As I read Selena Robert's SI smug, judgmental piece about Tiger Woods' press conference, and noted other media's smug, judgmental allegations that Tiger aims to hijack some attention from the Vancouver Games, I wondered how many other Americans are getting turned off by the smug, judgmental national attitude that is building around the golfer's awful fall from his pedestal.
Just as smug and judgmental was the statement yesterday by IOC president Rogge, in relation to Tiger's anticipated debut as an Olympic golfer. According to Rogge, "We call for our athletes to be a role model for youngsters and that is evidently not the case with Woods." Is Woods any less a "model for youngsters" than Olympic winners who are caught using drugs? Or Scotty Lago...sent home from the Games yesterday because of risque poses with his medal? Or even Evgeni Plushenko, the sorest loser in Olympic history?
I'm not defending Tiger's actions -- he hurt his family and children. But c'mon now. The Halls of Fame are full of "greats" who left some big extra-marital footprints through the history of sport. Shall we start with baseball, and Babe Ruth?
And how did Magic Johnson manage to avoid falling from his pedestal in 1991 when he admitted being HIV+ and having multiple sex partners outside of marriage? Johnson's handlers were quick with the damage control. And no wonder -- by 1991, states were beginning to criminalize "knowing" HIV transmission. Some prosecutor looking to make his name could have dragged Magic through a noisy and career-destroying investigation on whom he might have infected. So Magic quickly went on record that his wife and children were negative, that he was the one who was unknowingly infected by somebody. Lucky for him, most of the public reacted with more sympathy than smugness. Just a year later, in 1992, Magic went to the Olympics with the Dream Team -- not without controversy around safety issues of HIV players, of course.
But in today's super-heated moralistic climate, Magic's life might have gone through the same meat-grinder as Tiger's. Even if he were vindicated, as before, his life might not be the same.
Which suggests that the country has changed in the last 20 years. Many Americans are now puritanically feverish to spend lots of time and energy obsessing about other people's scandals. They're evidently not so eager to invest the same energy into solving their own problems, not to mention solving the nation's problems. And that includes some of our politicians (certain Senators come to mind), whose sex scandals loom bigger than Tiger's because of the way they abused the public trust.
Partly the changing attitudes in post-Magic America are due to the religious conservatism driving the country. Partly it's also due to the Web. Comment pages and blogs now exist by the hundreds of thousands, giving Americans a junior-size "judge's bench" in the global media that they can access with a couple of clicks. And they do, by the millions -- sounding off with blizzards of comments that can create a lynch-mob atmosphere. Comments that often display such abysmal judgmentalism, bias, ignorance and stupidity that it's embarrassing to read them.
Hopefully a growing number of sports fans agree with me on this. It's time for the self-appointed judges to get off their teeny-weeny benches. They need to go home and take care of their own lives, and let Tiger take care of his. Since there's going to be golf at the 2016 Olympics, Tiger should play, if he can qualify. As for stealing a little air time from Vancouver -- no problem, as far as I'm concerned. It was a few less minutes that I had to listen to hype about "role model" athletes who were already there.