When I used to play Sunday morning football my mate Wils and I used to make a point of stopping at the corner shop near the ground to buy a bottle of Lucozade and a packet of crisps – which of course is any self-respecting athlete’s pre-match meal of choice. Invariably, we would also grab a copy of the News Of The World, say “Who’s career are they destroying today?” and avidly hover up the lurid details, as well as our crisps, before losing 4-1 to the meat-cleaving hod-carriers of SW17.
In said rag, there would without fail be some celebrity being publicly humiliated as the result of some honeytrap or other, cunningly devised in the editorial offices of tabloid scribes who for some reason call themselves investigative journalists. Great lengths were gone to dupe Sven-Goran Eriksson into expressing an interest in managing Aston Villa when he should have been preparing England for the World Cup, while the model Sophie Anderton did little for her aspiring TV career when agreeing to a weekend of sex in the Bahamas for £15,000 while snorting cocaine in a hotel room with the same ‘Fake Sheikh’.
When I say the newspaper went to great lengths to catch these people off guard, all it actually took was a dark-skinned reporter, some sunglasses, a well-placed head towel, a dodgy accent and a hidden video camera to reveal these scoops.
Of course, sometimes these celebrities shoot themselves in the foot by inadvertently videoing themselves while in an escort. And I’m not talking about the car – although apparently some scenes involving the former Premier League manager in question were actually shot on the bonnet of his Mercedes (I think we all know who we’re talking about – google it).
The point is sex sells. And disgraced celebrities sell. And the bigger the celebrity, and the more the sex, the more it sells; as Tiger Woods is discovering just now to his eternal shame. Woods’ sensational demise is still ongoing. It started off as an innocent prang into a fire hydrant, turned into a row with his wife who may or may not have attacked him with a golf club and morphed into the worst tale of serial infidelity since Jude Law was put in charge of nanny recruitment. In fact the latest gossip-pedalling rags have turned it into an altogether more tragic episode in which the world’s greatest sportsman allegedly took a drugs overdose.
But it isn’t just the tabloids that are making hay whilst the sun is frying Woods’ once-pristine reputation to a crisp. The bookies are also getting in on the act, if only to get their ha’penny’s worth of exposure.
As ever Paddy Power were the first to react, as reported here last week , and they have continued to labour the point home as TigerGate has gained momentum, extending their odds to which TV show Woods will appear on to make his groveling apology. FYI he is 8/1 to shed a tear on Oprah.
BetUS sports have followed suit with over/under odds on which club Tiger’s wife will use to smash his windshield with next, whether she will join the LPGA and even whether she is having an affair herself.
Obviously these bookmakers don’t generate any income on these markets. If anything they place themselves at risk from being stung by people with insider knowledge. But they do gain free publicity. But where does it end?
Some might say that all publicity is good publicity but there comes a point where shrewd marketing becomes tasteless attention-seeking. I have no more sympathy for Tiger than the next man. Although a golfing God he comes across as cold, spoilt and ungracious. But after praising Paddy Power for their innovative approach to marketing recently, they are now skating on thin ice.
Paddy Power have carefully cultivated their image as the cheeky chappy with a wicked sense of humour but if they don’t watch out they might go a step to far. The latest allegations of an overdose may well be untrue but if the whole episode did end in a tragic, sorry mess neither the Irish boomaker or BetUS.com wouldn’t look quite so clever, would they?
Leave the gutter reporting to the tabloids, fellas, and stick to what you do best.
Now, where did I put today’s copy of the Sun?