On Friday, Tiger Woods will come out of hiding to speak publicly. I hope he doesn't apologize. Not to me, anyway. Tiger Woods owes nothing to those of us who watch him play golf -- not a thing. Any private apologies he may have are just that -- private. If he wants to say, "I'm sorry" to his wife, why do I have to hear it? I don't and Tiger Woods shouldn't think I do.
Perhaps you've heard of the luncheon conversation between a very young Tiger Woods and the older, wiser golfing great Arnold Palmer. When the youngster Woods complained that he was unable to be a "normal 21 year-old" because of his notoriety and the demands of autograph seekers and well wishers, Arnold told him that "normal 21 year-olds" didn't have $50 million in the bank (shows how young the now nearly billionaire Woods was). Palmer went on to say that if Tiger wanted the anonymity he yearned for he should give back the money and stop playing professional golf.
So, there he was, Tiger at the crossroads. We all know which way he went. And while the public's interest in him has exceeded that for any other athlete ever, that hasn't kept Woods from keeping some things private. At least until recently.
What does a great athlete owe his audience, his fans and the public in general? Bill Russell, arguably the greatest pro basketball player ever (did Michael Jordan win eleven NBA titles?) -- Russell objected to signing autographs and didn't for almost 30 years. Then somebody came along with a $2 million deal for him and Bill Russell signed his name some 5,000 times. But he did for money, which is absolutely honorable. He played basketball for money. Why should he sign his name for free? On the court he gave it all. Off the court why give any?
So, Tiger -- please don't apologize when you meet the press Friday. You have no teammates to whom you need to say, "I'm sorry." Golf is a solitary sport. Man against the course. Count the strokes. He with the fewest wins. If Nike insists you humble yourself -- and if they're making it worth your while -- I have no problem with that. As it was with Russell, that's an honorable way to go.
What it comes down to is this. I won't share my private life with Tiger Woods. Why should he share his with me? If you no longer want to watch the greatest golfer who ever played, because you don't approve of how he acts off the course, you're entitled. Don't watch him when he starts playing again. That's your business. I want to see Tiger Woods play. The guys who are left out there without him sure don't excite me. How I feel about his private behavior is nobody's concern, especially Tiger's. How he feels about himself and his family -- I don't want to know -- not any more than I want to know about A-Rod's social life or Peyton Manning's or Roger Federer's or whoever Hockey's biggest star is, if they have one.
The only thing Tiger Woods gives me is the privilege of watching what he does when he's on the golf course. Yes, he couldn't be a normal 21 year-old. And he can't be a normal 34 year-old. Arnold Palmer was right about that. But he is entitled to whatever privacy he can construct for himself. Don't ruin it, Tiger, by feeling you have any obligation to apologize to anyone in public.
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