Tiger Woods has suffered the greatest popularity fall opinion polls have ever recorded for a nonpolitician and the inevitable clash between image and reality is to blame, writes Buzz Bissinger. In an era in which sports stars are expected to screw around, he created a public persona as the perfect man—perfectly empty of humanity, perfectly non-threatening, and non-controversial. He was a cipher even to fellow golfers, who got no closer than the press or the public, and a "charming nonperson" to sponsors, able to convey "the noble but totally nebulous concept of 'high performance.'"
The real Tiger Woods was revealed just once, in a 1997 GQ interview in which the then-21-year-old golfer cracked dirty jokes and flirted non-stop with photo assistants, Bissinger writes in Vanity Fair. He soon after disappeared behind the carefully crafted image, which ultimately did him a disservice. "Woods deluded himself into thinking he could be something that he wasn’t: untouchable," Bissinger writes. "The greatest feat of his career is that he managed to get away with it for so long in public."