Thursday, April 08, 2010

Go Tiger

Sandy Levinson

I have, like other contributors to Balkinization, refrained from commenting on the Tiger Woods spectacle, though I confess that I have been ambivalent about whether I continued to wish him well on the golf course. But any ambivalence was removed upon reading a story to appear in the New York Times. It details the "rebuke" directed at Mr. Woods by Billy Payne, the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club. Mr. Payne, with rightous indignation, harrumphed that Mr. Woods "disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grandkids” by his rather spectacular fall from monogamy.

This is touching--perhaps Mr. Payne's great-grandfather pleaded with Shoeless Joe Jackson to "say it isn't so"--but I confess to feeling that Mr. Payne's outrage might better be directed at many of his fellow Club members, described by the Times as "chief executives from many of the country’s biggest corporations and investment banks as well as business leaders worldwide." And, of course, every single one of his fellow members is male, since Augusta National is notorious for being a bastion of sexism. But Mr. Payne is apparently shocked and outraged that Mr. Woods, along with being possibly the greatest golfer of all time, was, off the golf course, fucking lots of women other than his wife. But there is, to put it mildly, no similar outrage directed at his fellow Club members, i.e., the heads of "the country's biggest corporations and investment banks," who have, for many years, not only have been totally oblivious to the insult of maintaining Augusta National as an all-male institution, but have also been fucking their employees (metaphorically, of course, though, one suspects, in at least some cases, quite literally)[ADDITION: and, for that matter, their employers, i.e., shareholders who might, if asked, have objected to the obscene salaries that many of these corporate denizens no doubt collected] and, in the case of the investment bankers especially, fucking the entire American (and worldwide) public amd using their ill-gotten gains to pay whatever it costs to maintain one's membership at Augusta National Golf Club.

So my wish for this April season is that Tiger (at least metaphorically) tears Augusta National apart, winning by, say, fifteen or twenty strokes, and then tells Mr. Payne, in no uncertain terms, what he can do with his green championship coat. One of the reasons for ambivalence about Mr. Woods, quite independently of his sexual escapades, is that he has so consistently chosen to serve his corporate masters by distancing himself from any kinds of social or political controversies, including the scandalous sexism of Augusta National. That is, he has been an absolutely terrible role model of "citizenship" (like, to be sure, Michael Jordan, who also preferred to sell shoes rather than to engage in anything that might be called citizenship). Perhaps Mr. Woods will emerge from his treatment not only with a different approach to sex, but also with a backbone that will no longer be submissive to such hypocritical charlatans as Mr. Payne. In any case, forced to choose between Tiger Woods and Mr. Payne, my loyalties are with Tiger, who is by far the lesser threat to Americans children and grandchildren than the members of Augusta National Golf Club for whom Mr. Payne so sanctimoniously speaks.

[UPDATE: My new-found enthusiasm for Tiger is already waning, thanks to an editorial in today's Austin American Statesman that focuses on his expressed wish to once again become "a good investment" for American businesses who have backed off from gazillion dollar contracts for Tiger to flack their wares. He seems altogether willing to sell his soul to the corporations if only they will, once again, give him the chance. As someone suggested in the comments below, Tiger is only slightly more likely to call for a new constitutional convention to address our constitutional deficiencies than to tell Mr. Payne what he can do with his green coat. Go Tom Watson!!


Sandy, forgive me for being somewhat off-topic but I must praise Jack Balkin for his two recent posts on Virginia's Governor's proclamation for the month of April to honor the Confederacy. I note that the Governor yesterday apologized for omitting slavery from his proclamation, perhaps too little too late. But Jack, and others, quickly put the Governor's feet to the fire. As part of a long time research project, I just started to read Peter Hinks' "To Awaken My Conflicted Brethren - David Walker and the Problem of Antebellum Slave Resistance." I also recently read a review of Anders Walker's "The Ghost of Jim Crow: How Southern Moderates Used Brown v. Board of Education to Stall Civil Rights." I'm hoping that Jack or you may read the latter and perhaps provide comments. The revisionists are still out there after so many years and so much shame on the subject of slavery.

As to Tiger and Billy Payne's comments, perhaps Payne should be reminded of how long it took for the Masters to permit African American golfers to participate in the Masters. Perhaps the reason was fear that an African American golfer just might prevail if permitted to participate. Some in America still have that fear politically.

Tiger is not a role model for me as I approach my 80th birthday. Nor was Mickey Mantle decades ago in his and my salad years. But I admire their athletic achievements. Golf is not a religion but only a game. Palmer and Nicklaus advanced the public's interest in golf long before Tiger. But Tiger brought it to another level. So let Tiger work out his problems, if he can, for the sake of his wife, children and mother. He will be in effect walking through hellfire as he plays the Masters with the scrutiny on every move of his and of those in attendance. That walk may serve as a real first step in his personal recovery. While walking he might think of those African American golfers who preceded him, paving the way for his successes at the Masters and elsewhere.

So perhaps I have not been too far off topic.

It was just another chance for a "Good Son of the Confederacy" to slap down another "uppity" black man who dared to to had the nerve to invade another enclave of white male America.

The overt racism in these comments are amazing to me.

The chance of Tiger following up on a Masters victory by publicly rebuking the chairman of Augusta National is only slightly greater than the chance he will follow up his victory by tearfully explaining that he only cheated on his wife because he was in a state of existential despair over our broken Constitution. Mind you, either scenario would be quite fun.

I'd say, judging from Tiger's willing participation in that truly inappropriate Nike commercial featuring his late father's voice, that Tiger's capitulation to his corporate paymasters is as complete as it ever was.

You have a small but significant typo: "fucking their employers". You mean "employees".

Well, Sandy, you hit the nail on the head this time -- with the exception that, if asked about Payne's comments, Tiger would undoubtedly express nothing but agreement. (Tiger's mother, on the other hand, would likely tip her hand.)

It is truly a sad spectacle.

Very good. The "citizenship" angle is appreciated too.

It also gives me an excuse to cite this.

I just read the book version and Prof. Levinson has a cameo of sorts.

Well I'm not sure. Of the hypocrisy of the country club I have no doubt. But one can argue that monogamy is, in the long run, at least as important to society (and women) as progressive social policy. This may be a case of the golfer and the country club deserving each other, so to speak.

Has it been established that Tiger was ever sexually monogamous? It might not be as much a "fall" as the status quo. Fidelity may be important to society, but statistics suggest that 30-60% of society hasn't received the message yet. That percentage is increasing among the youngsters who are apparently at greater risk of being influenced by Tiger's wood.

I hate to be blasé about ruined relationships, but if a majority of married men have this particular mote in common with Tiger, why should I (or Mr. Payne) care enough to denounce it?

On the other hand, the banking situation has had a real and measurable effect on my life and those of millions of others. So, yes, it would be far better (in short or long term) to speak out against corporate greed than the indiscretions of an individual who is presumably an adult able to tend to his own affairs.

I won't be holding my breath in anticipation of that, though.

PMS: Tiger's wood?! Well done.

Personally, I do not care whether any entertainer respects his/her marriage vows or not. I don't think it is my business, in fact. That he had to admit to having a 'sex addiction' just makes me gag.

" My new-found enthusiasm for Tiger is already waning, thanks to an editorial in today's Austin American Statesman that focuses on his expressed wish to once again become "a good investment" for American businesses who have backed off from gazillion dollar contracts for Tiger to flack their wares. He seems altogether willing to sell his soul to the corporations if only they will, once again, give him the chance."

Um, "sell his soul"? He's not talking about selling his soul, he's talking about working for a living. His job is playing golf and looking good while doing it, so that companies will pay him for the right to associate their names with him.

I happen to think playing games for a living is profoundly silly, but not appreciably more than calling this "selling your soul".


UPDATE: My new-found enthusiasm for Tiger is already waning, thanks to an editorial in today's Austin American Statesman that focuses on his expressed wish to once again become "a good investment" for American businesses who have backed off from gazillion dollar contracts for Tiger to flack their wares. He seems altogether willing to sell his soul to the corporations if only they will, once again, give him the chance.

Ummm, every single professional athlete seeks to be a good investment for the businesses whose marketing pays them insane amounts to play games.

Indeed, I dare say that business donations to the UT endowment funds and the management of those funds by evil investment bankers pays a not insubstantial part of your salary.

I assure you that those donations are likely to dry up if you and your colleagues are no longer "good investments" because you bring disrepute to your university.

Does declining to bring disrepute to your university make you a whore selling your soul to the corporations?

A quote from Glenn Greenwald’s blog yesterday (hat tip: Mark Field):

“Instead, in Barack Obama's America, the way guilt is determined for American citizens -- and a death penalty imposed -- is that the President, like the King he thinks he is, secretly decrees someone's guilt as a Terrorist. He then dispatches his aides to run to America's newspapers -- cowardly hiding behind the shield of anonymity which they're granted -- to proclaim that the Guilty One shall be killed on sight because the Leader has decreed him to be a Terrorist. It is simply asserted that Awlaki has converted from a cleric who expresses anti-American views and advocates attacks on American military targets (advocacy which happens to be Constitutionally protected) to Actual Terrorist "involved in plots." These newspapers then print this Executive Verdict with no questioning, no opposition, no investigation, no refutation as to its truth. And the punishment is thus decreed: this American citizen will now be murdered by the CIA because Barack Obama has ordered that it be done. What kind of person could possibly justify this or think that this is a legitimate government power?”

Now you may think this quote is off topic, but hear me out. How is it possible that Greenwald is focused on minor matters like the assassination of American citizens, while entirely overlooking the major scandal of Billy Payne mildly rebuking Tiger Woods while not criticizing the fat cats who keep his club in business? In fact, when you think about it, Greenwald is guilty of the exact same thing as Payne, criticizing Obama for a minor sin while not criticizing Payne for the much more serious offense. Oh, the outrage.


With Obama's election and Marty's departure for Justice, Balkinization has lost some of that Greenwald-esque hysteria about predatory executive dictatorship.

I wonder if Marty wrote the memo opining that it is perfectly legal under the Constitution and law of war to kill American citizens who are members of al Qaeda.

Any chance the NYT leaks that one?

Bart- I am starting to wonder whether they pay you to interject at just the right moments on these threads. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that you and Bartbuster have the same IP address. . .

He ain't no Muhammed Ali. And it's a damn shame too.


I only interject at just the right moments because there isn't much to write about here anyone.

Unfortunately, I was correct that nearly all of Balkinization criticism of the various imagined threats to the Constitution posed by President Bush were partisan in motivation. To his immense credit, Obama has continued and even expanded upon most of the Bush foreign policies, yet there is almost no claim that Obama is savaging the Constitution, just Brian's complaints that we cannot win the Afghanistan War.

I was actually looking forward to defending Obama policies here as I did the Bush policies, but apparently such Balkinization criticisms are reserved for GOP Presidents.

Sadly, Bart has something of a point here. Of course, part of the reason is that the chief critic of Bush's civil liberties abuses here was Marty, who has now been co-opted into being at least a tacit participant in them.

Here is fantasy-land from our intrepid former backpacker:

"I was actually looking forward to defending Obama policies here as I did the Bush policies, ...."

When was it that our yodeler first announced last year at this Blog, early in Obama's first year, his work of friction [sick!] attacking just about everything Obama?

Our yodeler's mentor, Glenn Beck, admits that he's an entertainer, out for the buck. But our yodeler is not a profit [or prophet] center, even though he may be trying to make a literary buck with his work of friction, what with DUI drying up in his venue what with the tea drinkers there.

No, I don't think Obama needs our yodeler as his jock strap.

Glenn- you have a point, although I recall that Professor Balkin wrote often about these issues as well, back in the day.

Professor Levinson is mostly an innocent bystander, seeing as how he is one of the few who still accepts comments. But the Tiger post was too silly to let go by.

BTW, are you "the" Glenn?

If you mean "the Glenn" as in Greenwald, no I am not.

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Yes, since Tiger Woods is just a trivial public figure, and has nothing to tell us about how society works. "Silly" indeed.

Prof. Levinson repeatedly talks about how the system is broken. A system with a Democratic President and Congress. He in no way just blames Republicans for this.

Brian T. just wrote a piece critical of Obama's policy in Afghanistan.

A guest blogger repeatedly has criticized the current detainee policy.

Comments have criticized Democrats repeatedly.

But, yes, it's all one-sided.

