“I have not been true to my values.”

December 14, 2009

There were affairs, of course, before the marriage. A famous Hollywood actress, most notably, but other known and unknown women who caught his fancy on his way to the altar.

After the wedding, there were more dalliances while he was on the road, while those in his inner circles protected him from discovery. Then, the baby came, and the floodgates opened. It was almost as though he were saying, Now that you’re a mother, I just don’t find you sexually attractive anymore. Of course, he continued to work hard to hide the truth from his wife, but his lack of interest at home had to be sending unmistakable signals to her.

Was it the boredom of the road? When he was away from home, he flew them in and out so quickly that even his inner circle found it almost comical — and yet they knew that there would be hell to pay if one found out about the other.

He began getting careless. He was perhaps the most famous public figure on earth, but he had to risk being seen if he was going to have any kind of life away from his appearances. A gossip rag spotted him playing blackjack in a Vegas casino, a hot babe on either arm. He even began bringing them home, when his wife was out of town. His surviving parent knew what was going on, but either looked the other way or enabled him to keep the bimbos coming. There were even rumors of a paternity suit.

Eventually, as it had to, it became public.

And yet, Elvis survived. The public has long ago forgiven him.

What, you thought I was writing about Tiger Woods?

Despite the avalanche of gossip we’ve heard in the last three weeks, we still don’t know anywhere near as much about Tiger Woods’ private life as we now know about Elvis Presley’s. With more-or-less-corroborated books by pals Red West, Lamar Fike, Marty Lacker, Alan Fortas, an autobiography by Priscilla Presley and a definitive biography by Peter Guralnick, there can’t be much more about Elvis’s womanizing and extra-marital affairs that would be worth knowing.

And what we know is this: Elvis needed the constant attention and companionship of women who were not his wife — and the closer to their teenage years, the better. He in fact told Priscilla that he had never been able to make love to any woman he knew to have had a child. Lisa Marie was born Feb. 1 1968. Priscilla began to realize soon afterward that the writing was on the wall — or on a cocktail napkin tucked into one of Elvis’s performing jump suits.

But I do intend to bring this back to Tiger Woods, since no one cares anymore how many waitresses, actresses, models, singers and government employees Elvis slept with. Because I’m doing research on a novel about rock ‘n’ roll, I’ve been reading a lot about Elvis lately, and he immediately came to mind when the scope of Tiger’s transgressions was revealed. I began to think hard about Elvis when Tiger wrote on his web site, in his second carefully-worded expression of contrition, “I have not been true to my values.”

What, exactly, would those be?

As far as I can tell, Tiger Woods’ values are very much the same as Elvis Presley’s were: Get as much trim as you can when the wife is not around. If your values are about honoring your marriage vows, respecting your wife and cherishing the innocence of your children while you act in a manner that would make them proud — in other words, being a role model for your kids — where is the evidence?

The evidence suggests the opposite: That what you value more is sleazy sexual hookups with a string of loose women with low enough self-esteem to sleep with a married man.

Sorry if this sounds all moralistic, but we live in times, I’m afraid, where people like Tiger Woods don’t hear moralizing often enough. They hear, “Yes, Mr. Woods. Sure thing, Tiger. Anything else I can do for you?” Only Elin Woods is in a position to say no, and since that was a word Tiger didn’t want to hear, he led a secret life she only recently came to find out about.

Very much like Elvis, who had a dozen guys with him at all times to keep the broads coming, going, and not running into each other — and to keep Priscilla from finding out about any of it. Elvis would tell the bimbos that he had an “open marriage,” but for the sake of their child he tried to keep his activities private. I have no idea what Tiger told his floozies. I doubt they would have bought the “open marriage” story, which makes them all the floozier, in my estimation, since they had to know they were cheating with a man whose wife thought they were in a closed marriage.

None of this is really any of my business, except for my opinion of Tiger Woods, which was once about as high as it could get for a public figure I don’t know personally, and now is considerably lower. Considerably.

But that’s likely to change over time. Maybe I’m more forgiving of Elvis these days because he’s been dead for more than 30 years. I won’t outlive Tiger by 30 years, but I might be able to raise my opinion of him again if he divorces Elin and quietly goes from one new “girlfriend” to another — like peers Michael Jordan, Fred Couples, John Daly and many other pro athletes for whom wedded domesticity simply didn’t work out. If he attempts to keep his marriage intact — in other words, if he attempts to win back his sponsors by trying to convince the world that his “values” really are all about family — I think his rehabilitation is going to take much longer.

