By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Just one question for this week’s TFMB because, well, I said so.
so what makes nike dropping [Lance] armstrong different from a person like Tiger woods who cheats on his wife?—Drew
Ah, yes, the automatic question that gets posed in such a situation when a business chooses to punish a famous employee/representative and whether the punishment is a) fitting and b) equal to treatment of other famous employees/representatives.
The simplest and most likely reason Nike would decide to sever ties with Lance Armstrong—the really, really bad person who needs to have a drywall screw driven into his remaining testicle Lance Armstrong—and not Tiger Woods would be that Armstrong’s ratio of ability to turn Nike a profit versus the PR headache was far more skewed toward the latter that the same ratio applied to Woods. Basically, Armstrong can’t really make Nike any serious money anymore, so logistically why give him a paycheck, especially if he’s bringing such negative baggage with him?
Both golf and cycling are “fringe” sports, as in not the juggernauts of the NFL, MLB, and NBA and to an extent the NHL, the hipster major sport that thinks being popular is lame and tries to be cool by screwing over its fans every decade or so as it’s doing right now. As far as fringe sports go, golf blows cycling out of the water in regards to popularity in the United States and abroad. Armstrong and Woods were the faces of their respective sports for a long time, but Woods holds an advantage in that more people participate in and consume golf than do competitive cycling, and Woods can play competitive golf at a high level much longer than Armstrong can ride a bike. Nike knows that.
Nike also knows Woods is on your TV a lot more plying his trade than Armstrong is. The Tour de France is on an oft-difficult to find TV station in NBC Sports Network (you may scoff at that statement, but you’d be surprised at the amount of cableless people that still exist as well as technophobes with cable who don’t venture outside their comfort channels), and it’s on really $%^&ing early in the morning. It’s also just three weeks out of the year and is the only cycling event that gets any serious mention in America. Name another cycling competition (quiet, bike nerds).
The Tour de France is “the third most watched sporting event worldwide, after the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.” Well, sure, because it’s three weeks long. And cycling is far more popular outside of this country. Remember, though, that Armstrong has long been generally hated outside this country. (Strange that people outside the U.S. would be right about something Americans long refused to accept. That never happens here.) There’s probably somewhat of a watching-because-he’s-hated factor similar to Bears fans watching a Packers game to root against them, but most non-US cycling enthusiasts are very happy to have Armstrongless competitions now. Nike benefits far more from close up shots of the Swoosh logo on Tiger Woods’ putts several weekends a year.
And on a different scale, monetary or not but one still worth mentioning, fans as a whole do not treat cheating on a spouse like they treat cheating on the game. Sure, Tiger Woods’ scandal of humping anything that moved created quite the media storm and public to-do. It was a bombshell that fed into the public’s lust for gossip about personal lives of celebrities because people at large are incredibly shallow and insecure and need to live vicariously through famous people in order to forget how disappointing their own lives are; hence the popularity of tabloids.
I contend, too, that Woods’ news was so huge due to a combination of a) him being the most popular person in his sport, but more importantly b) it went against everything the public thought about him. For the most part he was considered a gifted, driven, focused athlete who lived on a golf course. Fair or unfair, we expect a wayward wiener out of guys in the major sports—that’s just accepted. But golfers are, well, kind of dorks in comparison. And Tiger, regardless of the weightlifting and hanging out with Michael Jordan, was in so many ways looked at as the biggest dork. So when his wife went Jack Nicholson on his car with a club and the can of worms was cracked open, it was like “Him? Tiger Woods? That guy?!”
But then it all eventually passed. We forgive sleeping around. Most of our politicians wouldn’t have jobs otherwise. We consume products en masse endorsed by philanderers, wife-beaters, and other morally lesser-thans. What’s done off of the field almost always gets pushed to the background, adds some flavor to an eventual memoir. Fifty years from now Tiger Woods will be spoken of as a member of golf’s Mt. Rushmore, not that golfer who bagged dozens of porn stars and chain restaurant waitresses.
Lance Armstrong, on the other hand, will now forever be known as a scourge to his sport by everyone except the mentally ill who refuse to accept that Santa Claus isn’t real. He tainted the sport, affected outcomes. That’s a completely different animal.
He also used people. Used cancer patients and those sympathetic to such a cause, which at one time or another is practically everybody. He built himself up by creating a fortress of illusion of charity. His impenetrable wall for so long was “I’m against cancer, and therefore I must be looked upon favorably.” His credo to his throng of gullibles was “I am inspirational.” These are tough tires to pop.
Well, until the benevolent all-good bracelet bombardier gets proven a peddler of bull.
Thanks for emailing, tweeting, and reading. If your question did not get answered this time, that does not necessarily mean I am ignoring it. It may be saved for the next mailbag. Hopefully you’re a slightly better person now than you were ten minutes ago. If not, your loss.
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Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget, but please don’t follow him in real life. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.