Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tiger Woods vs. Mickey Mantle: Why the double standard regarding their personal lives?

Recently, a new book was released that studies the life and times of baseball great Mickey Mantle. The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood by Jane Leavy is an exhaustive analysis of Mantle's life on and off the field. I have only read excerpts of the book, but based on the reviews I have read, it appears to be an excellent book.

There is no question that Mantle is a baseball legend, and a compelling argument can be made that he is one of the top five players of all time. However, the topic of this posting deals with his personal life. His personal life has been scrutinized many times going all the way back to the book Ball Four in 1970. His alcoholism, womanizing, and other inappropriate behavior have been thoroughly examined.

When comparing his personal life to golfer Tiger Woods, I cannot find much difference except in one major area. The big difference is how the behavior of the two has been presented to the public. Mantle's escapades have been presented to us with a wink. Sure, it has been reported to us, but often with a disclaimer that Mantle's shenanigans took place in a different era. The media did not report about player's personal lives then, and it was not much of a public issue. After all, boys will be boys.

Even when the scrutiny on his personal life intensified after his retirement from baseball, the criticism bounced off Mantle like he was wearing Teflon. People did not seem to care because he was 'The Mick.' He was their childhood hero, and it was a lot easier to embrace the legend instead of the truth.

When it comes to professional prowess, Tiger Woods is a lot like Mantle in that they were both prodigies. Still in the prime of his career, Woods is already considered one of the two greatest golfers of all time.

The similarities between the two carried into their personal lives. Woods repeatedly cheated on his wife. He behaved like a cad just like Mantle. He had access to the privileges of making the big time and exploited just about all of it.

For Woods, his treatment when his transgressions were made known was quite different compared to Mantle. The media that had winked at Mantle's decisions attacked Woods like a bull attacks a red cape. The media has hid behind the tired argument that times have changed, and that Woods is fair game.

Of course, that is a load of baloney. The primary reason Mantle was protected (and still continues to be) was because he was a New York player. Back in the 1950s and 60s, the New York print media ruled when it came to covering sports. Mickey was their boy, and nobody was going to lay a hand on him.

Woods, on the other hand, was ground into raw meat by many of the same publications that had protected Mantle. The hypocrisy here is thick and fair-minded people should understand the abuses that have happened here.

Please do not misunderstand. The point of this posting is not to defend Tiger Woods in any way. He made his mistakes and has paid dearly for them. Also, the point here was not to exploit Mantle's mistakes.

It is that we all need to be very careful when we get served stories like the one involving Tiger Woods. The media outlets that sanctimoniously criticize the behavior of some people often protect people who do the same thing simply because they like them.

This has been a cynical posting. I plead guilty to that.

However, Woods remains a pariah, and Mantle a golden boy.

And that does not seem right.


Tenn Irish said...

Mickey Mantle had a personal life? Who knew!?

Anonymous said...

Mantle was always a charmer. Charm can carry you a long way.