With the apparent resurgence of Tiger Woods in front of the upcoming Masters Golf tournament (he’s a 4-1 favorite ) I find myself rethinking his legacy as a famous sports figure.
Honestly, is what Tiger Wood does any of my business? On a human level, absolutely not. But I’ve always maintained that people as famous as Tiger forfeit their privacy when they take their first million exclusively for being in the public eye, that’s probably because I haven’t taken my first million for being in the public eye. Whether or not he’s entitled, Tiger isn’t getting any privacy any time soon, if he ever had it. TMZ (whatever THAT is), Enquirer, and People Magazine will see to that. The over-under for the number of press credential requests at his golf tournaments is routinely a thousand and I always take the over.
So, here’s the point I’m trying to squeeze out of this; I have a list. You have a list too if you’re a sports fan. It’s not a list you write down, or put on your fridge, but you have it. It’s a good list, a mental scroll of celebrities who haven’t thrown up all over themselves. It’s made up of people who you have a real hard time saying anything bad about.
I checked Woods off my list a few years ago, and that’s both a relief and a shame. It’s a relief because it takes energy to hold people, especially people you don’t know, at a level of high esteem. It’s a shame because the list gets shorter and shorter all the time (HELLO Lance Armstrong!)
I like my list. I like having people who set the bar on decorum, professionalism, and ethical behavior (especially for my kids). Tiger was one of these. Did I know anything about him? Not really. I didn’t need to. When I saw his face on screen, I always thought, there goes a good guy. I mean what were you going to say about him? That he won too much? That he was too gracious when he accepted his latest trophy? To people who complained about him I always said, Look, he could be Barry Bonds. He could be Terrel Owens. Be glad you got this guy wining everything in sight. Would you want Ochocinco pulling on green jackets every other year? Did we have any evidence that Tiger was a good guy? None. But that doesn’t change the fact that I thought of him that way. Why not? hat’s what we were shown all the time. So I had him on my list. Then he screwed up in epic fashion, and we all discovered he’s not really one of the good guys. Do I forgive him his faults? That’s not my place, but I did check him off my list.
So, who’s left? Who can carry the good-guy standard? Under enough scrutiny none of us would, but the list is there anyways. Mine works off a few basic rules:
1. With only a few exceptions you have to be married; it’s too easy for single people to mess up and no one cares.
2. You can’t be on the list if you refer to yourself in the first person (so long LeBron James).
3. The less I hear or read about you the better chance you have of making my list.
4. The past counts. I don’t do redemption. Can you fix yourself up and become a great person? Absolutely, and good for you. But you can’t be on my list. One shot, that’s all you get.
5. You can’t be an NFL defensive back or boxer. I’m not saying they can’t be good guys, but it’s hard to consider them and not think of intentional violence (could maybe squeeze Ronnie Lott in here with some persuasion).
Admittedly, my list is created based entirely on media personas, not entirely under my control, and subject to discovery (see Kirby Puckett and, Walter Payton). With that in mind I like (in no particular order); Peyton Manning, Albert Pujols, Mia Hamm, Steve Nash, Tim Tebow, Jack Nicklaus, Rebecca Lobo, Barry Sanders, OJ Simpson (okay, just seeing if you were paying attention), Gayle Sayers, Hank Aaron, Johnny Unitas, Jenn Suhr, Tony Gwynn, Ryne Sandberg, Cal Ripken Jr, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Steffi Graff, Doug Flutie, Dale Murphy (but he’s a Mormon so that’s probably unfair). There’s more, but I’m out of space.
I still have Woods off my list and I’m moving on to someone else, probably Phil Mickelson.
C’mon, let loose…I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a note at email@example.com