I’ve been really proud of myself for not mentioning Tiger Woods or his scandal for all this time. However, now I have to talk about it. The scandal has grown beyond what I had imagined, for it now involves one of the biggest institutions in our country — insurance companies. Because of Tiger, corporations that pay athletes big money to endorse their products are looking into buying insurance in case their athletes misbehave. One estimate is that Tiger’s actions cost the seven corporations that sponsored him $12 billion in the value of their stocks. That was just in the month after he, uh, took time off from golf. I know golf’s an expensive sport, but $12 billion?
So that’s why corporations want to get insurance for future deals with athletes. Traditionally, personal service contracts have had a “morals clause.” Believe it or not, all the contracts I signed as a television writer had a clause like that. I’m not sure what awful thing I could have done that would have cost a studio big bucks. Let’s face it, the general public wouldn’t care if a writer snuck off for a romantic drive to Santa Barbara with a goat — even if the goat were driving.
But a “morals clause” is a pretty vague term, so when it comes to misbehaving athletes, it’s not a slam-dunk. Therefore, corporations would like to have more specific language in their contracts enumerating unacceptable behavior. But will big time athletes really sign a contract that, let’s say, promises they won’t cheat on their wives, be drunk in public, or shoot a gun in a nightclub? If contracts like that were enforced, there wouldn’t be many athletes left. Companies would end up paying ball boys and cheerleaders to endorse their cars and deodorants.
A big reason that people were shocked by Tiger Woods’ alleged behavior is that he’d always been a squeaky clean guy — at least in the public’s mind. He wasn’t a thug who stole televisions from the time he could lift them to the time he started playing football. He wasn’t an ice skater who was involved in smashing the leg of her competitor. He looked and talked like a nice guy. So, many people felt let down by Tiger. The feeling was, “We believed in you, we rooted for you, and this is how you treat us?”
This reaction by the public got me thinking that the kind of insurance endorsing corporations are talking about shouldn’t just cover athletes. There should be voters insurance. Don’t you think that people who supported and donated money to John Edwards’ campaign should have every penny returned to them? Plus interest? Like Tiger, Edwards was thought to be a squeaky clean, nice guy. And as with Tiger, people who supported Edwards understandably feel let down.
I think there should be insurance that would pay us if we believed in, supported, or gave money to a candidate who turned out to be a thief, a liar, or a cheater. Call it … anti-sleaze protection. In addition to giving money back to supporters, if the offending politician holds an office, he or she would have to resign.
I don’t think we should have a public option for this kind of insurance. Let the insurance companies compete with each other. You know those Progressive Car Insurance commercials with the woman in white with all the lipstick? They could have a commercial with her saying something like this: “You’re covered if your senator hides stolen money in the trunk of a car or if he tries to get tricky by registering the car in the name of his mistress’ uncle’s sister-in-law.”
I can imagine a commercial from State Farm: “Our Good Neighbor policy gives you double indemnity if your dallying governor makes an apology with fake tears.”
Or Allstate: “You’re in good hands no matter who your congressman grabbed with his.”
Doesn’t it sound like a good system? Liberals, conservatives, and talk show hosts should all support it. It would ensure that elected officials either behave appropriately or they have to return all the money they raised, plus they’ll get kicked out of office. Who could possibly object to this plan? Oh, right — 535 members of the House and Senate.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from “Sesame Street” to “Family Ties” to “Home Improvement” to “Frasier.” He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his Web site at lloydgarver.com and his podcasts on iTunes.