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November 28, 2009 7:00 AM

If it can happen to Tiger...

tiger crash.jpg
We have no idea what really happened to Tiger Woods in Friday's early-morning hours.
More than likely, we'll never know, though standby as this story lives more lives than your neighbor's cat.

For now, we should be more than satisfied that we know more than enough: He's alive.

In that shocking first hour or so after we got the news that Tiger Woods had allegedly been involved in a car accident outside his home in Orlando and was in serious condition, all bets were off.

It's an unfortunate thing that our lives are checkered and even defined by moments like these -- moments that remind us how foolish we are taking anything for granted, and how much control anything has over our lives.

As the first reports about Woods stumbled in, we knew that what followed was about to go one of two ways -- toward better or worse.

In that awful, helpless haze of not knowing, it's impossible for your mind not to race to all those what-ifs and what-happened-befores. Were we in the midst of another awful moment, or would a close call thankfully go whizzing by our lives?

What if Tiger's so badly hurt he'll never play again, we asked ourselves? After all, it's happened before.
When the car golfer Ben Hogan was driving on Feb. 2, 1949, slammed into a Greyhound bus, police at the scene said he was lucky to be alive.
Thankfully, the news that followed headed toward better.

In the days and weeks after the crash, it was reported that while he would be lucky to walk again, Hogan would get out of the hospital.
We know that the news actually kept heading toward better -- much better -- for Hogan, whose remarkable story is legend by now. We know that he not only walked again, but battled his way to more major championships.

So in that first hour or so after the news about Tiger broke, we wondered if he'd even play again, because, well, something like that had happened before.

What if Tiger dies, we wondered? What if he's already dead?!
After all, something awful like this has happened before.

Only four months after winning his third major championship, the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in June of 1999, and at the peak of his powers as a golfer, but more importantly, as a husband and father, Payne Stewart, 42, took off from Orlando in a Learjet, and died in mid-air when his plane's cabin tragically lost pressure.

Just like that, he was gone.

So as we waited for updates on Tiger's crash, we were forced to ponder the possibility that the news could head toward worse -- much, much worse. After all, something like that had happened before.

Tiger Woods is arguably the greatest golfer of all time and the world's most recognizable athlete, which also probably makes him the world's most recognizable person.

He is also no more or less human than we are. His super powers on the golf course are no match for the randomness that swirls about and figures in all of our lives.

Today, we know that Tiger is OK, and the news -- good, bad or otherwise -- about the crash, won't be as nearly as bad as it could have been.

Police Chief Daniel Saylor probably didn't realize it, but he flashed profound Friday night when he simply said this about the crash: "Things like this happen all the time."

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