Justice Is Served

February 23, 2010 10:30 PM

How can media play God in judging Tiger?


Columnist Mike Wilbon is right to be angry. How can Wilbon not be right? For in a world in which no human is perfect, he's outraged that the moral authorities in sports journalism have lost their damn minds.

Too many of them have cloaked themselves in the garb of saints, brandishing their moralistic outrage about Tiger Woods and his serial infidelity on their chests like a medal of valor.

Sportswriters have dissected and analyzed and criticized Tiger for failings that they haven't made peace with in their own lives - or in the lives of people who are closer to them than Tiger ever was.

Hypocrisy in sports journalism never had any bounds, and whatever it pretended to have got washed away under the tsunami of sanctimony that has marked the unyielding criticism of Woods.

Yes, he was wrong, and he said so. He cheater. He was an adulterer. Tiger Woods, the world's greatest golfer, was all of that and probably more. And he was surely one more thing: a man.

What man among us is absent sin?

In the fraternity that is sports journalism, plenty of men and women are without sin apparently. They are cast themselves as the anointed ones, people whom God has bathed in righteousness, right?

Not hardly, which is what has riled Wilbon. He has listened to all the high-minded talk that has poured from columnists from the Washington Beltway to Bellingham, Wash., and their words sickened him.

"I'm sick and tired of people in the media ... acting like they are experts all the damn time on what's real or not, telling people how to act, what to do, what questions to answer, whom to sleep with," Wilbon wrote in an online chat. "I'm tired of it. I'm offended ... by people I KNOW to be philandering hypocrites going on television and talking about how Tiger should live his life when they've indulged in the exact same behavior."

I have shared his outrage. As Wilbon pointed out, every network has brought in a sports journalist to dissect Tiger's statement last Friday. To call the event a press conference would be to fall into the land of fiction. His statement was public, but it wasn't a press conference.

What he did was acknowledge his failings as a father, a husband and a man. He put his private life, a life he jealously kept from the media's scrutiny - on display. He cheated, and he was ashamed.

Did we need a blow-by-blow account? Did we need to know the names of the women, the countless locations for his sexual hookups and what positions he preferred?

Should he be apologizing at all? The only people he hurt were himself and his family. Think about it: Are our lives altered in any discernible way because Tiger couldn't keep his penis in his pants?

"Men and women have been cheating on their spouses for the entire history of civilization, and now Tiger Woods ... he's the guy!" Wilbon told those on his chat. "He's the one! His is the worst cheating in the history of the world?"

It would be easily for Wilbon to have stayed outside this fray. Can he really win it? Can even his anger, as raw and uncensored as it is, serve as a barricade to stop the mob that is marching toward Tiger Woods?

Wilbon called it a lynch mob, and I can't quarrel with that description of it. I would, however, call it much worse, because at least the lynch mob would end its madness at some point. It exacts its toll and moves on to chase another victim and throw a rope around his neck.

Not this mob - not this hypocritical mob of journalists. Now, these men and women know all; they demand so much; and they give so little in return. The throw stones at glass houses, even as they ignore the glass houses of those in their circle.

For as unseemly as Tiger's infidelity is - and it surely is that -- is it worst than the steroid abuse that these journalists let go uncovered? Did what Tiger did wreck the underpinning of an entire sport?

His failings were as a man, not as an institution. He must answer for those failings: to his God, to his family and to his friends. To journalists, he owes not a damn thing, aside from his best effort when he again steps onto the golf course.

"It's none of my business, just like it's none of my business if one of my producers or editors or fellow reporters or my second cousin was philandering," Wilbon said. "That's probably my last word today on this because I've got the faces in my head of certain hypocrites who somehow feel that their cheating ways are OK and his aren't."

Their cheating ways aren't OK, no more than Tiger's were. But is their cheating our business? Is it the public's business?

It's not for us to answer. That answer rests in a power far more significant than the power of the press. And He will decide how sincere Tiger's apology was and what kind of man he was.

What man among us is absent sin?

In the fraternity that is sports journalism, plenty of men and women are without sin apparently. They are cast themselves as the anointed ones, people whom God has bathed in righteousness, right?

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