Hold That Tiger

These days, Tiger's got a little less to smile about.

These days, Tiger's got a little less to smile about."It's a widely held belief that men who wear Le Tigre sportswear get widely held." And so concluded one of the top commercials of 1984, a promotion for a preppy brand of clothing that's now largely forgotten. But that slogan could easily be updated for 2009: "It's a widely reported story that men named Tiger Woods get widely held." Though he has had a very generous helping of embraces from adoring women, the celebrity golfer is now paying the price with a public that is adoring him a whole lot less.

While David Letterman has emerged relatively unscathed from his own revelations of marital infidelity, Tiger seems to have achieved the tipping point of no return. That may be owing to the sheer number of flings (fourteen and counting) he engaged in during his five-year marriage to former model Elin Nordegren.

Is Tiger that different from other cheating athletes who spend tons of time away from home cavorting with beautiful and often unsavory women? Perhaps not. But what stings so much with this story is that Tiger cultivated such a squeaky clean image for himself. And yet, as he reliably injected vigor and excitement into a sport that sorely needed it, in his personal life, he was simultaneously carrying on as though he were on a non-stop bachelor party.

His indiscretions are for him and Elin to work out, but his actions also represent a violation of the public's trust. His carefully crafted persona as a role model (combined of course, with his unprecedented talent in the game of golf) snagged him both the admiration of sports fans and the dollars of companies as varied as Gillette and Accenture.

In essence, he has let everyone down. His given all of us one less reason to trust, one fewer role model to believe in. While it may once have seemed impossible to hold back Tiger Woods, it may be even more difficult now to hold him in high regard.