The world is comfortable with who Elvis Presley was — bigger than marriage, with appetites and opportunities he was unwilling and unable to ignore. Those were his values. On that basis, the world will probably, eventually, become comfortable again with who Tiger Woods is, too.


Obama Wins Nobel Prize

October 9, 2009

I’m not George Bush, either. Where’s my Nobel Prize?

I voted for Obama. I hope the world is a better place when his presidency is over. But this award feels extraordinarily condescending, as though America received a collective pat on the head from some committee in Norway because we voted the right way last November.

Unless he’s far more egotistical than I take him to be, I’m sure even Mr. Obama would at least privately admit that he hasn’t done enough, yet, to deserve this award. The Nobel Peace Prize appears to have become the political equivalent of a Golden Globe Awards, at which the foreign entertainment correspondents lure our biggest stars to their televised ceremony with flattery, gift bags and alcohol, then hand out trophies to those who adhere most closely to their vaguely “America is the cause of the world’s problems” politics.

I would have cautioned the committee to not hand out the statuette until this particular movie is over, and they’ve had a chance to compare it to the other contenders in the category.

[Random songs played on iTunes while writing this post: “Crazy Love, Vol. II” from Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” on which he first experimented with African musicians…Graceland

…and then “Guantanamera” by the Sandpipers, their version of which is a bit schlocky — and a song I hope I never hear again played by strolling musicians in a Mexican restaurant — but it does have a nice sentiment. See? I like The World just fine. guantanamera

That was followed, however, by Dinah Shore singing, “See the USA in your Chevrolet,” a sentiment I heartily endorse — even if GM is owned by the government now. 1956-Chevrolet-ad-6c]

Every two years…

August 19, 2008

…we gather on our couches and enjoy the spectacle of U.S. athletes getting hosed at the Olympic games. The latest examples are Alicia Sacramone (Chinese valuter FALLS TO HER KNEES on the landing, yet still edges Sacramone for the bronze) and Nastia (man, what were her parents thinking when they gave her that name?) Liukin doing an equally difficult parallel bars program to the Chinese gymnast — and clearly doing it with fewer faults — yet ending up tied, and losing a byzantine tie-breaker system to end up with silver.

Seriously, would we even watch the Olympics if it weren’t for these predictable screw jobs? And don’t give me the argument that it’s just a case of ethno-centrism and pro-U.S. bias that causes me to see these things. We all see them; the world sees them. It’s happening to other countries, too, but we don’t notice it because NBC is covering sports and athletes that the U.S. has a vested interest in. But don’t forget the Canadian pairs skaters that got jobbed so badly that they threw out a bunch of judges and revamped the figure skating scoring system.

That’s what needs to happen in Olympic gymnastics now. Review the tapes, get rid of the awful judges who seem to want to blame U.S. athletes for their hatred of George Bush, and fix the scoring system so two athletes who were scored equally high can share the medal they each earned. Either that, or toss all sports with subjective judging out of the Games. That’s right — no gymnastics, no diving, no figure skating, no halfpipe, nothing with music, nothing with sequins. If you can’t judge it honestly and correctly, don’t do it at all. Keep baseball and softball; at least those sports have rules and a scoreboard that spectators can understand, even if the umps aren’t much better than gymnastics judges.

[While writing this, I was listening to Everything But The Girl’s cover of “The Only Living Boy in New York” by Simon & Garfunkel. Sweet stuff.

Everything But The Girl, "The Only Living Boy in New York" (1996)

Everything But The Girl "The Only Living Boy in New York", 1996 (Paul Simon)

Soul Survivors, "Expressway To Your Heart" (1967)

Soul Survivors, "Expressway to Your Heart," 1967 (Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff)

Then a nice jump to “Expressway to Your Heart” by the Soul Survivors, a song we did in my high school band, which performed every good song by the Rascals, as well as the songs that sounded like they were done by the Rascals, like this one.

