Tiger Woods does not stand alone

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By Mike Wise
Saturday, December 26, 2009

Nike will never shoot a commercial to show my impact on my sport and the world; multiethnic children will never look into a camera lens and say they resemble me.

But I am Tiger Woods.

And weeks after the personal life of the world's most recognizable athlete crumbled, I still cringe every time I hear a voice mail of a desperate man trying to hide the truth from his significant other. The reason I have yet to write about the biggest sports story of the year in these pages is because Woods's plea to one of his many mistresses brought up old, awful feelings of shame, guilt and humiliation.

I won't revisit my own crash site in any detail here, but I can say the painful first step of the journey -- of seeing myself for who I really was -- also began in the worst imaginable way.

I am Tiger Woods, and just as Charles Barkley stood up for him during his weakest moments, I had friends lend support, telling others not to judge.

And while their efforts were appreciated, most of these people turned out to be enablers from the fraternity of arrested development, where boys must be boys because authentic men aren't allowed to join. I knew I couldn't change until my circle of "friends" changed.

I am Tiger Woods, and though I have never been an elite athlete, I work in the culture of the elite athlete, where infidelity isn't merely condoned, it's strongly encouraged.

It's a culture where Kurt Thomas's New York Knicks teammates once told him not to bring his wife for a three-day trip to Miami, "because that's like bringin' sand to the beach."

Joe DiMaggio, pushing 60, once tucked a phone number of a 20ish flight attendant in his pocket, smiling at the sportswriter seated next to him in first class.

"Joe, she's somebody's daughter," protested Ron Bergman, then covering the Oakland A's. Replied DiMaggio, matter-of-factly: "They're all somebody's daughter."

Joltin' Joe was also Tiger Woods, who may have to suffer the indignity of losing his family to understand this goes deeper than the culture of blow-dried nothings in beer commercials, deeper than bored, rich alpha males on the road for 270 days a year.

I am Tiger Woods, and saying the greatest golfer on the planet got married too young is a cheap cop-out that misses an essential point: that this is really about a man who has everything and nothing at the same time, a guy medicating with women to fill emotional gaps -- the way some people use food, alcohol, drugs, work and golf on television.


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© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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