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The Tiger Woods Incident? Rick Has Something to Say About That (UPDATE)

December 3, 2009

Rick Reilly tackled the Tiger Woods saga on his (not)blog. And what follows is kind of a whirl of nonsense that spirals its way into a non-sequitorish, half-truthish conclusion. Does that sound convoluted? It is. Let’s get to it.

What we have here is the first superstar athlete chased down by a digital posse.

This is absolutely false. Where has Reilly been the last few years? Nearly his own entire audience is on the web, and most breaking news stories (sports or otherwise) are scooped on the internet. Unless something major happens seconds before a newspaper or magazine goes to press…it’s being broken online. Further, we’ve seen a ton of athletes put their digital foot in their cyber mouth in the past couple of years: from Josh Hamilton’s little facebook episode to Larry Johnson’s twitter tirade to Grady Seizemore’s dirty e-mail pictures to Setphon Marbury’s Ustream account.

Rightly or wrongly, the tabloids and the gossip sites got their man in breathtaking speed. To bring down someone as powerful and private as Tiger Woods is like seeing a lion crammed into a bird cage.

Unless you crash your car outside of your home at 2:30 in the morning, and your wife bashes in the back window of said car, and you’re drifting in and out of conciousness, and there’s nothing else happening in the world because it’s Thanksgiving, and just days before there was a report of you having a mistress, and then a bunch of women start coming forth saying they had affairs with you….well, then it’s pretty easy. Don’t try to turn this into a takedown job by the evil online media, Rick, cuz that’s not what it was.

 When it’s all done, Woods will still be the most successful and willful and talented athlete alive, but he will be a much different person than he was — chastened, humbled and, at long last, human.

That’s probably true. By I don’t know about him suddenly becoming a humbled and changed man. In my experience, people don’t change their ways because they get caught. Oh…and this journalistic trope about athletes showing their humanity through their mistakes is just another way we give them a free pass. There’s other ways to show that you’re “human” other than shacking up with a bunch of night-club skanks, and then apologizing for it…like, say, being loyal to your wife and kids.

 If you know the man, the apology Woods issued Wednesday is staggering.

And boy, does Reilly know Tiger. Check out #21 here.

For him to speak of “regret” and “personal failings” is unthinkable. It’s like a guy who detests snakes being lowered into a pit of them.

So now Tiger’s like Indiana Jones? Let’s hold off on bestowing mythical courage on a guy who apologizes for being, frankly, kind of a bastard. I mean, it’s good that he apologized. It does show something. And I do think that Tiger is probably sorry (at least on some level), but let’s not start deifying the guy for an internet apology that his publicist probably wrote and he signed off on.

 This is a man who gives quotes away like a hostile witness in a murder trial. When he answers a question in three words, he’s mad he didn’t answer it in two. He doesn’t even like to reveal yardage.

 So all this has to be bamboo shoots under the fingernails of Woods, who’s a perfectionist in all things. If he’s skiing and falls, he curses himself. If he’s playing video games and loses, he insists on a reset. If he’s on the tee and misses a fairway, he throws his club in utter disgust. To admit moral failure is a very big loss.

Oh, poor Tiger. I feel so bad for you. This must be so hard.

C’mon now. Yeah, it sucks for this to happen to a guy…but let’s not forget that if these things have truth to them (and the fact that he issued an apology at all is a pretty good indication that they do), then he brought this on himself.

 Woods spoke of being “far short of perfect,” but you couldn’t have blamed him for not noticing. The man won a U.S. Open on a broken leg. He’s the first athlete to make a billion dollars. He is on pace to swoop past Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors before he’s got a gray hair. Maybe when you can make little dimpled golf balls go 340 yards and land in a target the size of a throw rug, you start to believe you can do anything in life and get away with it.

 So to come out in front of the world and admit to “transgressions” and letting his family down will shake him to his very core. But, just maybe, it’s what he needed.

 Though he has the greatest golf game I’ve ever seen, I’ve also been critical of Woods for throwing his clubs and swearing and generally being an awful role model for young golfers. Now there’s his response to the tabloid stories about his alleged affairs to go with it. None of this makes him a bad person, it only makes him a flawed person, and, now that he’s been pilloried publicly, a softer person.

This will cost him millions of dollars and lots of sleepless nights, but in the end, I think he’ll be a better man for it.

So…Tiger’s temper-tantrums are unacceptable, but his marital infidelity will be good for him? Ok. I’m being a bit facetious here. I understand the point Reilly’s trying to make–basically, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but the whole theory that this makes him more human is ridiculous. Tiger’s always been human, and anybody with half a brain knows that. It’s people like Reilly who foist deity upon a guy who can smack a little white ball real good that are the probably. It’s this sort of ass-kissing by smitten journalists and fans that makes athletes feel untouchable. Not the fact that they can hit a golf ball or throw 95 mph. One can hope that this incident might make Tiger reevaluate his life a bit, and change, but it by no means makes him more human. In fact, when Reilly (and others) praise Tiger for his apology and his humilty, it just furthers the myth.

Oh, and one more thing, Tiger didn’t lose his endorsements, so the only way he’s losing millions is if his wife divorces him.

Anyway, whatever. I still think Tiger’s a great golfer…and I’ll still watch him play, but I’m not gonna root for him any harder or anything just because he gave a somewhat vapid and vague internet apology. I don’t think it makes him “more human” or real, or whatever it is exactly that Reilly is trying to say. That’s all.

UPDATE: (OR CLARIFICATION, WHAT HAVE YOU) I’m not one of those people that expects a personal apology from Tiger…personally, I don’t think he’s obligated to apologize to anyone (except maybe the companies who pay him to endorse their products, and his wife and kids). So I’m not trying to say he needs to do more, I’m just saying, his apology doesn’t make me think more of him. And it doesn’t make him even more awesomer than ever before as Reilly seems to think. Ok. Glad we’re all clear.

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