Tiger Woods should have stayed single. He obviously was never committed to being a great husband the way he was committed to being a great golfer.
And he should consider himself lucky that he wasn’t asleep on the couch when his wife, enraged at the discovery of his infidelity, came after him with a golf club.
Seriously, despite the mountainous publicity surrounding his barefoot dash to his SUV, his subsequent crash at the end of his own driveway, his fall from grace as the world’s greatest living golfer, his substantial lost earnings from endorsements, engagements and tournaments, and his growing string of publicized affairs, Woods is damn lucky his life didn’t take a fatal turn like Steve McNair’s did.
If you think that’s too harsh of a comparison, then you’re not thinking hard enough. Take two seconds away from the late-night onslaught of Tiger jokes, the oozing tabloid sleaze from the mistresses and the ill-timed celebrity outpouring of public support and sympathy, and what you have is basically this: an unfaithful husband and professional athlete putting his selfish desires first, unconcerned about the fallout.
Just like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Alex Rodriquez, Magic Johnson, Roger Clemens, Karl Malone and, yes, McNair. And just like other celebrities, such as John Edwards, David Letterman, Mark Sanford, former President Bill Clinton … even reality TV’s Jon Gosselin.
Our society looks past their transgressions, even gleefully accepting the hedonistic “double lives” of these folks. But we don’t really know any of these people, so why do we pretend to be shocked by their adulterous deeds? And since we don’t really know Tiger, except as a Nike pitchman or a videogame avatar, why is it stretch to suggest he could have met with the same fate as the former Titans quarterback?
As with McNair, we saw Tiger through a rose-colored glass. We let actions displayed in the arena of sport define who we saw as a person. We let smiles mask reality. Unlike McNair, Tiger can put his life back together — since he’s still got one. But he should do so without our help. The notion that his multi-year sexual romp was just a mistake that any of us can make is pure BS.
Good people do make bad decisions, but let’s call into question both Woods’ and McNair’s reputations as ‘good’ people. Outside of athletic accomplishments, what is the basis of that assumption? Before McNair’s demise, there were DUI and weapons arrests that went largely ignored. Both had sexual affairs outside of marriage. Both men established nonprofit foundations to help youths in need, but weren’t those erected only after they became wealthy sports figures? Can we really gauge their generosity in another way?
What’s even more troubling is we make all of them sympathetic characters — from weepy-eyed Letterman to defiant (“I did not have sexual relations with that woman”) Clinton — and concern ourselves with whether they can regain their position on the lofty perch from which they had just fallen.
There was a time when I thought the sad, senseless killing of McNair would be a wakeup call for these guys — that there were too many risks involved, that there are no special circumstances allowing them to cheat. I had hoped they would realize that accountability “after the fact” is an excuse as weak as their willpower was when temptation first struck.
The notion that these men live in a different culture from the rest of us — where groupies and hangers-on throw themselves at them like meat on a deli tray, and where the temptation to stray, coupled with the pressures of the “job” make it acceptable — is seriously flawed. We all have temptations to resist. It doesn’t matter if it’s adultery, gambling, stealing, overeating or smoking.… We all have a chance to take the high road. That’s where the inner battle between strength and weakness takes place.
So, how is it that these strong, conditioned athletes appear so weak when it comes to cheating? Perhaps they know they have fan bases with soft shoulders to cry on and an infinite supply of forgiveness. That’s where we cheat, too. Shame on us for so easily letting these guys off the hook.
Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised by Woods. Marriage is a contract, and we’re dealing with athletes who work to renegotiate or get out of contracts all the time.
But still, there’s a subtle irony here as well. Isn’t it odd that controversies such as corked bats and steroid use were investigated rigorously to identify and punish cheaters in the world of sports, yet when it comes to marital cheating, the world of sports basically looks the other way.
These guys truly don’t have a clue just how good they have it, and Tiger probably will never understand how lucky he is.