In a few short days, Tiger Woods went from representing all that's good about sports, to all that's wrong with them.
Tiger delivered his 13-minute manifesto last week with the tone of a GPS voiceover and the emotion of something even less human. He read the entire speech, a speech he had clearly practiced for days, and still had nowhere near the poise and composure he had shown on the golf course. Overall, it was about as unimpressive as a three-putt par.
But the real question is: why do people care so much? During the past few months, Tiger has been featured in every major gossip magazine, his mistresses have appeared scantily clad on the pages of Maxim and media outlets everywhere have been itching for a chance to hear from one of the world's most famous adulterers.
This phenomenon is not new. Alex Rodriguez was ridiculed for his penchant for card playing just like Michael Phelps plummeted from hero to pothead before he could even say "cheese." For some reason, we can't get enough of watching our heroes prove that they aren't in fact robots, but ordinary people who happen to make a lot of money in front of a lot of people.
If sports were politics, the magnifying glass that shines on each athlete would make more sense. Our elected officials should be held to a higher moral standard because they represent us. Athletes, on the other hand, represent only themselves. No matter how much you love Tiger Woods, his actions off the golf course don't reflect poorly on anyone except for Tiger Woods.
And to make matters worse, the moral standards of sports fans are more dependent on winning than anything else. If Tiger returns to the course and wins the way he's won during the last 10 years, many will consider him a changed man who went through a rough patch. If he goes out there and plays like John Daly, then his discretions off the course will define his life.
As my fellow columnist Jessie Murray showed last week in her column on the downfall of Binghamton University basketball, fans, boosters, alumni and coaches are willing to look the other way when their morally moribund athletes bring in money, wins and, oh yeah, money.
I'm just as guilty as the average fan. As a Yankee fan, I hated A-Rod since the day the Bombers gave up Alfonso Soriano to get him. I called him a jerk, a choker and a few more unfriendly nicknames. That is, until Rodriguez tore up last year's Major League Baseball playoffs and took the Yanks to their 27th World Series. I've got no problem with him now. Heck, he won a World Series!
That's why ordeals like Tiger's are just so silly. Athletes aren't paid to be classy. They're paid to play and they're paid more when they win. Sure, it'd be nice if the world's greatest golfer was also the world's greatest role model, but that's not in the job description.
What's really amazing, though, is that mistakes are magnified even more than success in the athletic arena. Even if Tiger had won eight major championships in a row, he wouldn't have gotten as much media coverage as he has gotten lately. That's just sad.
Athletes, just like everyone else, are bound to make mistakes. Just as Tiger can't win every tournament, he can't make all good decisions. Instead of focusing on his mistakes away from the course, why not get excited about his return to it? After all, that's what made him famous.
It's OK to be curious about our favorite athletes. It's even OK to be a little nosy. But turning a series of affairs into a series of TV specials exploits the athletes that we dream to become. Reality stars are more than willing to sacrifice their dignity for our entertainment. We shouldn't make athletes do the same.
Contact staff writer Reilly Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org