Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Lady or the Tiger?

Thailand has always had an ambivalent relationship with Tiger Woods, claiming him once he became famous and then becoming deeply offended when he chose not to make his mother’s nationality his own. “Cablinasian” wasn’t a term that charmed Thailand, not when he could have accepted the privilege of being Thai instead.

He has always received a generous amount of attention from the Thai press, even after his refusal to become the Kingdom’s returning son, and yesterday both English-language papers ran a large AP reprint about Tiger, served up with a generous helping of schadenfreude.

Police To Talk To Tiger About Accident blared the headline in one, Woods In Crash Drama: Wife Smashes Window With Golf Club After Tiger Hits Fire Hydrant And Tree screamed another, and heaven only knows what the less conservative Thai-language press had to say about God’s gift to the sport’s page. Probably quite a bit since the story deals with some of their favorite subjects, an auto crash, blood, a rescue by a dutiful wife, and rumors of infidelity. Certainly the National Enquirer is having fun with what the Florida police have dubbed “a traffic crash,” not a “domestic issue.”

Alcohol was not a factor, the police report stated, but provided no reason why the golf star left his $2.4 million dollar home and his blonde trophy wife at 2:25 in the morning, rapidly losing control of his 2009 Cadillac which hit a fire hydrant and then a tree on his neighbor’s property while Tiger briefly lost consciousness somewhere along the way. When the police arrived, Woods was able to say “nothing coherent,” and those close to him are keeping silence, including the night club hostess with whom he was rumored to be having an affair.

This is the stuff that reporters dream of, all over the world, and who can doubt that Vanity Fair will soon have a feature article about Tiger Wood’s domestic life, with glossy aerial shots of his estate and inset pictures of every woman he has ever spoken to. Did his wife bludgeon him with one of his own golf clubs? Was he fleeing to receive medical attention when he lost consciousness? Or was he simply relaxing with a recreational drug after the thrill of being inducted into Stanford U’s Sports Hall of Fame? God knows that kind of adulation can take it out of a guy, not to mention the recent two-week golf tour of China and Australia where he may or may not have seen the club hostess who was in Melborne at the same time he was. It’s the best kind of mystery. Nobody died and nobody’s happy. Who in the world of newsprint and declining circulations could ask for anything more?

A similar story involving a young Thai actress appeared in the same issue of the Bangkok Post yesterday but garnered only a couple of hundred words in that paper’s gossip column. Her auto accident was far more serious, putting the comatose twenty-one-year-old in the hospital with a bleeding brain and a fractured pelvis, while her passenger was unscathed. The former Miss Teen Thailand was on her way home “early last Tuesday,” chatting to her companion as she drove, when suddenly her car veered off the road and hit an electric pole. She was”catapulted through the windshield and on to the road” while the passenger was thrown into the driver’s seat. Obviously seatbelts were not involved in the accident.

But unlike Tiger’s case, no mystery is attached to this one. It’s the fault of the actress’s director who admitted, “I believe the set of our production may be cursed, as we failed to carry out a buang suang ceremony first.” This is a ritual held before filming begins that drives away bad luck and propitiates any spirits who might be hovering about. When that didn’t take place, bad things began to happen to cast members of the television series.

One actor broke his nose when he ran into a plank on the set and other cast members had received “cuts and scrapes” in the course of filming. The fact that the severely injured starlet had been working from 10 am until midnight on Monday wasn’t a factor, the director assured the press, since she had enjoyed a full day of rest on Sunday.

It’s too late to hold the ceremony now but the director is sure that his promise to have a merit-making ceremony at a temple once the production is wrapped up is sufficient to ward off other expressions of ill will from the spirit world.

It’s easy for him to say—somehow the spirits have refrained from punishing him, although he is clearly the true malefactor in this flouting of ritual. Or perhaps the best is yet to come and the starlet is just a prelude to real disaster? Anyone who has seen the classic Thai ghost story, Mae Nak, knows spirits are not easily dissuaded from a course of wholesale distraction and carnage when their delicate sensibilities have been disregarded. Since the disasters have escalated from contusions to a broken nose to a shattered pelvis, I’d say the spirits are just warming up and that director had better find a good ceremony fast.

Tiger might want to rethink his decision on whether or not to become Thai once he understands how much bad publicity can be averted by giving credit to the world of the spirits. On the other hand, if a jealous wife is involved in his predicament, he may have gotten off easier than his erring counterparts in the Kingdom.

It’s common knowledge that in Thailand, Lorena Bobbitt would have been regarded as a household saint, or worse yet, just one of the crowd of spouses scorned. Had Tiger turned Thai, his wife could well have wielded something much sharper than a golf club and the resulting surgical attachment would have been both painful and humiliating. Perhaps a spot of world-wide bad publicity is a decent trade-off after all, although the world’s top golfer may not feel the same about the tools of his trade for a while—at least not until his facial injuries heal.

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