The Passion of Tiger Woods

An Anthropologist Reports on Golf, Race, and Celebrity Scandal

The Passion of Tiger Woods

a John Hope Franklin Center Book

More about this series

Book Pages: 160 Illustrations: 20 illustrations Published: December 2011

Author: Orin Starn

American Studies, Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

Perhaps the best golfer ever, Tiger Woods rocketed to the top of a once whites-only sport. Endorsements made him a global brand and the world’s richest athlete. The child of a multiracial marriage, Woods and his blond, blue-eyed wife, Elin Nordegren, seemed to represent a new postracial America. Then, in late 2009, Woods became embroiled in a sex scandal that made headlines worldwide. In this concise yet far-reaching analysis, Orin Starn brings an anthropologist’s perspective to bear on Tigergate. He explores our modern media obsession with celebrity scandals and their tawdry ritualized drama, yet he offers much more than the usual banal moralizing about the rich and famous. Starn explains how Tiger’s travails and the culture of golf reflect broader American anxieties—about race and sex, scapegoating and betrayal, and the role of the sports hero. The Passion of Tiger Woods is required reading for all those interested in the high-stakes world of professional golf, the politics of sports and celebrity, and the myths and realities surrounding the flawed yet riveting figure who remains among the most famous athletes of our time.


“[A] sophisticated, valuable effort to tease out the cultural and political meaning of the response to Tiger’s ‘fall from grace.’” — Stephen Goodwin, Washington Independent Review of Books

“Golf is not simply a game; Tiger Woods is not simply a golfer; Tigergate was not simply a scandal. Orin Starn makes this clear, highlighting the many ways that golf, Woods, and Tigergate offer a mirror into larger social, cultural and racial realities.” — David J. Leonard, New Black Man (in Exile)

“Orin Starn’s elegant little essay, The Passion of Tiger Woods, arrives from
the outside and looks at the public spectacle of Woods’ stunning crack -up.” — Bradley Klein, Golfweek

“With Tiger as its springboard, ‘Passion’ dives into some big themes the subtitle barely supplies the half of it and comes up with a short, compelling and eminently engaging postulation that goes well beyond its own titular transgressor.” — Jeff Silverman,

“[A] very engrossing read. . . . The value of The Passion of Tiger Woods is simply that it is thought provoking. Starn provides readers with plenty of issues to consider about sports in culture, along with his own unique perspective — Steven Campbell, American Athlete

“A fascinating and thought-provoking look at how society gets its information and, often immediately, hands down its judgments.” — Ron Kaplan, Foreword Reviews

“An in-depth study of the sport's exclusionary reputation, the celebrity industry, racial stereotypes, marketing and media avarice, Starn's treatment of the Woods scandal delivers layers of perspective to what, on the surface, was just another cheap tabloid feeding frenzy.” — John Jeansonne, Newsday

 “An excellent example of the power of anthropology to illuminate popular culture at the national level for a nonanthropological audience. . . . This report would be an excellent text for introductory anthropology classes, for those rare classes in the anthropology of sport, and as a gift to nonanthropologist friends who are curious about what anthropology might have to say about culture in the United States.” — Robert H. Lavenda, American Ethnologist

"Starn’s clarity about the cultural significance of sport and specifically of golf is refreshing. . . . The Passion of Tiger Woods offers an important entry point to thinking differently about sport." — Katherine M. Jamieson, Sociology of Sport Journal

"The Passion of Tiger Woods is a wonderful example of the types of anthropological studies that are necessary and possible. Despite the obvious pitfalls of the anonymity of his subjects, the approach lends itself to useful, fresh, honest tracking of true public perception that ensues in the social media world, which cannot be ignored." — Thabiti Lewis, American Studies

“Starn, an anthropologist, promises us not only golf but also the steamier topics of betrayal, raunchy sex and race conflict. And once we’re past an early trot through American history and golf, that’s exactly what we get. Starn is a perceptive guide as he ranges from the Frankfurt School to social media with an enviable lightness of touch.” — Sharon Wheeler, Times Higher Education

“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


Availability: In stock
Price: $23.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

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.

Table of Contents Back to Top
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
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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