Monday, March 22

Economic Theory as an Explanation for Tiger Phenomenon

MAYBE ECONOMIC THEORY CAN shed some light on the Tiger Woods situation. Even though I never felt entirely comfortable with the subject, I did get a degree in economics from San Diego State. I admit I don’t remember much, but I do recall that our textbooks were jammed with graphs used to explain relationships between things such as unemployment and inflation, demand and price, guns (military spending) and butter (school lunches).

Maybe a graph can explain the relationship between Tiger Woods and the world.

Since the day after Thanksgiving (and even before), I’ve noticed an inverse relationship between Tiger and those who take an interest in his on- and off-course activities. Tiger is in scarce supply—consider him to be “X” on the graph, the horizontal axis. The media, fans, everybody are “Y,” the vertical axis, and have provided enough chatter to fill the solar system. As Tiger went into seclusion and said nothing, the world was compelled to say more and more and more—it’s the way inverse relationships work. Logic would dictate that more Tiger was needed to achieve some sort of equilibrium.

That’s where it breaks down, unfortunately. Here’s why. More Tiger hasn’t seemed to help. Even as he’s begun to say more—for example, his 13-minute public apology and Sunday’s dueling five-minute speed interviews—we appear to be no closer to any kind of equilibrium, and the world is still incessantly chattering away. (Thanks a lot, economics.)

Just to give it the old college try, one more graph.

For the longest time, people wanted Tiger to talk about his problems, to come clean. (More Tiger.) Now that he’s talking (at least some), it’s not doing a thing for many of those same people who wanted to hear from him. In fact, for them and others, the more he talks, the less he says. That, my friends, reminds me of the law of diminishing returns.

Tiger doesn’t want to talk. (We know this.) And when he talks, he doesn’t want to reveal much. (We know this.) Can anyone be surprised anymore?

By the way, Tiger also studied economics, at Stanford. I doubt that he could have ever imagined that his personal scarcity would create so much demand.

−The Armchair Golfer


Average Golfer said...

You have a talent for reducing complex theory into digestible nuggets.

Patricia Hannigan said...

Suddenly it's all so clear. Sort of. In any case I like the explanation and the graphics that accompany it.

Robert said...

Ha. Sadly, some people have a fierce appetite for this kind of stuff. Tiger has apologized...the world needs to move on.

Mike said...

Neil, I don't think the problem is your graphing prowess or your Tiger data, but your media and fan data. It doesn't take into account that they keep moving the measuring line. For example, Tiger makes public confession, listeners complain he didn't take questions; Tiger takes questions, listeners complain he didn't take enough questions AND he didn't allow enough time. This sounds like an exponential change rather than a simple one.

You might have found it less frustrating to graph the increase in income due to Tiger's reappearance at the Masters. I suspect that's going to be a much simpler graph. ;-)

The Armchair Golfer said...

Average Golfer: Thanks.

Patricia: You're kind.

Robert: Agreed.

Mike: Exactly right.

When I started writing the post, I had thought of it as being humorous and absurd. I guess it makes some weird kind of sense and may come across as a somewhat serious explanation. I think it proves that I've gone too far and am in need of help, no? Maybe I can blame Tiger for that. ;=)

Davis Wildman said...

Fascinating Neil, simply fascinating...Adam Smith would be pleased with your economic analysis of 'the Tiger phenomena'...let's call it. are correct; looks to be an exponential rather than an arithmetic relationship, but it is that way with media and fans...they always want more.

Phil Capelle said...

I remember an economics course in college with the most incredibly mind bending graphs, like the ones you probably experienced. My head still hurts at the thought of them. You have made a good point - of late, despite his appearances, I find my interest in the sideshow diminishing rapidly, especially now that majors season is coming so very soon.