How the Tiger Woods story could change sports coverage

It was October 5th, 1995. I was a sophomore in high school and at around 1:15pm, our teacher decided to stop..well, teaching. She decided to turn on the TV and we all began to watch the OJ Simpson verdict. This wasn’t the only classroom that decided to alternate the lesson plan. All the classrooms were filled with teachers and students, whose eyes were glued to the television set. It’s was definitely a surreal feeling. Pretty much all the guys were rooting for OJ, while the ladies wanted justice to prevail. It was definitely a diverse viewing party (Diverse being the key for this article).

Finally, around 2pm, the verdict was read. Not guilty. The guys all cheered and the girls gave all of us dirty looks. I can remember my teacher being so enraged that she yelled “s$#t” and walked out of the classroom while slamming the door shut. I didn’t know then, but we had just witnessed a media phenomenon. More importantly, we witnessed a changing of the guard in media coverage.

Prior to the OJ Case, the only time I can remember an athlete getting in as much hot water was when Mike Tyson was convicted of rape in 1992. Heck, the only coverage of the story consisted of Charlie Steiner sitting in a lobby outside of the courtroom discussing the case. I’m sure if that case took place today we would be seeing interviews with Dr. Phil.

The OJ case broke barriers. It became the poster child of what the media has become today. The monster ratings of the trial led to sports outlets covering athletes beyond the field. If an athlete is arrested for beating their spouse or bringing an illegal firearm to the club, it is going to make the top of Sportscenter. The key word in that statement is “arrested.”

Flash forward to the Tiger Woods saga and it’s as if athletes getting arrested has become passe. The media coverage surrounding the scandal has ranked between being overwhelming to down right pathetic. Do I really need to turn on ESPN and see a sexologist or psychologist? Sorry, but I don’t think anyone that has the word “ologist” in their title should be seen on any sports program.

Then we get some some girl, whose known as a body language expert, say that Tiger isn’t sincere because he didn’t move his eyebrows. Seriously? That’s what you went to college for? So you can tell me that someone is lying because their eyebrows aren’t moving? What if Tiger’s eyebrows were like Martin Scorsese’s? Heck, Marty has the bushiest eyebrows I’ve ever seen. Those eyebrows could move a sailboat. What if Tiger plucked his eyebrows? Would it make it harder to see them move?

Then to top it off, I get Mike Tirico telling me that everyone will remember where they were when Tiger Woods made his statement; just like people did when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Huh??? You’re going to tell me that Armstrong walking on the moon is as big of an event as Tiger moonlighting with other women? Please.

Don’t let all these ESPN reporters fool you with their kissing of Tiger’s ass for making such a “tough” speech. That’s all being said so that reporter could get the first exclusive interview with Tiger when he returns to golf. That’s why ESPN has people from TMZ and sexologists chastising Tiger for his lack of conviction in his statement.

Look, I’ve already made it clear that I don’t care what athletes do in the spare time. I especially don’t care if it’s something as stupid as cheating on your wife. Ask any legit sports fan, and the majority will tell you the same. However, even though we don’t care, we’re still going to watch. Sports fans are the biggest marks out there.

There’s a reason why ESPN broadcasts the NFL 24/7. It’s because we will watch anything associated with football. It won’t matter how minuscule the sports coverage is, because we just love to watch sports. Since sports fans are such marks, ESPN really doesn’t care how to get our attention. We are always going to watch sports no mater what they put in front of us. However, ESPN’s coverage isn’t just about getting ratings, it’s about getting a diverse viewership.
That teacher, who ran out of my classroom when the OJ verdict was read, wouldn’t be caught dead watching anything from ESPN. Those girls who were giving the guys dirty looks for cheering, wouldn’t even know who OJ Simpson played for.

What makes the Tiger Woods saga must see TV is that it attracts a broader audience. Those soccer moms who read US Weekly in the grocery checkout line are going to tune in. When you get a diverse audience, it means that different businesses will want to advertise on your channel. Now ESPN can get women’s products like Olay or Pantene shampoo to pay for commercials.

It’s still to early to know how well Tiger’s statement did in the ratings. I’m sure they are going to be quite high. If Tiger’s coverage brought in a boatload of new viewers, does that mean ESPN is going to start covering other infidelities of athletes? Are we going to have Derek Jeter’s nightlife scrutinized on ESPN, with Jeremy Schaap wondering if he’s fit to get married? Is ESPN going to air their version of TMZ for jocks? When does it all end?

Viewers and network heads love a good scandal. Since the OJ trial, it usually ends up being 3-4 athletes a year that are involved in a major scandal (non-sports related). However, I’m willing to bet that more athletes have cheated on their wives than have been arrested for murder. The Tiger saga may be just the tip of the iceberg as far as covering an athlete’s personal affairs. Don’t be surprised if down the road, ESPN stars reporting more stories on sex, lies and videotape.
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