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Familiar narrative of Tiger's downfall is dramatization

by | CBSSports.com Columnist
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It has always been fashionable to frame the Tiger Woods story as one of the man who had too much and did too much but didn't have the lack of conscience not to care. In other words, America is deciding that his golf game abandoned him as the psychic cost of abandoning his family.

Now we're finding out that, like any good morality play, there isn't a whole lot of morality in play.

The Tiger Woods story, in fact, is starting to morph into the more mundane case of a man whose body quit before his will to succeed.

Years of swinging past the red line have left Tiger Woods without at least one leg to stand on. (AP)  
Years of swinging past the red line have left Tiger Woods without at least one leg to stand on. (AP)  
In short, as this plays out, we are discovering that maybe his game itself undermined his game.

Nobody has ever put more torque on his or her body parts to address a golf ball. Nobody has ever played a more violently fluid game. Nobody has ever, well, Tiger-ed the sport this way before.

But the cost of that, not the cost of his insistence on his off-the-course prerogatives, is becoming the real culprit that might prevent him from reaching, let alone passing or obliterating, Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles. His body is turning on him.

His back and knees are cranky. His other joints bark. He is 35 going on ... well, the kind of 35 the rest of us are used to.

And that makes for a much worse made—for-the-straight-to-DVD movie than he-had-it-all-and-threw-it-away-for-cheap-sex melodrama.

I mean, who wouldn't pitch that to a studio instead of a he-had-it-all-then-his-knees-gave-out script?

Of course, as is required in these stories of "This is what the future looks like today," this may just be a longer hiccup in Woods' ultimate comeback and triumph. It's known as the CYA Clause, and covers any future misreading of his situation.

But so many people wanted it to be about him being a bad philanderer that the idea that he might just have worn out the parts of his body that made him the brightest light in the game has always been rejected as nonsense. They wanted Woods to be the golfing machine who undermined himself by forfeiting his soul, when the view today is that he wasn't a machine at all. Just a guy who seems to be getting older before his bucket list was cleared.

The timeline is so much simpler the other way. He was the best player and pitchman on Earth until he got chased out of his house by his furious wife, soon to be his furious ex-wife. That's the minute it went bad, so goes the wisdom of the day. He crossed the invisible demarcation of fidelity, and his punishment was that he would lose everything.

Well, as it turns out, no. If Woods cannot be the imperious Woods any longer, but just a member of the elite, it will more likely be because he had normal joints supporting an abnormal game.

Even that, in its way, gets a sinister turn, as the "S" word -- steroids -- is all but shouted about for the reason he was so good in such an unusual way. All that Dr. Anthony Galea stuff -- smoke at a campsite being proof of a forest fire, and all that.

Well, maybe that's so, but there isn't enough proof to elevate it above innuendo, at least not yet. Say it all you want, but evidence is not evaluated on the volume of the charge but on its provable facts. So let's move past that for the moment and stay with what we know today.

Tiger Woods' body objects to its usage, so his golf has degraded from the otherworldly to the very good, with bouts of physical rehab to cool the outrages within. He ends up in this story losing not because he listened to his body too often, but because he listened to it too infrequently.

Or he tried to defy the messages he was hearing. There's that possibility too.

Point is, the Tiger Woods story might not end up on Lifetime after all (When Hearts Go Bad), but on the Science Channel (When Knees Go South). And we needn't tell you who's winning that ratings battle, do we?

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com.

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