I got dragged kicking and screaming into an on-air discussion about the Tiger Woods sex scandal last week by KNPR State of Nevada host Dave Berns. I had happily avoided the topic in its first week and felt smug and superior about sticking to the real and important news of CityCenter and strippermobiles.
“I don’t want to talk about Tiger Woods, Dave,” I moaned at 8 a.m., when Dave asked me to come in for a ramble about several recent topics. “I just don’t care about him.”
Still, the opportunity to discuss the other matters on the docket propelled me to show up and play along. So at about 10 a.m., Berns raised a question that I felt at the time was an erudite person’s excuse to roll in the gutter:
“The revelations that are coming out about Tiger Woods’ personal life, could this endanger Las Vegas’ reputation in some way as a place that you can go and you can have a bacchanal, you can have a wide-open party, you can spend money and you can do it assuredly knowing that whatever you do there truly does stay there?”
Go ahead, roll your eyes. I sure did. And then, when I began answering and started paying a little more attention to this matter elsewhere, I realized it is a legitimate question with, to my mind, a pretty surprising answer.
You see, the more I’ve thought about it, the more it appears to me that the Tiger Woods scandal and its now-multiple Vegas tie-ins is actually one of the best things that has happened to this city in a long, long time.
First, though, let’s answer Dave’s question. Do these revelations betray the “what happens here stays here” ethos? Well, no, because that is what is known as an advertising slogan. It’s not seriously meant in its most literal sense, just as Nike didn’t mean for Tiger to “just do it” with every long-haired thing with fake breasts and two legs. It’s an expression. A concept. A construct. Hopefully, nobody who ever caught chlamydia here and went home to share it with his wife called up the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to complain that his STD didn’t “stay here.”
Plus, the fact is, Vegas does work pretty well for most naughty men. If you’re an average, nonfamous guy whose infidelities hold no currency with the News of the World or TMZ.com or the New York Post, you’re in pretty good shape with that hooker or cocktail waitress or whatever she calls herself nowadays.
On the other hand, if you’re the world’s wealthiest sportsman, if you’ve cultivated a public image as a doting family man and if your name is catnip for pun- and sex-obsessed tabloid headline writers, maybe you ought to behave with a teaspoon more caution. Yes, even in Vegas.
Not to mention, Vegas did its part to protect Tiger. Look at how many women he was said to be involved with over what period of time, and none of them ratted him out until he crashed into the tree and the fire hydrant and set this chain of events in motion. At this stage, with the whole thing going nuts, these women would be idiotic not to cash out their golden tickets. It makes no difference whether they tell or don’t, so the obvious decision is to abandon scruples that were in short supply in the first place.
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Yet the hand-wringing over the Vegasness of the Tiger mess has gone beyond this into territory thin-skinned Sin City always must go when something a little disreputable arises about her. KVBC entertainment reporter Alicia Jacobs’ tweet on Friday was emblematic: “I REALLY REALLY hate that ALL of Tiger’s ‘indiscretions’ (that’s three so far and I bet more to come) have strong and publicized Las Vegas ties! UGH!” When I asked her why this upset her, she explained: “Because it’s embarrassing and an unsavory black eye. We have many amazing and well-accomplished women in Las Vegas. Tiger’s ‘friends’ don’t exactly fit those descriptions.”
But they do fit a description that a healthy portion of the world’s male population enjoys in brief, illicit, no-strings-attached helpings. The rest of the world is looking on this scandal with shock because this is so unlike the Tiger they thought they knew, not because this is so unlike the Vegas they thought they knew.
In fact, I suspect this is the Vegas that a whole lot of men out there thought might be over and are thrilled to learn still exists. In recent years, PR initiatives by several major hotels have centered around a very different Vegas, one that caters to gays, foodies, art lovers, Broadway fans …
The Vegas image being promulgated these days has become a little fey and fancy-schmancy. And that’s fine and dandy because those are under-served, still-affluent, loyal and lucrative niches.
The Tiger scandal, however, places Vegas as a heterosexual guy’s playground back out there before a group of men—sports fans—who already delude themselves into believing they have something in common with the athletes whose performances they obsessively follow. What’s more, most hard-core sports fans I know believe they’re smarter than the players they admire—it keeps them feeling superior as they inhale Doritos while rooting for men with perfect physiques—so they see this Tiger Woods thing and think, “Man, what an idiot!” They blame Tiger for how sloppily he’s managed his life, but they are also reminded that Vegas is the land of fantasy-fulfillment.
We shouldn’t be uncomfortable with our Tiger connection, we should embrace it with pride. Can you imagine how bereft and irrelevant we’d all feel if he was banging an army of women this allegedly large and none of them had Vegas ties?
No, indulge and enjoy this. We need the business. We should thank Tiger. He could very well be a one-man Las Vegas stimulus package.