I like Tiger Woods ... There! I said it!
This may sound selfish of me, but I like him not because of who he is but because of his golf accomplishments. If I knew Woods on a personal level, perhaps I may like him or not. Who is to say? That's immaterial to the point I'm going to make in this blog.
Woods has provided me with so many fond memories that they are difficult to keep track of. Simply put, I would not have been as big of a golf fan if Woods had never picked up a club. It is unbelievable what this guy has been able to do.
It's always exciting to serve witness to someone who elevates the sport in which he or she plays, and Woods has certainly impacted golf as few others before him have. As far as I know, Woods has done so without the help of performance-enhancing drugs.
I will note that steroid use, because it directly impacts an athlete's performance on the field, is the only thing that directly affects my level of admiration for an athlete. It implies cheating, which I'm against. Cheaters are bad. An athlete should excel on the field because of pure natural ability, and Woods has done so.
That's why I like him.
There have been a lot of athletes that I have been fond of because of their high level of skill on the field or basketball court. Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, Sidney Moncrief, James Lofton, Reggie White and Brett Favre -- these are athletes who I have had profound admiration for during my lifetime.
Off the field, these guys had their issues or were controversial -- some more than others and some not so much. I may not have liked some of these guys if I knew them personally. Regardless, the things that occur off the field are of no importance to me. I don't care that Woods has cheated multiple times on his wife. I have always been able to overlook those things ... even as a kid.
It just doesn't bother me. I don't think about it. I don't condone it for people that I care about on a personal level. But I don't care about Woods on a personal level. I like him because he's a great athlete – plain and simple.
The only times I have truly been disappointed in athletes are when they failed in the line of play. I can't tell you how frustrating some of Favre's interceptions were. "Damn you Favre!" I remember Yount once struck out in the bottom of the ninth with runners in scoring position. "You're killing me, Yount. You're killing me." I recall Moncrief once missed a potential game-winning last-second shot. "Come on Super Sid! You're better than that."
Those are the things that really frustrate me as a sports fan about an athlete.
For me, it's very easy to draw the line. What happens off the field or basketball court does not directly impact me. It may have some indirect impact in that off-the-field problems may carry over and affect an athlete's performance, but it generally is none of my business. I could care less.
The reason that it's easy to draw the line is because of my family, friends and people I care for on a personal level. My idols outside of sports were my mom and dad, brothers and sisters, teachers, childhood friends, co-workers and members of my community, who are all really fine people in my personal opinion. These are the people who have impacted me the most because they have chosen to live their lives in a way that is extremely appealing to me on a personal level.
I think we're all wise enough to realize that athletes are celebrated, more often than not, for what they accomplish on the field. Some have done some terrific things off the field and that's great, but that doesn't mean they have flaws. We all have flaws. None of us are perfect.
I don't believe we should hold athletes to a higher ethical or moral standard than anyone else. I've never been fooled by Woods' Nike commercials or how any athlete is marketed. It's fiction. It's make-believe. It's not real.
Tiger Woods made some bad decisions by cheating on his wife, but I could care less about that. It doesn't impact my life.
Selfishly, I hope he gets his "stuff" together and makes it back to the PGA Tour as soon as he can. I'm looking forward to more unbelievable moments! The game of Golf will suffer without him.