"Tyger! Tyger! burning bright," began William Blake's poem "The Tyger." But nothing will burn brighter than the TV lights and media heat when Tiger Woods returns to the PGA Tour and plays in the Masters in April.
"The Tiger Effect" was a well-tracked phenomenon in which tournaments including Woods saw ratings rise dramatically. Audiences awed by his athleticism seemed equally interested in the athlete, however enigmatic.
With his tabloid trip from the cover of Sports Illustrated to the National Enquirer, he's just as enigmatic, if not as private. That should create the conditions for record ratings.
If he plays poorly, it's a story. If he plays well, it's just as big of one. And if he's just average, well, he's playing, which is the biggest story of all.
Sure, some who feel rolled by the former role model won't watch. But there may be just as many who may feel more compelled to tune in to see how Woods and the genteel game's gallery respond. After all, some of the top TV ratings occur when fallen stars reemerge in the public eye, be it the late Michael Jackson's disastrous post-allegations interview, former President Bill Clinton's post-Monica-Lewinsky-scandal State of the Union Address, or, more recently, the Kanye West and Adam Lambert media moments that were rare ratings bright spots for NBC's "Jay Leno Show."
Since Woods is unlikely to ever again be revered, and at best may be respected if he can get his personal and professional life in order, his work as a blue-chip corporate shill is long over, which means he won't be as ubiquitous on screen.
But at least for a weekend, in a world in which Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D- R.I., rightly rails that the mass media is more interested in Eric Massa than in the war in Afghanistan, the bright glare of public attention on the august Augusta National, home of the tradition-rich Masters, will create an even more-riveting distraction.