Hold That Tiger
The provocative essayist and novelist ruminates in his unique style about the sexual privileges of the super-athlete.
These are not normal circumstances, the constancy of access to the opposite sex is something only women know about—except for what is surely the smallest minority of individuals in the entire world. We call them celebrity athletes.
When I was a teenager, I used to hang around and peruse the night life of the hustling world with a woman who owned a liquor store on 34th Street and Central and dated a gambler. Light brown and bawdy, Frenchy was a wonderful guide to the after-hours Negro world of South Central Los Angeles—and she always had plenty to say about life.
Joking about one of her friends, Frenchy said to me, “A girl got to know how to put them dangling dingle berries in order. Got to, baby. Sometimes, if you out there looking just a bit too damn fine for your own good, so many stone-hard johnsons will get waved at you that your drawers could get burned off by the heat wave alone.”
“Simple as spelling out the alphabet, you got to know just how to lay some ice on all of them, every one of them, and calm them the helldown—politely. You don’t have to be a bitch. That’s a big mistake. But you do have to make sure that the line between you and them is so bright a blind man could see it.”
“Now most of them out there panting don’t expect you to actually sneak out on your man, but they will hit on you anyway. That’s right. Just because, if they be lucky, and you and your man done had a big fight or something, you might slip up under this opportunistic cock houndand sweat and holler just to get away from the blues for a little while. Just a little while that you hope like hell might be sweet.
“Now this is because your true man is not there. You know that you don’t hardly love that stranger in the paradise of your boudoir. No kind of love. Notlike you do the one done dug into your heart. But even still,any man who knows how it is, knows it never hurts to give you the signal that he is ready for duty whenever and wherever you want his thing to march down your internal corridor. If you let him have a dip, the consequences can turn into a hot basket of hell. That’s all I know, baby, and I learned it all the very, very hard way.”
It is good that Tiger Woods has chosen to say very little about the women he had on the side, or the women who had him. It is highly possible that Woods was still new to the oppressively constant condition of life under a microscope when the blues started whispering its wicked song. That became a constant once Woods wasknown the world over for his unchallenged superiority at the especially silly game of knocking little pocked white balls into holes.
The reason that it was probably quite new to him is that, unlike basketball players, he could be rounded up with the nerds. So, from early on, his buttocks were not being smooched, and girls were not offering the spoils of their supple and tender butter almost from the moment it was discovered that the boy had an extremely serious game.
That is why Charles Barkley said that players new to the NBA needed to be disrespected as often as possible in order to get them in line because they had been deferred to by everyone around them—coaches, teachers, school mates, neighborsand family—for at least a decade before making it to professional status. Slap the taste of being special out of their mouths, and you can deflate their heads enough to make them good team players.
A nurse who used to hang out with rappers met Biggie Smalls at a number of parties. She describes a man, who, even as a rap star topping the charts, was all in a daze from the attention of fine and super-fine women. “All Biggie could talk about was the girls who were ready for him. This had never happened before. He loved to laugh and say that he was still cross-eyed, still deep black to the bone, still fat and ugly, but, like he ran it down once, he was on ‘poon overload.’ I didn’t see him that much, but I never heard him talk about anything else. Poor guy.”
Tears need not be shed for Tiger Woods or any other man so overpaid that he might become the first billionaire athlete for playing what amounts to a boy’s game. Poor guy? Yeah, right.
It would just do us well to realize that some elements of melodramatic morality are blown out of human proportion by the electronic puff pastry of our media. Human meaning has little place in our celebrity culture. Truly human things usually and quickly become as meaningless as the overheated attention given to the insubstantial lives of the minor men and women glorified to mythic proportions by loud, mechanical repetition and gossip. By the way, this happens only for the hustling of products, one of which is the celebrities themselves.
Some, however, are like Tiger Woods, part of the most extremely talented bunch about whom nature is indifferent while the world goes mad, choking on its own drool.His wealth, privilege, celebrity and all of the problems that come with celebrity—like the endless force of women available for one-night stands or dalliances at the dark end of the street—are firmly established by the inarguable proof of what makes the man more than very special in objective terms. There can be nothing more powerful or more burdensome than being able to live up to what is said about so few of us: You are the very best in the world at what you do.
Like everything else special, it brings its own kind of blues, heartbreak and self-pity. These are inevitable for a sucker-assed lame. Or a billionaire chump.
Stanley Crouch is a New York Writer and author of numerous books, including The Artificial White Man Considering Genius and Don't The Moon Look Lonesome. He was recently inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.