And, other subjects like net neutrality and all? Well, before January 2009, this blog never focused on that. It was just bash Bush all the time.

Well, not really. Marty Lederman is missed. He was basically the civil liberties / executive power expert. He might need a permanent replacement.

Tiger Woods is an offense to the purity of Golf!

Ah, yes, the purity of golf in the form of males of the white race as manifested by the Masters throughout much of its history, not the Tin Cup and Caddyshack versions. If Jim Bouton had been a golfer he might have graced us with "Ball Fore" about touring pro golfers straying off course. Should we blame LBJ for his 1960s Civil Rights Acts? I think Sanpete is stuck in a sand trap with his purity of golf comment; but with Sanpete's luck, at least the sand is white.

Your irony detector needs work, Shag.

No Mulligans for self-impaled irony.

No mulligans for not seeing the hazard! The very idea of "the purity of Golf" (capital G) is a pretty fair clue, don't you think?

The debased collective, consisting of greedy amnesiac minds, and stoked by Nike and the media, is what I object to. It's not so much Tiger -- though I never liked him or cared for golf -- it's this bald and aggressive corporatism. The only analogy that comes to mind is if Exxon built a refinery in Prince William Sound, a mere six months after the spill. There's no shame, and there's no limits to the greed. "Okay everybody, let's go back to making gobs of money and feeding at the trough as before."

"Okay everybody, let's go back to making gobs of money and feeding at the trough as before."

Did any of the CEOs/Directors on Wall Street yell "FORE!" before the meltdown? Nah.

If I didn't much care about Bill Clinton's sex life, I care even less what entertainers and jocks do. Sorry! Just. Don't Care.

Forgive me for not caring, but you know what, I don't.

And just to restore some context to all this, I don't care because it doesn't matter. Sorry, it Just Doesn't.

Oh, I'm sure it matters to his sponsors, but did I mention how I feel about his financial arrangements, or theirs? I Just Don't Care. It's not my problem. It's their business. Have fun, make money, and please don't bore us with your image management function. I'm sure it's ducky.

Really, only his family is entitled to care. I imagine they do. I feel for them the same as I'd feel for any family in trouble. Of course, a big chunk of their trouble is they get to see and hear all about this in endless drivel repeated on the air and in the tabs. And you know what, there's a solution for that part, everyone: stop caring. The scandal media will promptly stop repeating it.

You know what I think is weird: "Godless Communism" was supposedly "materialistic."

But, "materialistic" is what American Capitalism is, in spades. From Jamie Dimon (who actually knows how to make money) to Bart De Palma (who probably doesn't) the common religion is "enrich thyself."

Now, golf, which I enjoy myself, has a particular vibe to it and--unfortunately--it's a rather solipsistic affair. Great golfers tend to be self-absorbed, circumspect and emotionally remote. IOW, there's a reason it attracts rich Republicans. And it isn't likely that Tiger would push back at Augusta's hierarchy.

Glich above.

Hmm, I think you are going to have to reconsider your support for Tom Watson. According to HuffPo:

"Conservative Tom Watson, who shared the Ben Hogan comeback-from-injury award with Ken Green, began by saying, "I feel like President Obama accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. He actually said, 'I'm undeserving of this award.' And I believed him." (applause). We'll I am undeserving too compared to what my fellow golfer Ken Green went through."

There's nothing "scandalous" about a private club being for one sex only, and no sane person is "insulted" by the mere existence of such a club. It's just golf.

Just curious, have you ever seen the film Caddyshack?

Also, your faculty page notes you are affiliated with the Shalom Hartman Institute of Jewish Philosophy in Jerusalem. As part of its activities the Shalom Hartman Institute runs a high school exclusively for boys. In light of your hostility toward Augusta, it's rather odd you have formal ties to a group who excludes on the basis of sex and religion.

In light of your hostility toward Augusta, it's rather odd you have formal ties to a group who excludes on the basis of sex and religion.

Well, let's compare the two:

Augusta has been the target of protests from women claiming discrimination for years. There are no women members, which should make the club ineligible for the PGA tour, but somehow doesn't.


Shalom Hartman also has a high school for girls.

Pardon me if I don't pack my feminist bags and head to Israel.

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