Justice Is Served

February 19, 2010 12:11 PM

Contrite Tiger Woods asks fans to forgive him


His advisers handled him well. They kept Tiger Woods from people whose aim Friday morning was to revisit the past. His advisers wanted that past buried, left under a pile of rubble someplace where people - Tiger's critics, the morality cops and the paparazzi -- will need a bulldozer to unearth it.  

His advisers know Tiger's followers will return. Oh, yeah, they will be back. They will return soon because they never cared a bit that Tiger Woods was a flawed man.

His womanizing?

All it did was spotlight his manhood, right? Steamy sex, mountains of money and otherworldly talent have always held their fascination. They stoke people's prurient interests. None of those deadly sins tarnished Tiger's golf legacy, a legacy that has absolutely nothing to do with his being a no-account father or a husband with the sexual appetite of a horse at stud.

"I was unfaithful," he said. "I had affairs; I cheated."

So Tiger wasn't perfect.

Big deal!

To find perfection we must look to Jesus Christ; our list of messianic figures starts and ends with God's son. Even those men whom we celebrated for their piety have often had private lives that didn't match their public lives.

Think about the public's image of Martin Luther King Jr. and compare that profile to the private figure we came to know upon King's death? The two images of the good reverend are as different as sunrise and sunset.

His speechifying, spellbinding as it was, warmed our hearts, stirred our emotions. His appetite for the single ladies, however, reviled us; it lessened our admiration of him.

Did his infidelity turn our hearts cold toward King, a man who, through the force of his personality, spawned a movement? No.

And didn't he smoke cigarettes, too? Of course, smoking's hardly a deadly sin but an act that didn't seem altogether holy.

Not to say that Tiger Woods has ever measured up to Rev. King. What person has - Nelson Mandela, Pope Benedict XVI or Mother Teresa, perhaps?  Tiger never orchestrated a social movement, although he did expand golf's profile into circles that had not shown the sport much interest.

The public has always fawned over great men like Tiger. The public wants to touch him, to be one of the many minnows that long to swim in his deep waters. It wants to know him, know all those things about Tiger's life that mirror the image of him.

No man can live up to such an overblown image. Tiger can't. He's only what he is, not what others think he is. If he accepts that he's a role model, he might conduct himself with more class; if he discards that obligation, he finds himself among all the other sorry excuses for a man - unprincipled, an empty vessel with no place to moor itself.

From history, we should have long ago understood that we can't demand so much from public figures. They are never as good as we hope they'll be, but they can often be worse than we thought they would be.

Tiger Woods fell into the latter category. He disappointed a following that looked at him with awe.

"I brought this shame on myself," he said.

Like a carton of fresh eggs, disappointment has an expiration date, and the disappointment that people had in Tiger Woods will expire once he steps onto the golf course and wins another tournament.

Those who have tuned out Tiger will again listen to his shrill voice. The advertisers that his sex scandal drove away will return, throwing even more millions at him than before.

He expressed his appreciation for those men and women who have stood behind him in his troubled times. He will ignore the rest, because Tiger knows what brought them to him in the first place - his greatness.

It will be Tiger's greatness that will bring the fans back to his gallery, lined up five or six rows deep. It won't be his character, his fidelity or his spiritual convictions that will do any of this.

Character isn't what ever made Tiger Woods, and it will be the last thing that will undo him. He's said his "Hail Marys," and now Tiger Woods, the golf genius he is, can resume his classic American tale: boy from humble beginnings makes good.   

"I have a long way to go," he said.

And he does.



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