Tiger and the molehill of crap

“You can’t see the Woods for the bush,” announced my boss in a news meeting. And boy was he right. The mistresses popping out of the Tiger woods were at number five. Or eight — I forget. And the man himself was deathly quiet, barring a terse website entry admitting nothing and shunning the near rabid public interest in his life.

It was the best line I’ve heard thus far on the entire non-event. Not that it didn’t face stiff competition. The Tiger Woods jokes started trickling in as the first indiscretion was aired. The crashed car, the spurned bombshell wife and the mega-private mega-star’s wild affairs — it was too salacious to let slide. “Perhaps Tiger should’ve used a driver,” some sniggered in the first of a series of bad golfing puns. And the difference between a car and a golf ball? Tiger can drive a ball 400 yards.

His Thanksgiving Day accident, said to be caused by his furious wife, Elin Nordegren, in response to his extramarital affairs, served rich fodder for the likes of Saturday Night Live, the American comedy skit show that gleefully ran with the unravelling soap opera. But this incident was too juicy to be left to the comedians alone. Editors thanked the number one golf pro for filling the news hole for several sections: sports, news and entertainment. And as the tally of cocktail waitresses and hostesses featuring on his affairs list reached 10, the fiercely private Woods grudgingly released a public statement this past Friday admitting his unfaithfulness, after that much had become more than evident.

It made the local front pages — naturally. If media sales people had dreams this is the stuff they were made of. It was met with full page spreads in several local newspapers, satisfying the endless supply of disturbing interest usually reserved for traffic accidents and Britney Spears’s periodic breakdowns.

Any attempts to interrogate the abnormal media attention on my part were firmly smacked down. Two editors elsewhere in the industry were disgusted with my Tiger reticence as expressed on Twitter. The man was a major sports star! What matters to him matters to us! Never mind the fact that the initial accident, involving one totalled fire hydrant, was boring as it was inconsequential. The world persevered till our persistent tapping at the issue was met with the first cracks in Woods’s usual wall of silence, degenerating into a full-on explosion of sex, lies and destroyed lives. We can pat ourselves on the back. We made that happen. We got Woods to admit who he really is. No one can hide from us. No fear, no favour.

God forbid we turn that kind of scrutiny and pressure upon our governments. Our corporations. Or — even worse — ourselves. We’re so adept at making a mountain out of a molehill of celebrity crap that we ignore the real crap in our lives.

Like the 24-million tonnes of crap that South Africa is about to start drowning in if we don’t stop treating our landfills like a black hole that will magic our trash away. Because buried within our papers this past weekend is this story that’s taking a mind-boggling back seat to one man’s admission of infidelity: our collective oblivion to the ticking bomb that is our rapidly filling waste sites.

Even though up to 60% of that trash is recyclable. But not recycled, because for things like plastic bags (2,6-billion of them a year at last count, according to the report), consumers need to separate them at source so they don’t get contaminated by food waste and other trash.

But South Africans have largely yet to bother taking the time to do so. Probably because we’re too busy reading celebrity stories of disgrace about people we’ll never meet nor be affected by. And all the while our landfill sites stretch to capacity in one of many silent crises that plague our country in the shadow of more glamorous news events. But the fact is that soon we won’t see the woods for the plastic bags. Now there’s something to write home about.

You can read Verashni’s column on the M&G online every Monday, and follow her on twitter here.

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Verashni Pillay
Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms.

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