Wrapped up this session with “Willow Weep For Me” by Frank Sinatra off his “Only The Lonely” album, 1958. I think I like the Chad & Jeremy version better — not quite so forlorn, a bit more wistful. But Nelson Riddle sure knew how to paint a mood with sound…

Frank Sinatra "Willow Weep For Me"

Frank Sinatra, "Willow Weep For Me," 1958 (Ann Ronell)

R.I.P. Don Boxmeyer

August 16, 2008

Box was a great newsman and a terrific colleague during my 26 years at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The massive turnout at his visitation Thursday night, Aug. 14, was a testament to the impact he had on his friends, his co-workers and his city. It was a privilege to know him and work with him.

First tee, top of the first, etc…

August 8, 2008

I wasn’t sure what to write about when I decided to start this blog — some cheesy personal biographical stuff, or generic ramblings about life, sports, music, family and the other things that interest me — but then I received an e-mail from a fellow Red Sox fan, directing me to a Dan Shaughnessy column in the Boston Globe about how Manny Ramirez — I will never, ever, I swear to God, refer to him as ManRam — engineered his trade to the Dodgers.

Essentially, the column suggests, Manny took a dive during the last few weeks so the Sox would be forced to trade him, thus ensuring that his remaining two option years would be dropped, a new contract negotiated, and his new agent — Scott Boras — would get his cut. Manny’s thrilled to be in L.A., hitting again like the Hall of Famer he is, and Mannymania is sweeping L.A.

They’ll learn.

[Incidentally, I tend to write with the 38,000 songs on my iTunes playing on shuffle in the background. I’m going to mention what’s playing from time to time, maybe with inserted comments. Right now, “Bad Misunderstanding” by the Critters (1966), a sunshine pop gem written by Vini Poncia and Pete Andreoli. Not quite as great as “Mr. Dieingly Sad,” but quite fine.]

Critters Anthology 1965-1967

Critters Anthology 1965-1967

Back to Manny. This smelly deal interests me for the same reason the recent Brett Favre fiasco held my attention. Here are two legitimately great athletes, past their prime but still among the biggest names in their sport, holding both their teams and their leagues hostage while they try to milk a few more dollars and a few more moments of glory out of their careers. I’ve written novels about both the Red Sox and Packers — “Green Monster” doesn’t have a Manny character in it, as such, but you could see elements of him in the book; “Frozen Tundra,” which will hopefully be published next year, is about the problems that befall the post-Favre Packers.

[Instrumental backing from “Surfer Girl” by the Beach Boys, from “Stack-O-Tracks,” the extremely rare 1966 album that included only music, with no vocals. I kind of wish the CD had never been issued; I still have the vinyl LP. Not worth much now, I’m guessing. But I like this track. Very peaceful.]

Beach Boys "Stack-o-Tracks," 1966

Beach Boys "Stack-o-Tracks," 1966

I predict the Manny-Favre situations will keep occurring, and more often, as players become bigger than their sports. Can you imagine what would happen if Tiger Woods decided not to return to the PGA Tour after rehabbing his knee injury? He’s so much bigger than the Tour that it is only through his own good will and sense of tradition so far that he hasn’t split off to establish TigerTour, Inc.

Baseball and football players will still need leagues, but Babe Ruth came close to forming his own league when he felt that his money-earning possibilities were being too restricted by major league baseball. Back in the ’20s even Babe Ruth had to eventually cave in to the existing structure; Tiger Woods wouldn’t have to. Manny swings his own trade to L.A., Favre forces the Packers to let him play for another team; the stars are getting closer and closer to telling their teams and leagues, “You can’t tell me what to do.”

From the perspective of a Red Sox fan, good riddance to Manny. No team can — or should, anyway — continuously put up with that level of selfishness. I wish Favre were still in Green Bay, but maybe he’d gotten too big for that huddle, too.

[We’ll go out on the Everly Brothers’ 1962 b-side, “How Can I Meet Her” (flip of “That’s Old Fashioned”), written by Gerry Goffin and Jack Keller. Keller was no Carole King, but did get his writing credit on some decent ’60s pop tunes, like the Cyrkle’s “Turn Down Day” and Bobby Vee’s “Run to Him.” This song isn’t in that category.]

The Everly Brothers, "How Can I Meet Her," 1962 (Goffin/Keller)

The Everly Brothers, "How Can I Meet Her," 1962 (Goffin/Keller)