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Thursday, March 28, 2013
An ad doesn't take care of everything

By Rick Reilly
ESPN.com

Tiger Woods
Many of the aspects of the old Tiger Woods, shown last month in Dubai, are not only back, they never went anywhere in the first place.

This story has been corrected. Read below

Sometimes you wonder where Tiger Woods gets his public-relations advice.

Gary Busey?

After a 2009 sex scandal that would make Magic Mike blush, it seemed as if Woods was finally coming around. Back to No. 1 in the world. Got himself a girlfriend he could bring home to mom. People even were starting to feel a little sorry for him.

And then he allows Nike to release an ad that spits goo in the eye of anybody who was on the fence. It ran on social media after Woods won in Orlando last week. It was a picture of him with the caption: "Winning Takes Care of Everything."

The only problem is, it's a big whopping jelly-filled lie.

Winning doesn't take care of everything. There are some stains winning can't scrub clean. Like the worst sex scandal in pro sports history. Like talking about being sorry but never walking it. Like pretending you're going to curb your temper and your filthy mouth on the golf course and then doing nothing of the kind.

(Last week, Woods texted Rory McIlroy: "Get your finger out of your a-- and win this week." Remind me: What charm school did he attend again?)

Life is life and lies are lies. Playing golf well doesn't buy you forgiveness or redemption or peace. The road to heaven isn't paved with giant novelty checks.

Ask Lance Armstrong if winning takes care of everything. Ask Pete Rose. Ask Joe Paterno's family. If winning took care of everything, why is the winning prison softball team still in prison?

I have one rule on Tiger Woods: Admire the game, not the man. The game is the greatest I've ever seen. But the man is rude and vulgar and has a screw-you-I'm-Tiger-Woods policy that's not the least bit becoming. The arrogance it takes to allow this ad to run is Reason No. 7,393.

If you're Elin Nordegren, his ex-wife, and you see that line, "Winning Takes Care of Everything," don't you throw your laptop across the room? He cheated on her with a parade of porn stars, Vegas escorts and even a daughter of a neighbor. I'm thinking another win at Bay Hill isn't going to take care of much for her.

The problem isn't "winning takes care of everything." The problem is that Woods clearly believes it does.

This ad was easy for Tiger to approve. It spouts his guiding principle, after all. The fact that it also generates some heat and attention for Nike is just a bonus. And if you think he didn't OK it, you don't understand who Tiger Woods is. He's a detail demon down to the tips of his shoelaces. If he rents your house for a tournament, he allegedly has all of your furniture taken out and duplicates of his own brought in, so he feels at home. You think he's going to let a national ad go out without seeing it first?

Further, you don't think that Nike -- which stuck by him when every other national corporation dumped him after the sex scandal broke -- didn't have this cued up? You don't think they said: "OK, big guy. You're back to No. 1. Now it's payback."

And it worked. It's been a perfect storm of attention for Nike. People either hate it or they love it, but they're clicking on it like crazy. It's cocky. It's smug. And it's a solid 8-iron over the line.

Remember, Nike's done this before. They're the people that brought you Charles Barkley's "I am Not a Role Model" and the 1996 Olympic anthem "You Don't Win Silver, You Lose Gold." 

They are nothing if not provocateurs. The more you squirm, the better they like it. When Tiger was in the deepest end of the cesspool, Nike brought his father, Earl, back from the dead, using a sound bite that pretended to guide Tiger through the mess. You think they'd be afraid to trot out this saucy little number?

I love reading fiction, which is why I relished Nike spokesman Beth Gast's attempt to pretend this was all innocent: "When asked about his goals such as getting back to No. 1, (Tiger) has said consistently winning is the way to get there. The statement references that sentiment and is a salute to his athletic performance."

Please.

My son writes for a big Chicago ad firm. He says every sentence, every word, every syllable is stared at, considered, rewritten, discussed and torn apart. For months. Every conceivable message that one phrase could send to the public is pored over, analyzed and tested. It has to be. If they put out an inadvertent message the client didn't intend, everybody's fired. Don't you watch "Mad Men"?

Oh, they knew what they were doing. And they meant every level you can read into it. Tiger and the creatives and the suits must've looked at all the options, ignored the pesky moral implications and said, "Just do it."

This is Tiger's "I'm back and I never changed and you have to like me anyway." This is his deodorant and he's quite sure we'll all shrug and agree.

Can you imagine how little he thinks of us?

In a March 29 ESPN.com story about Nike's Tiger Woods ad, the name of the ad agency producing the ad was incorrect. The reference has been removed.