Yesterday in our parting shots segment of The Fast Lane, D’Marco determined that he won’t talk about Tiger Woods any more unless it has to do with his exploits on the golf course. There are legions of people that don’t want to hear about off-field activities and just want to concentrate on sports. I’m not one of those, of course. Like many people these days, I’m distracted by shiny objects, and this is one of them.
Only talking about what Tiger does on the golf course would be like only talking about what Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds did on the baseball field, only talking about what Shawn Kemp did on the basketball court, or only talking about what O.J. Simpson did on the football field. Their off-field exploits have forever branded them, and you can’t think of them without thinking of their scandal.
This TMZ-ization of sports started with two massive bombs that hit almost simultaneously in 1994. That was the year that I got my first computer with internet access. Almost immediately after we first dialed up and signed on with AOL, entrepreneural people began to see the value not only of immediate news from the ‘net, but of publicly reported news. With the advent of e-mail, camera phones, and the ability to share and publish information so quickly, we became a global community. And as you know, every community has it’s rumor and gossip. Now, we could talk over the fence from St. Louis to Miami, if we so desired.
At about the same time of the internet boom, O.J. Simpson allegedly killed his wife and Ron Goldman. The story exploded internationally, and for the first time we saw literally hundreds of satellite trucks outside his house, and eventually outside the courthouse. A mainstream media that used to cover government, politics and the economy…you know, the news…now began to cover celebrity.
So we had this melding of the news media and new media covering spectacular celebrity scandal. And it worked. MSNBC was built on the O.J. trial. People made careers off of it, and one of those was Harvey Levins, the founder of TMZ.com. Once business people recognized the thirst of our society for celebrity gossip and scandal, all bets were off.
Michael Jackson dealt with it’s impact. Kobe Bryant did. Bonds. McGwire. Mel Gibson. We can go down the list. But the point is, morning news shows became Entertainment Tonight, and for many people, Entertainment Tonight became the evening news. Right before 9-11, the biggest story in our country was the breakup of Anne Heche and Ellen Degeneres. Now, Tiger.
So we can all say that we’ll only talk about Tiger the golfer from now on, but that’s not realistic. Tiger has moved beyond that. Tiger is going to be remembered for more than his ability to get out of trouble on a golf course, he’s going to be remembered for his ability to get IN trouble OFF the course. It’ll never end, because those camera phones and I-reporters are going to be around for the rest of his life.
And he can thank the internet and O.J.