Sports column

With the Masters a mere week away, media coverage over golf’s most prestigious event is starting to heat up.

And when I speak of the event and the media covering it, I do not mean the actual tournament itself but the continuing saga that is the Tiger Woods scandal.

In case you have been living under a rock for the last four months, arguably the greatest golfer the sport has ever seen got himself into a little bit of trouble last December.

To make a very long story short, he cheated on his wife at least nine times.

Since the ground breaking story was first released, media coverage on the Woods scandal has been constant and merciless.

Public opinion of the once universally admired athlete plummeted and animosity flowed through the mouths, pens and keyboards of millions of fans and journalists.

Now as the Masters draws ever closer, the spotlight will once again shine without cessation on the Tiger Woods drama.

Since the story hit tabloid covers a few months ago, networks like ESPN aired pieces in which they gauged the public’s opinion of Woods and the scandal.

In these pieces, people who claimed they were avid golf fans said that they had no respect for Woods as an athlete or a person, and that they would not watch golf if he were to return.

The ignorance of such a statement is beyond me. Tiger Woods did a despicable and awful thing to his family and his self-image, this much is certain.

But to claim that he should never step on a golf course again is absurd. What an athlete does off the field in their personal life should have no bearing on what they do on the field. 

For all those who demand that Woods never play again or that they will never watch golf again if he does play are fools.

To those people I say this: Are you so righteous to make such a claim? Do you have such a clean slate in life where it sickens you to see someone cheat on his or her spouse and still be able to perform in the mainstream world of athletics?

Woods was certainly a role model to kids everywhere, and many people claim that he had a responsibility to act in such a fashion.

But where in Tiger Woods’ job description does it say that he needs to act as a role model for children?

Sure, it would be nice if the athletes that our society’s kids looked up to were perfect human beings, but the fact is it is irresponsible and idiotic for our society to expect moral perfection from our athletes.

I certainly wouldn’t want a child of mine to emulate the personal choices that Woods has made in his life, but I absolutely would encourage my kid to emulate the work ethic, philanthropic efforts and championship attitude that Woods has displayed over the last decade.

For now, Woods must endure the relentless spotlight, protesters and hate mail. But one consolation for Woods is that if history tells us anything, he will recover.

For years mainstream athletes have been able to commit sins that were previously considered unforgivable and still have been able to repair their image and return to the realm of universal stardom.

In the last decade, some of the most influential and popular athletes have fallen from grace in catastrophic fashion and were still able to recover and return to prior popularity.

In 2003, Kobe Bryant was accused of sexual assault of a 19-year-old hotel employee in Eagle, Colo. The charges were eventually dropped, but Bryant admitted to committing adulterous actions with the hotel employee.

At first, Bryant was crucified by the media and lost numerous sponsorships. But over time he was able to regain popular support and the sponsorships that he had lost.

The public forgave Bryant because despite his personal transgressions, and he continued to prove that he was the most talented and exciting basketball player in the world.

Just last year, arguably the best baseball player in the last decade, Alex Rodriguez, publicly admitted that he had taken steroids earlier in his career.  Rodriguez had admitted to the greatest transgression a baseball player could commit: He was a cheat.

But less than a year after coming clean, Rodriguez helped lead the New York Yankees to a World Series Championship and public support skyrocketed. No one spoke of steroids, cheating or dishonesty; instead it was of winning, championships and redemption in the face of adversity.

By looking at the cases of Bryant and Rodriguez, Tiger Woods must feel overwhelmingly encouraged.

He has taken the necessary steps in the initial process of redeeming himself, and the healing process will do nothing but continue.

There is only one thing that Woods must now do in order to regain his rightful place in sports elite: Win.

Of course, the upcoming Masters will be a media circus that shoves relentless reminders of Tiger Woods’ transgressions down our throats. But if Woods can somehow win golf’s most prestigious event and begin to put the past behind him, we as fans will begin to do the same.