That's Racing: Heed Tiger’s travails

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 at 10:15pm

It’s amusing to hear celebrities who earn millions by being famous complain when their fame becomes a pain.

The latest example is Tiger Woods, caught with his paw in the cookie jar. The country’s most recognized sports figure seems to think he can turn his fame off like a spigot and escape behind his gated walls.

That gives us some idea of how naïve these people are when it comes to life in the real world. Fame is a double-edged sword.

NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon discovered the high price of fame a few years ago when he got the tabloid treatment amid a messy breakup with a former Miss Winston. Jeff learned then what Tiger is learning now — they are victims of their own celebrity.

They can’t be a renowned sports star one day and Joe Sixpack the next. Maybe it’s unfair but that’s the way it is. It’s called taking the bad with the good.

That’s the fish bowl that awaits Danica Patrick when she starts racing in NASCAR. Already an international celebrity, Danica’s fame will explode 10-fold with her NASCAR exposure. If she burps in public, it’ll be splashed on Entertainment Tonight.

We hear celebrities complain about not being able to appear in public or go out to dinner with their family without being badgered by fans. Notice they never complain about cashing those big paychecks.

Joe Sixpack, working a 9-to-5 job for minimum wage, isn’t bothered when he goes out in public.

When it’s convenient, celebrities love the fan adulation and are drawn to the warm glow of the spotlight, while raking in millions in endorsements.

That’s the tale of Tiger. If he were some unknown duffer hacking his way around a public course nobody would care about his personal life and tawdry infidelities. But because he’s Tiger everybody’s intrigued.

I suppose that in a perfect world a sports star should be able to do his job — on a golf course, football field, basketball court or racetrack — then retire to the seclusion of his or her private life. But the world’s not perfect and it doesn’t work that way. Celebrities don’t punch a time clock. Today Sports Illustrated, tomorrow The National Enquirer.

They can’t have it both ways — famous one day, obscure the next. Any superstar who thinks otherwise is kidding himself.

Maybe, like Caesar, they need someone to constantly walk by their side whispering in their ear a reminder of their human frailty.

Let the superstar beware. Sometimes that warm glow of the spotlight can get awfully hot.