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The Passion of Tiger Woods


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This short and lively book examines the career and meaning of Tiger Woods, from child star to global sports celebrity, and up through his subsequent downfall. Starn begins by looking at the place of golf in American life for its ordinary players and as a site for complex histories of gender, race, and class. He discusses the changes Tiger made in the game and the difference his outsized global success seemed to have made in the culture at large. Starn shows that while the celebrity scandal following the revelation of Tiger's infidelities was like many similar media-generated scandals of recent years, by examining the way Woods was seen afterwards, we can learn a lot about race and sex in contemporary America.

Table of Contents

Prologue ix
1. Golf Backward Spells "Flog" 1
2. The Tiger Woods Revolution 23
3. Tigergate, Celebrity Scandal, and the Apology Society 39
4. Internet Wars, Sex Addiction, and the Crucifixion of Tiger Woods 55
5. Postracial Fantasies, Racial Realpolitik 67
6. Tiger's Penis 85
7. Out of the Woods? 107
Notes 119
Bibliography 129
Acknowledgments 135
Index 137

About the Author

Orin Starn is Professor and Chair of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. He is the author of Nightwatch: The Politics of Protest in the Andes and a co-editor of The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics, both also published by Duke University Press. His most recent book is the award-winning Ishi's Brain: In Search of America's Last "Wild" Indian. An avid golfer with a five handicap, Starn has written about golf for the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers and provided commentary on ESPN and NPR. He blogs about golf at and regularly teaches a course about sports and society.


"The book's title alludes to the theatrical reenactments of Christ's suffering performed at Easter during the middle ages, or at least to Mel Gibson's big-screen rendition thereof. Starn interprets "Tigergate" as an early 21st-century version of the scapegoating rituals analyzed by Rene Girard. From what I recall of Girardian theory, the reconsolidation of social order involves the scapegoat being slaughtered, rather than paying alimony, though in some cases that may be too fine a distinction. The scandal was certainly louder and more frenetic than the game that Woods seems have been destined to master." Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed "Starn's Passlon seeks to cover numerous issues, extending beyond Woods to celebrity culture in general: why do we care so much about hat they earn, what they do, with whom, and how often?... It's a fascinating and thought-provoking look at how society gets its information and, often immediatel! hands down its judgments." Ron Kaplan, ForWord, Spring 2012 "Orin Starn's excellent examination of Tiger Woods offers deep insight, original thinking, and valuable new perspectives. This book tells us a lot about Tiger, but even more about ourselves." Jaime Diaz, senior writer, Golf Digest "The next time someone asks me about anthropology's value to contemporary cultural debates, I'll just tell them to read Orin Starn's The Passion of Tiger Woods, a funny, engaging, readable, and unapologetically anthropological take on celebrity scandal, popular culture, and American sports. From playful musings on a potentially recessive 'golf gene' to critiques of (wildly popular!) speculative genetic theories about black athleticism, Starn takes us on an entertaining ride through the history of golf, the rise of its current superstar, and the media maelstrom of racial and sexual imagery that followed from a relatively minor car crash in Florida one fateful Thanksgiving night. I'm one of those people who was tired of hearing about Tigergate almost as soon as the story first broke, but Starn does a convincing job of showing me why I should have been listening and watching even more closely." John L. Jackson, Jr., author of Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness "...this short book is a sophisticated, valuable effort to tease out the cultural and political meaning of the response to Tiger's "fall from grace"... Mindful that anonymous Internet postings are unreliable, and that the sheer volume of material precludes any tidy categorization, Starn proceeds with due caution. Still, by including so much raw material, he convincingly demonstrates the limitations of the mainstream media in dealing with a phenomenon like Tigergate." Stephen Goodwin, Washington Independent Review of Books, April 2012

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