The subject of fame has been on my mind this week: Tiger Woods trying to avoid the downside of it and White House gate-crashers trying to grab more of it.

Most of us don’t experience real fame. I’ve known many people who should have received more of it than others who’ve gotten it for no worthwhile reason. It’s satisfying at times but can be a curse of sorts.

In my broadcasting and byline background, I’ve had a small amount. It’s a kick when you’re young. But, as I’ve added years, not so much.

I remember the exact moment I first learned about fame’s two-edged sword. I was anchoring the nightly news on KBOI-TV in Boise, Idaho. One day, while shopping at Albertsons, I was stopped at the meat counter by an elderly woman. She recognized me from TV and wanted me to call one of Idaho’s senators whom I “must certainly know” to see why her Social Security check was late.

Over the years and across the country, there were some obscene calls at work and home, strangers approaching my family, a couple of stalkers and a threat or two. Once I lived with police protection for a few days. In Washington, D.C., I was detained for several hours by a group whose story I was reporting. Scary, that.

That’s fame: an economically satisfying, ego-boosting, recognition-feeding, life-changing kick. Also the exposure to people who are envious of you having it … sometimes dangerously so … the loss of privacy when it’s privacy you want and the glare of publicity when you screw up. As we all do.

Tiger Woods, who has given the golfing phrase “playing the back nine” a new meaning, certainly has fame. He’s likely the most recognized person in the world, richest athlete ever, a household word in nearly every language and an extremely gifted golfer. What a world! Yep, that’s certainly fame.

But it’s also been widely known in sports circles that Tiger has a very bad temper, which occasionally blows, and that he’s a womanizer. As in the case of John Kennedy and some other famous men, the media has largely ignored those defects. But they are two terrible personality flaws that, in combination, can erode public trust. Maybe now; maybe later as in the case of Kennedy. But very hazardous to a career.

What’s amazed me is, for all of his connections and wealth, Woods has been either getting the world’s worst pubic relations advice or ignored the good. “Step up, lay it out, make your comments, refuse to talk more about it, let the media chew on it for several weeks and go on with life.” There’s no other successful way to handle it. Period!

Then there are the Salahis — Tareq and Michaele — two lives trying to grab as much fame and spotlight as they can and cash in. They’re chasing the fame they see, the fame they think is the answer to their needs in life, the fame that’ll eventually do them in.

They haven’t yet felt fame’s true weight. Given their published history of other attempts and numerous legal problems resulting from those efforts to achieve it, my guess is fame’s weight will eventually crush their dream. They seem to have no permanence or structure to help them deal with the inquisition that’s sure to come. Indeed, it’s already started.

The Salahis remind me of some of those multimillionaires created by the various lotteries. Also many of the “reality” TV participants. And some professional entertainers and athletes who get the big contracts. They get their fame, they get their money and find out they can’t handle either. Some of those “instant” millionaires have said publicly they wished they had never bought the ticket or signed the contract.

Most of us probably react to that with “Sure, you give me some of that action and I’ll be just fine, thank you very much!” Well, don’t be too sure.

The line between famous and infamous is sometimes very thin. Most of the people I admire who have achieved success have done so because of hard work and determination to succeed at something. They also seem to share a common trait of inner strength and substance while having a belief in something outside themselves.

The infamous often start out with some sort of local “fame” but, lacking those characteristics, they self-destruct sooner or later.

Tiger will be OK. He’ll ride out the storm and we’ll keep watching him win tournaments and titles. In time, his personal failures will be largely forgotten.

Tareq and Michaele Salahi? We’ll forget them, too. It just won’t take as long.

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