Which Was the Dumber Tiger Woods Comment?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

So, on Sunday, Brit Hume said this:

"The extent to which he can recover seems to me depends on his faith," said Hume. "He is said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of redemption and forgiveness offered by the Christian faith. My message to Tiger is, 'Tiger turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world"

This was startling, and by that I mean, I was startled - it seemed almost as if Brit Hume was casting out bait in a Borat/Bruno/Colbert type of way - to actually say on Fox News (fair and balanced) that Tiger Woods should convert his religion as..I guess...a get out of jail free pass for the infidelity to his just seems bizarre on every possible level (including the following (1) this is a weird year, with the Sanford/Ensign/Pickering sex scandals that hit very publically Christian politicians to prop that religion above others as the path to marital redemption, and (2) the new Fox News defense to being nothing more than a Republican water carrier {as opposed to the old defense which was it was just tellin' the truth} is that while the commentators in the evening may have ideological bents, the straight newsmen are no different than any other network.) 

Hume then went on O'Reilly and said this:

Jesus Christ offers Tiger Woods something that Tiger Woods badly needs...

...if Tiger Woods were to make a true conversion, we would know it. It would show through in his — in his being, and he would know it, above all. And he would feel the extraordinary blessing that that would be. And — and it would shine because he is so prominent. It would be — it would be a shining light, and I think it would be a — it would be a magnificent thing to witness... speak the name, Jesus Christ, and I don’t — and I don’t mean to make a pun here, but all hell breaks loose. And — and it has always been thus. It is explosive.

That's been offered today - that it's not Brit Hume who was expressing some type of religious bigotry by saying "Tiger needs to dump that zero Buddha and get with a hero Jesus" it's the response which is bigoted - that the negative reaction to his comments is a sign of Christian persecution (a completely fraudulent right wing meme).

This, of course, is easily disproven. What would the reaction be had a newsperson of Brit Hume's profile seriously said that any one of the high profile Christians in sex scandals should convert to Buddhism?  That he should leave Christianity, as it doesn't offer a sufficient path to redemption and become a Buddhist.  That it would not just be good for him, but for all of us to watch as a lesson, that it would be a remarkable thing to witness.

And then - after that newsman said "leave Jesus, that's your way out of this" - that he (and the other Buddhists) would seriously respond to the criticism of him with "there you go again with your anti-Buddhist rhetoric."

This of course would require there was a Buddhist news broadcaster as prominent as Hume - and then a talk show as prominent as O'Reilly's where that Buddhist news broadcaster could then go the following night to reaffirm his comments.  And a host of friendly bloggers and commentators who would then chime in to agree with that Buddhist broadcaster.  The ridiculousness of that scenario highlights the ridiculousness of the anti-Christian complaints.  We don't live in a country where not-Jesus has remotely the same platform as Jesus; the default position is a Christian worldview.  Me - I'm not interested in either religion or any of their competitors; it's a war of foods I do not eat. 

But I don't want to hear Brit Hume say if "Mark Sanford would renounce Jesus and admit there is no god it would be a powerful message of redemption.  If he would just recognize the truth of atheism he would make a remarkable recovery and be a powerful example to the world."

I mean, I would like to hear it - 'cause that would be bananas (and Brit Hume's very last day on television) and I like it when things go all weird on my tv, but I wouldn't agree with it.  Tiger Woods didn't sleep around because he's Buddhist (by the way, Tiger Woods is Buddhist?...really?) and Mark Sanford didn't "hike the Appalachian Trail" because he's a Christian.

Or maybe they did.  But how the hell do I know? 

And that's, I guess, my real message here tonight, both about Hume and about Buzz Bissinger (the second Tiger Woods comment, which I'll get to in a moment). 

Brit Hume suggested that another adult change his religion.

Who does that? 

Would you ever say to someone you did not know who was a member of one religion that he should switch in time of crisis?

What would happen if someone did that to you?  How would Brit Hume respond if someone said (on TV, no less) that he should renounce Jesus for Buddhism?  Why does Brit Hume care to what god Tiger Woods prays?  Who tells someone else to change religions?  When did that become okay to do on the news?

And then this happened.  Four year old pics of a jacked Tiger Woods hit the stands in Vanity Fair, along with a Buzz Bissinger piece where he called Tiger a "sex addict". 

That's not the comment to which I'm referring.  On ESPN's Outside the Lines today, Bissinger said, this is "the biggest fall ever by a celebrity" and "a lot of us feel betrayed" and "I don't think anyone ever imagined a guy like this doing what he did."

The first quote is just hyperbole, he doesn't really mean it - unless Tiger cut off the heads of his wife and her waiter friend over the holidays, probably we can locate a greater fall if we search our memory banks.  And the third quote is just naive, which wouldn't be a word I'd otherwise ascribe to Bissinger, who seems as if he's seen the world a couple of times - but megarich, megafamous, good looking young athlete has lots of extra-marital sex has always been a dog bites man story until this very second; claiming surprise is baffling to me.

It's that second quote - the second quote that brings to my mind the same emotion as the Hume comment.

Who thinks that?

What man feels "betrayed" about who another man has sex with?  Men - male adult readers of these words right now, can you consider if you've ever felt anything close to "betrayed" by with whom another man, in an action totally unrelated to you, had sex?

If Tiger's your dad - I get it.  If you are close with Tiger's wife - I get it.  But other than that - I mean, I can't think of any circumstance where who any man had sex with would be a betrayal of me.  It is as far from something I'd ever consider as saying Tiger should convert his religion. 

I also understand there's a bit of a gender thing in play - women are reacting strongly to Tiger and I think part of the response is a comment on what I've been talking about since the story broke.

My initial reaction (still my reaction) is "men are only as faithful as their options."  Tiger's only unusual in how many options he had.

I think one of the reasons for the strength of the female reaction to Tiger is "it shouldn't be that way - this is something that shouldn't be accepted - we shouldn't just wink at infidelity - this is part of male privilege that assumes that women are the spoils of victory, a prize to be distributed among powerful men."

And - okay.  Okay, I don't disagree.  I make no claim that Tiger's behaved well, just that his behavior isn't unusual given his position.  If you want to say that he should still be condemned for that behavior, okay.  I don't share the outrage, but okay.  I understand the position that women believe powerful men have gotten away with too much historically and this is a turning of the cultural wheel which is overdue.  I do, I get that.  I'm a feminist.  I listen to Ani DiFranco.  I am not a pretty girl either. That is not what I'm down. 

But for another man, an adult man, presumably without a Tiger poster on his wall, to say he was "betrayed" by Tiger having sex - it is so thoroughly outside of my emotional makeup that I have a difficult time processing it.

I don't want to be overly alarmist, but 21st century celebrity is a bit of a doom machine.  Tiger's car crash was before Thanksgiving.  It's January 5 and we are still right here.  Tiger, who we still haven't seen, is somewhere watching it all bleed away; he has to be astonished at the circumstance in which he finds himself.

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