It all started with an innocent phone call.
No, not from Tiger Woods to some L.A. cocktail waitress. But from my buddy Steve to me, during Monday night’s Patriots-Saints game.
The conversation started out like I knew it would, with us both wondering whether the Patriots could slow down Drew Brees and get back into the game. I thought about it for awhile and danced around the subject a bit, not wanting to tell Steve what I really thought: The Patriots were dead in the water.
So we chatted some more, exchanged pleasantries and were just getting ready to wrap up when Steve caught me off-guard and asked, “So, you gonna write about Tiger Woods?”
“Naw, I don’t know what happened and I don’t wanna know,” I said. “Besides, I’m not TMZ.”
I guess Tiger Woods isn’t perfect
Steve knows me well and wasn’t surprised. We said our goodbye’s and I thought that was that. After all this was Tiger Woods we were talking about. Even if something had happened (which there was mounting evidence that it did), Tiger would guard the evidence like the Secret Service covers Obama, we’d never get the real truth, and it would all pass over in a week, right?
Well here we are less than 48-hours later and I’m writing about Tiger Woods, just like I promised myself I wouldn’t. At the same time women are coming out of the woodwork-none of them Woods’ wife by the way- claiming they had sex with Tiger Woods, they didn’t have sex with Tiger Woods, they have voicemails from Tiger Woods, and even that Tiger Woods knows who shot JFK (Ok, I may have made that last one up). A lot has changed in 48-hours, and what I want to know is how all this all happened, and so fast.
For all of his professional career, Woods has been the most closely guarded, unquotable, boring athlete out there. On the course, he’s the most overly competitive, singular minded champion of my lifetime.
And that’s the reason I’ve never written about Tiger. It’s not that I don’t like golf, or don’t appreciate greatness. It’s just that, well what the hell am I supposed to say that hasn’t already been said a million times before, by a million better writers than me. He’s a human victory cigar, a real life Happy Gilmore driving around with oversized checks in the backseat of his car. He’s taken the fun out of winning and made it routine and mundane.
Which is what makes this story so unique. The story here isn’t that another athlete had an extra marital affair, we’ve been down that road a million times before. Good looking young man, with more money than God + insecure gold-digging woman= Good looking athlete having sex with insecure gold-digging woman. Even someone who got a 200 on the SAT math test like me can figure out that equation.
But Tiger Woods is different. Not because he’s of higher moral standing than known womanizer’s like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Magic Johnson. But because he’s Tiger Freakin’ Woods!
For Woods to cheat on his wife, it means, that he has to go out, and, you know, be sociable and stuff. Honestly, if I saw Tiger out at a bar, my first thought wouldn’t be, “Oh My God, that’s Tiger Woods,” but “Oh My God, Tiger Woods goes to bars?” It’s like seeing your aunt have one too many glasses of champagne on New Year’s Eve, who knew Aunt Helen drank?
Personally I’ve always pictured Tiger being about as anti-social off the course as he is on it.
After his round, I saw him sitting in his hotel room in flannel pajama pants, eating pudding, and fuming about the bunker that he hit on the 11th hole, throwing his spoon across the room after thinking about it for too long.
Then he’d hit the lights at 9:30, toss and turn all night, and eventually roll himself out of bed and hit the driving range two hours before the rest of his competitors the next morning. That’s the overly competitive, never satisfied Woods that we all know. Not some weirdo with a Grey Goose and tonic hitting on some chick named Monique with bicep tattoos.
In the end, I really don’t think Tiger’s transgressions really mean anything. I don’t. Sure he might lose a few sponsors, but he’ll get them back. Hell, Michael Vick spent a year in jail and was signing endorsement deals the second his handcuffs came off.
Will his public image going to harmed? A little bit, but no more than Kobe Bryant, who also had a very public extra-marital affair of his own, and is still a revered superstar.
Finally, is his wife going to leave him? Only if she’s nuts. She’s on the Tiger Woods gravy train, with the next stop at Tiffany’s for the biggest diamond she can charge to his American Express.
Ultimately this is what’s going to happen. Tiger is going to disappear for a few weeks or months, and let it die down. Then he’s going to have a press conference, with his wife Elin by his side showing her support for him publicly (even if privately she used his face as her own personal driving range). He’ll go on ESPN and talk to Rick Reilly for an exclusive interview, explain what a big mistake it was, and how much he wants to be forgiven. And he will be.
Ultimately, the only thing that will change for Tiger is that his perfectly crafted public image is no longer perfect. He’ll still win majors and sell us cheap Nike golf clubs. He’s just no longer the flawless role-model, husband and father he once was.
Which is maybe the most shocking part of this all: Tiger Woods is no longer perfect. Great? Yes. Transcendent? Sure. But no longer perfect. From what I can see, that’s the most surprising part of all.