THE PASSION OF TIGER WOODS: An Anthropologist Reports on Golf, Race, and Celebrity Scandal

By Lewis, Thabiti | American Studies, January 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

THE PASSION OF TIGER WOODS: An Anthropologist Reports on Golf, Race, and Celebrity Scandal


Lewis, Thabiti, American Studies


THE PASSION OF TIGER WOODS: An Anthropologist Reports on Golf, Race, and Celebrity Scandal. By Orin Starn. Durham: Duke University Press. 2011.

Making effective use of online discourse and other electronic arenas to learn the truth about Tiger Woods and celebrity in the modern world, Orin Starn gathers anthropological data from social media to evaluate race in post-civil rights America. Starn offers an entertaining approach to the everyday and mundane societal patterns and social perceptions of celebrity. Adroitly recognizing that "community" has ceased to be a neatly circumscribed entity, Starn tracks blogs, chat rooms, message boards, and news sources like ESPN.com to accurately hear the tenor of twenty-first century voices in an age of political correctness. Of particular concern is how scandal in an unprecedented era of social media raised a new set of issues about Tiger Woods. His unlikely popularity was due to his golf prowess, his unracialized status, and the nature of celebrity in modern America.

However, this is also a book about golf and its place in American society where there are over twenty million golfers. Starn also is philosophical in his discussion of how the chance involved in golf and the opportunity "for a more genuine outdoor experience" draws "the loner" who "finds a hermit's solace in [the] pastime" (20-21). After a brief but solid overview of the history of golf and its connection to "the very ideal of American power, prosperity, and luxury," Starn discusses the history of golf, its rise in the United States of America, and the fascination with Tiger Woods (9). He outlines Woods's blueprint to displace racial memory and the immense pressures of being a golf prodigy.

When Tiger Woods was lured out of college in 1996 with a $40 million dollar endorsement contract from Nike, he was already an icon. Indeed, as Starn explains, Woods's entire life has been about juggling the enormous responsibility being a winner, icon, entrepreneur, and corporate athlete. Woods is the first athlete to earn $1 billion, his wife is blond-haired, he has two dogs and two children, and as Starn points out, he and Elin are "the poster couple for a shiny new postracial America" (xi). …

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