Last year will be one both Tiger Woods and Brett Favre would just as soon forget.
The Woods debacle was voted top sports story of 2010 by the Associated Press and not for reasons any sports personality would be proud of. Tiger's troubles started but didn't end with the revelation of his marital infidelities.
Chastened by a poorly received public apology, and returning to competition only to play like a wounded duck, Woods' celebrity endorsement status foundered. Nike remained loyal to Woods, as did Electronic Arts, but that's because both companies had golf-related products to protect.
However, Woods was summarily dropped by a slew of advertisers, including Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade, and Tag Heuer. Gillette, which used Woods as part of a "Gillette Champions" marketing campaign, presented Woods with a lump of coal right before Christmas, ending its contract with the golf star in a formal divorce after the trial separation that AP covered, above.
The self-destruction of the Tiger Woods brand was nothing short of spectacular. After all, Woods was the world's first billion dollar athlete in terms of endorsement agreements. Now, he's a tarnished has-been who couldn't win a tournament victory last year.
Brett Favre had an interesting year as well, to say the least. Renowned for his on again-off again decision to retire, Favre came back for "one last season" as an NFL quarterback with the Minnesota Vikings. It turned out to be the year from hell, with Favre under-performing before getting walloped, both on and off the field. Sidelined with injuries, Favre's reputation was besmirched by a claim that he "violated the NFL's personal conduct policy" by sending questionable text messages to New York Jets' massage therapists.
The NFL "could not conclude" Favre violated the policy so they fined him $50,000 "for failure to cooperate" in the investigation and washed their hands of the sorry story. But not so fast, Brett. On Monday, the aging ball-handler was hit with a suit for sexual harassment. Attorney Gloria Allred said, "Some players think that everyone should be just thrilled to be in their presence. They need to know that laws also apply to them. They don't have a license to violate the law because they are celebrities."
Favre is another celebrity whose questionable judgment could result in being thrown for a loss by advertisers. For twenty years, Favre has been a venerable celebrity spokesperson. At the moment, at least, Favre is still appearing in Wrangler Jeans commercials and he prominently appears on the website for Snapper, a maker of lawnmowers. But now that the sexting story has gone from smoke to a raging fire, who knows what the future holds for Favre.
AP sports writer Jon Krawczynski may have put it best: "Like most great gunslingers, Favre's exit was messy and violent."
Still, history has shown that sports fans have relatively short memories. For example, hardly anyone remembers NBA superstar Kobe Bryant's rape case anymore. The fact is heroic sports figures are not only human, but all too often they have a darker side. If time heals all wounds, then maybe both Woods and Favre will be loved once more.
One development in Woods' favor: a vote of confidence by the Masters, the PGA's famed Augusta National tournament, which will be featured in EA Sports' just-revealed upcoming Tigers Woods PGA Tour 12 videogame. Here's a look: