Ken Starr's report was so detailed it made everyone wince. Especially anyone who thought about what life might be like for Chelsea Clinton, then in college at Stanford University. Suddenly her father's detailed sex life is available for review by everyone living in her dorm?
It was every teenager's worst nightmare.
Until this winter, Bill Clinton could lay claim to the title of most sexually investigated person in the history of mankind. No longer. Because Wednesday's blockbuster Tiger Woods revelations from Vanity Fair magazine, The Sporting News version of the Starr report, make Bill Clinton look like a sheepish choir boy hiding a Playboy under his mattress.
From sex with menstruating waitresses against his car, to paying for escorts, to following in the celebrity lifestyle of Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley when it came to gambling and women, the Tiger Woods that we were sold and turned into the world's first sports billionaire was nothing like the real Tiger Woods.
Indeed, let's call the marketing of Tiger Woods what it is, the greatest individual con job in the history of sports.
And that's really where things get interesting. Because what we're now learning is that everyone knew about Tiger Woods' affairs, that Woods surrounded himself with a team of enablers, men who covered for his flaws. This wasn't a surprise, it was a conspiracy of silence.
From his agents to the employees of his foundation, to the travel agents to the women who procured other women for him, it was impossible that everyone in Woods' inner circle didn't know what was going on in his life. But here's the deal, we don't make a playboy cheater sports' first billionaire. And we don't make these same employees of a billionaire, multi-millionaires if Tiger Woods' affairs become public knowledge.
So what ensues?
Everyone enables the Tiger that lays the golden egg. Because they have to. In fact, and this is where it gets even more interesting, those close to Tiger actually owe their jobs to the fact he has these foibles, that he needs someone to help cover up his personal indiscretions.
Get him help?
Hell, every time Tiger gets into a deeper mess, these handlers become even more indispensable. They know where the bimbo eruptions are buried. Tiger, Inc. can't make him better with his iron play or help him with reading the greens, but they are in a position where his character flaws directly benefit them. By acting as Tiger's "fixers" in his personal life these men, paradoxically, establish their value with Tiger. Amazingly, they need Tiger to have issues to be relevant, and everyone at Tiger, Inc. becomes complicit in the great sporting swindle.
Who also needs Tiger to be a success? The PGA golfers on the tour. In 1996, when Tiger went pro, just nine golfers made a $1 million or more. By 2009? Try 91 earning a million or more annually.
Meet the green wall of silence, golf's answer to the police officers' blue wall of silence.
Tiger Woods has made less than $100 million -- $93 million to be exact -- from his on-course golf winnings. But he's a billionaire. Where has the rest of his money, the other $900 million, come from?
From selling an artificial image to golf's fans via off the course falsehoods.
Think about this for a moment, Tiger's made 9x as much money off the course as he ever has on it. Golf is almost incidental to Tiger's earnings power. It's why he releases photos of his newborn children posing with Elin and the Labradoodle, it's why his family needs to be standing off the 18th green every time a tournament ends.
While Tiger Woods has clamored for privacy, his money, conversely, depends almost entirely on the lack of privacy. Tiger didn't have to sell this image, he could have eschewed the extra money and focused entirely on golf.
But that wouldn't have made him the first sports billionaire.
Enter the greatest individual swindle in the history of sports marketing.
We, the American public, didn't buy Tiger the golfer. We bought Tiger the family man who dominates in golf.
Everyone at Team Tiger who has seen Tiger's revenue stream knows that he can only directly impact a small percentage of his earnings via his performance on the golf course.
The rest has to come from creating the falsest image in the history of sports marketing, a multicultural family man without flaws, Jesus with a putter, to sell to a clueless public. Anything that threatens that image has to be combated because it devalues the brand.
It's not just that Tiger believes he's entitled to whatever he wants, it's that Tiger's created an entire industry of sycophants who owe their millions to ensuring that Tiger is entitled to whatever he wants because the brand has to be protected.
Tiger wants it?
Just do it.
So the reason Tiger Woods is such a fascinating story isn't because Tiger Woods has character flaws, it's because the public has been sold a flawless Tiger Woods. And never in the history of sports, as we're uncovering, has the reality of a sports star's life been more different than the image we were sold. Sure, lots of people knew of this falsehood, but by the time the gap between reality and artifice became a chasm, everyone had too much money at stake to ever allow the truth to come out.
So they lied.
All of them.
Until, amazingly, one of the most disreputable media outlets in the country, the National Enquirer, killed the Golden Tiger and set loose the death spiral, the slow unraveling of the facade of marketing lies that Tiger, Inc. had spent 15 years creating.
And what we're learning today is that Tiger's collapse isn't the story of one individual's failure, it's the story of an entire industry's conspiracy against the truth.
Enron meet Tiger, Inc.