In Bill Simmons’ latest column, he argues that Tiger’s indiscretions and subsequent accident is the biggest story of the last ten years. Here’s why:
I’m calling it the “Tiger Zoo” instead of “TigerGate,” only because we have to break the habit of slapping “gate” after everything. But the Tiger Zoo nailed every gotta-have-it component for a big-time story with legs. First, it involved one of the most famous living athletes. Second, it started definitively with a specific incident — and not just any incident, but something that made us say, “Wait, this seems fishy, I wonder what really happened here …” and quickly became more complex than we imagined. Third, it built steam over the next week, crossed into the mainstream and dominated conversations, e-mails and tweets. Fourth, it transformed our collective perception of a famous person and made us re-evaluate every opinion we had about him. Fifth, it grew so enormous so quickly that everyone with a forum (radio show, column, blog, whatever) felt obligated to come up with an angle on it.
Sixth, it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down; if anything, it’s gaining steam like a hurricane plowing toward Florida. Seventh, it involves three of the gotta-have-it basics in any gigantic story: sex, (possible) violence, and a (possible) cover-up. Eighth, there’s an unanswerable question looming over everything: Even if Tiger did cheat on his wife, should it matter to anyone other than them? (My answer: It shouldn’t. But that’s the rub of being a public figure. If you don’t want to be a public figure, don’t do commercials, don’t cover yourself in Nike logos and don’t sell a video game with your name on it.) And ninth, it’s a conspiracy-friendly saga that lends itself to all kinds of inventive angles, an absolute must for any story to maintain dominance.
That last point cemented the Tiger Zoo as an iconic story. Maybe Michael Vick’s fall from grace was mildly incredible on paper, but there were no real layers to it. The facts came out, Vick’s reputation was tarnished, he paid a price, and that was that. People across America weren’t having arguments at cocktail parties about Vick, nor were they spending dinners breaking down facts and spouting opinions like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay debating the NFL draft.