As former tennis heartthrob Andre Agassi once famously said, "Image is everything."
It sure seems that Agassi, author of the new memoir "Open," knew what he was talking about. Just ask Tiger Woods, who was America's most beloved athlete a long time ago — oh yeah, it was only last month, come to think of it.
Time flies when you're hiding out in Florida, eh?
Speaking of image problems, Woods may become atomic on Madison Avenue, his favorite block. While his sponsors are making grand gestures out of publicly standing beside him for now — really, what choice do they have, anyway? — he may have a tough time attracting new deals or renewing those lavish seven-figure contracts, once they run their course.
And whither Tiger? Has he run his course as a favorite son in America? Is he forever going to be persona non grata on Main Street because got into a murky, mysterious car collision at his home and has some serious problems in his marriage?
The rotten image he now suffers from is largely based on the unsubstantiated testimony of women who may or may not know the true details of his alleged dalliances.
For his part, remember, Agassi was no angel. In his book, he writes about how he used crystal meth, the most heinous drug in America's under-culture, back in 1997. You can check out an ESPN video on it here. And yet, Agassi has been hailed as a truth-telling hero now in the zeitgeist.
What's the difference between Woods and Agassi? It's simple. Agassi 'fessed up. Woods drew a curtain around his life.
If Woods had told America the unvarnished truth on day one, he would be in a stronger position in the court of public opinion. Apparently believing his own press clippings, he thought his wealth and fame would shield him from a burgeoning scandal. He was, of course, wrong.
Tiger may even go on to win back some of his embittered fans someday. America is, after all, a forgiving nation.
And you can bet he'll soon be telling his sad story on Oprah or "60 Minutes."
Maybe he should call up Andre Agassi for a few pointers in Crisis Management 101.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch. Go here for his latest column.
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