads us to gawk at sports heroes and Hollywood stars as if we are beholding a divine burning bush?  Are we really as depraved as this?  François La Rouchefoucauld, a seventeenth century French intellectual once wrote, "There is something in the misfortunes of others that does not displease us."  This maxim is precisely correct.  We see it in the "rubber-necking" practices of drivers following a traffic accident, when some daredevil tempts fate and is almost killed, and when celebrities get into trouble. The Frenchman's insight is spot on, yet sickening to witness.

Let me make a few suggestions.  First, if you happen to pass Mr. Woods (or any other celebrity) on the street, don't speak to him if he doesn't first speak to you.  Don't gawk at him and his family.  If he asks a simple question, be courteous and give him a simple answer.  In the event he happens to mention any aspect of his life, then engage him about that aspect of it if you wish to do so.

Second, the media are a bunch of bottom-feeders.  They are concerned, first and foremost, with their advertising sales and ratings, and rarely demonstrate any probity or intelligence whatsoever. They are gossip-mongers, who contribute little or nothing to the good of society. In the event that you are pumped by a media jackal for information, let me encourage you to respond, "Sorry, but you're talking to the wrong person."  If that doesn't work, remember that there are excellent methods of nonverbal communication.

And, oh, yes, a third thing.  In the unlikely event that a celebrity asks to discuss his or her personal life with you, it's permissible to say, "I'm very sorry, but I have  significant matters which require my attention."  After all, we in America's underclass are supposed to have a life too, aren't we?

December 2, 2009