Tiger Woods and the Hugh Grant Maneuver

Here’s a little something I wrote for the blog where I work. I was so pleased with the result that I decided to share it with all of you lucky folks, too. H/T to Dan Sonnier for most of the jokes and the link to the CG.

Just in time for Christmas, America is enjoying a steaming bowl of Schadenfreude — and the unfortunate person getting stuck with the bill is Tiger Woods. I’m going to assume you haven’t been living in a cave or been in a coma and will spare you the details. But you know things are getting bad when the jokes start. And start they have:

  • What’s the difference between a car and a golf ball? Tiger can drive a ball 400 yards.
  • Tiger Woods wasn’t seriously injured in the crash, but he’s still below par.
  • Tiger crashed into a fire hydrant and a tree. He couldn’t decide between a wood and an iron.
  • I don’t know how Elin putts, but it’s clear she can’t seem to hit the driver.
  • Actually, her short game is bad – she can only hit woods.
  • And don’t miss this little bit of Internet spoofery on the subject.

The whole situation has even brought this interesting use for CG graphics to light.

So while Tiger talks of transgressions and generally tries to avoid the subject, you know that someone in the Woods camp, be it a handler or manager, has uttered the three words nobody wants to hear: Public Relations Nightmare.

How does one handle such a situation? Commentator and columnist Larry Kudlow, who has seen his share of bad times, gives the best suggestion I’ve seen, but to me it’s merely a good start. It doesn’t go far enough to staunch the flow of tabloid headlines and begin to rebuild the good will that has fled the Tiger Woods brand.

What would I do if Tiger (or, let’s face it, his proxy) were sitting on the other side of my desk asking for my advice?

I would say, “Tiger needs to perform the Hugh Grant maneuver.”

The what?

It works like this. In 1995, the career of actor Hugh Grant was in full swing and he was dating one of the world’s most desirable women (Elizabeth Hurley) when the LAPD literally caught him with his pants down in the company of a common street prostitute. On the eve of the release of his latest film, his wholesome image was instantly tarnished.

What did Grant do? As part of the promotional tour for the film, he had scheduled an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He kept the appointment and made his appearance before a doubtlessly skeptical audience that wasn’t sure what to expect.

Leno’s first question? “What the hell were you thinking?”

Then Grant, in a clearly embarrassed and contrite manner, dismissed advice he had been given to spin what happened, took his lumps from Leno, and said, “I did a bad thing.”

Just like that he was forgiven because, hey, we’ve all been there in one way or another. While the film Grant was promoting didn’t do well (it may have had something to do with the fact that it was a clunker from the start), his career survived, with performances that often draw comparisons to Cary Grant. And his relationship with Hurley? It lasted another five years before they parted.

So Mr. Publicist? Tell Tiger to stop hiding behind smoke and mirror statements on his web site and behind polysyllabic words like “transgressions.” Call a sin a sin. Book him on Jay Leno and let Jay ask him The Question. And tell him to answer with candor and honesty.

Hugh Grant was just a British actor. Tiger Woods is an American legend. As we showed with Grant, we’re willing to forgive a lot. That goes double for our heroes. But first he needs to come clean.

More on The Hugh Grant Maneuver:

Watch Jay Leno grill Hugh Grant

Read about Grant’s arrest and image rehabilitation

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