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Tiger Woods is once again the top ranked golfer in the world, but is still among the top most hated athletes in America.  Apparently, cheating on your wife is the worst thing you can do in the sports world short of killing dogs.  Sorry, Michael Vick, most people hate you more than Tiger.  However, I digress.  Tiger Woods is finally starting to rebuild his character, but does he deserve to be forgiven?

Golf needs Tiger.

Golf needs Tiger Woods more than Tiger needs golf at this point.  Tiger has brought a generation of golfers to the sport that may have never swung a golf club otherwise.  What other golfers do you distinctly remember being on a box of cereal or have a trademark red shirt that they wear on Sunday?  Not many.

Bubba Watson wears pink, but unless you watch golf regularly, you probably wouldn’t recognize his name.  There has been no golfer as dominating and polarizing as Woods.  The roar of the crowd is unmatched in golf when Tiger puts in a winning putt and wildly pumps his fists in victory.  The casual watcher of golf is used to seeing the name Woods on top of the leaders board followed Phil Mickelson and a bunch of unknown names.  Sorry Retief Goosen, no one knows who you are.

Bad Wrap

Tiger Woods’ transgressions, while wrong, may have been way over blown.  Since Tiger is the only household name in golf, his situation was put under incredible scrutiny.  After the story broke, there probably wasn’t a person in America who didn’t know that Tiger had cheated on his wife and many golf fans felt he had, in a way, cheated on them as well.

Many athletes do terrible things, but those things are quickly forgotten with success, but not with Tiger.  Cam Newton had a monster fantasy year in the 2011-12 NFL season, so no one still remembers that while at Florida, he was caught stealing laptops from students who likely weren’t there on a full ride like himself.  Ben Roethlisberger allegedly raped women on two different occasions, but once the NFL season was in full swing, that was forgotten about.

Joe Namath drunkenly hit on a reporter on national TV, while Lawrence Taylor was arrested for raping an underage prostitute, among other things.  These men are still held in high regard by fans in New York, so why is Tiger still hated for his mistakes in his personal life? In the least, his relationships were done with consent.

Married athletes sleeping around with new women every night isn’t something new.  They do it because they can and it is rarely reported. Tigers’ situation gained so much press partly because his wife tried to kill him with a 9 iron causing him to crash his SUV when she found out.  It would have been all too ironic if she succeeded.  We might never have found out about his personal scandal if his wife didn’t go into a psychotic rage.  Tiger Woods is without a doubt a scoundrel for cheating, but what do we really know about his ex-wife?  Was she a loose cannon?  Where there major problems with their marriage that drove Tiger to commit his adulteress behavior on such a massive scale?  Maybe he didn’t divorce her originally because he knew that could mean a sand wedge lodged in his cranium.

Plaxico Burress Syndrome

Tiger’s situation rings loudly with similarities to the Plaxico Burress situation.  How many situations do you know of where a guy went to jail for shooting himself?  Probably just one…Plaxico Burress.  Plaxico only hurt himself (and the Giants’ playoff chances) and was made an example of by society.  Yes, the law says an unauthorized firearm can lead to two years in jail, but if that rule were followed to a tee then the jails would be overflowing with criminals.  People are still angry with Plaxico because he tainted the Giants’ image as the ‘good’ team that toppled the undefeated New England evil empire that pervious February.  Few were really too concerned with the gun law.

Similarly, people were originally upset with Tiger because he ruined his image, which, in turn, tarnished the image of golf. Is it possible that the fans aren’t upset about the cheating, at least many men aren’t (luckily for Tiger, golf has a largely male audience.) Hating Tiger Woods subsequently became the thing to do, so much so that the women that slept with Tiger all came out of the woodwork to get in on the ‘we hate Tiger’ bandwagon.  They didn’t hate him on the night when they were the catalysts of him cheating and they made it with a celebrity.  A figure less in the spotlight, like Cam Newton in his freshman year or Lawrence Taylor years after retirement, may have been let off the hook already.  Tiger and Plaxico weren’t so lucky.  Think this is nonsense?  How many athletes are famous for cheating on their wives?  Kobe? There are some, but Tiger leads the pack.

 Conclusion

While Newton, Taylor, Kobe, and Rothlisberger are way past their scandals, Tiger may never truly be.  However, golf with Tiger is awesome.  Golf without Tiger isn’t so much.  Nike knows this and has already embraced Tiger again after initially dropping his sponsorship.  Tiger is number 1 again and is back to making golf fun to watch.  Tiger cheated on his wife, but never cheated on golf (the drop shot at Agusta is a debate for another time).  So if we can tolerate Pete Carroll coaching in the NFL after leaving a USC program in shambles in the wake of numerous NCAA violations, if we can tolerate Andy Pettitte pitching after the HGH scandal, if we can tolerate Mark McGwire back in uniform after the steroid mess, can we tolerate an athlete that has at least brought unprecedented popularity to his sport?  You already forgot about Bobby Petrino getting fired for using school money to hire and pay his mistress (unless you’re from Arkansas) Maybe Tiger doesn’t deserve forgiveness, but then lets be consistent with the rest of the sports world.

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