Friday, February 19, 2010

Tiger Woods, 1996-2009; Eldrick, 1975-?

Orenthal James Simpson killed three people. He killed Nicole Brown Simpson. He killed Ronald Goldman. And he killed "O.J. Simpson," the guy we thought we knew, the guy we liked. Born 1967 (the year "O.J." burst onto the national consciousness with USC), died 1994.

Eldrick Tont Woods only killed one person. He killed "Tiger Woods," the guy we thought we knew. Tiger Woods, born 1996, died 2009.

People who excel, at anything, have seen themselves do amazing things. Some of them get the idea that they can do anything.

Well, sometimes, they can, until they can't. Sooner or later, the public catches on.

Even Presidents. Lyndon Johnson found out he couldn't lie about Vietnam. Richard Nixon found out he couldn't like about Vietnam or the things he did to get himself re-elected. Ronald Reagan found out he couldn't lie about the things he did to combat terrorism in the Middle East or Communism in Nicaragua. (But, to the end, he got away with lying about the harm he caused the American economy.) George Bush the father found out he couldn't lie about the economy. George Bush the son found out he couldn't like about the economy, Iraq, torture, and his own apparent saintliness -- which, in the end, was apparently only to him.

More to the point, Bill Clinton found out he couldn't like about his marital transgressions. Sports stars have had this problem, too. The New York media covered up Babe Ruth's philandering and boozing, Joe DiMaggio's suspected violence toward Marilyn Monroe and suspected ties to organized crime figures, and Mickey Mantle's attempts to, uh, break the Babe's records.

But those days are over. Joe Namath may have killed such protections with his attitude of, "Yeah, I like to fool around with ladies and have a drink now and then, so what?" So what? Joe, you might have won a 2nd Super Bowl if you'd... Oh, who am I kidding: The Babe won 7 World Series (3 in Boston, 4 in New York), Joe D 9, Mickey 7.

Here in the New York area, we've seen blowups of the personal peccadilloes of Alex Rodriguez, Darryl Strawberry, Tiki Barber, Michael Strahan, Patrick Ewing, Isiah Thomas and Sean (the Slug) Avery. Frankly, I'm surprised Derek Jeter has managed to guard his private life as much as he has. Come to think of it, Reggie Jackson was a very wealthy, highly eligible bachelor (though a divorced one) in the post-Namath era, but we rarely heard anything of his love life.

But no one is immune. Not even Michael Jordan: Eventually, it came out that he had habitually cheated on his wife Juanita, and they split up.

If Jordan -- before Tiger, before Derek (still unmarried, though rumored to be engaged to actress Minka Kelly), before Peyton Manning (as far as I know, true to his wife), the original Nike-and-Gatorade man -- couldn't be protected forever, how could Tiger?

Face it, Eldrick: When the National Enquirer looks more credible than you do, you've got a problem.

He now acknowledges he has a problem. It's not the sex; that's a symptom, not the disease. The disease is an entitlement complex.

It's an old story: An athlete is told from the time he's a boy, "You are special. You can do anything." And he sees that he can do anything on the field. He begins to think he can do anything off the field. The next thing you know, he's caught in the VIP Room during a raid, or he's wrapped his car around a pole (I think you've had enough, Mr. Dykstra), or he's in rehab for some chemical or other (including, possibly, his own hormones), or he's kicked to the curb by the wife.

In Ball Four, Jim Bouton said that whatever an athlete's chronological age is, take off 10 years. This makes Tiger 24, not 34. (Of course, at the time Bouton wrote that, he was 30, therefore, by his own reckoning, he was 20.)

Tiger has admitted that he had this sense of entitlement, and that he took advantage of it. Point in his favor. He says he wants to make up for it. Another point in his favor. He also defended his wife against the allegation that she tried to clock him with a golf club, and that she shouldn't be dragged through the mud. Another point in his favor.

Right now, the first thing in his life should be straightening himself out. The last thing in his life should be what Nike, Gatorade, the PGA, and the people who still overlook his behavior want.

Being "Tiger Woods" is what got him into this mess. He has to be Eldrick again. That is the best thing for Eldrick, and the best punishment for "Tiger."

The next-best punishment for "Tiger" is to ignore him. Besides, it's golf. It's not even a sport.


Now, let's get back to the Winter Olympics, and the hashpipe. Excuse me, the halfpipe. That's not a sport, either. It's in the Olympics for one reason, and one reason only: To get the U.S. more medals. I'd rather beat the cold countries at their own games. If we do, great. If we don't, at least we're in classic Winter Olympic sports, not stuff that was made up for our benefit.

The U.S. team has beaten Switzerland and Norway. Nice. But the big game is against Canada on Sunday night. Win it, and they're in the knockout rounds. Lose it, and they'll still be in a play-in game for said rounds. So it won't be terrible if they lose it.

Besides, they may get another shot at Canada in one of said rounds, maybe even the Gold Medal Game like in 2002. I don't know if they'll win, but I hope they'll at least play the full 60 minutes; in 2002, they barely showed up for the 3rd period, and that's why Canada won: They played 60, and hard.


The Nets finally reached an agreement to play the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons at the Prudential Center in Newark. Maybe now, they'll get to experience a sellout with neither Kobe nor LeBron in sight. Come to think of it, maybe The Rock will get to experience one with neither the Rangers nor the Flyers in sight.

Here's an idea: Screw the Barclays Center proposal, and keep playing in Newark for the next 50 years! Be "the New Jersey Nets"! After all, they won't all be 5-49 seasons!

The Nets -- Nots? Naughts? Nuts? -- are still on a pace for 8-74, surpassing the 9-73 '73 76ers. They host Chris Bosh and the Toronto Raptors at the Meadowlands tonight. I'm not optimistic.


Pitchers and catchers have reported! Which means YAY! Onward and upward to Title 28!

Days until the Gold Medal hockey game: 9.

Days until the NHL's Olympic break ends (at least for the Devils): 11.

Days until the Devils play another local rival: 19, on Wednesday, March 10, at home against The Scum. Three days later, a trip to The Island to play the Fish Sticks.

Days until Opening Day of the 2010 baseball season: 44, the Yankees playing the Red Sox at Fenway for the ESPN Sunday-night season-opener. 6 weeks.

Days until the next North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham: 50. 7 weeks.

Days until the Yankees' 2010 home opener: 53. Less than 8 weeks.

Days until the 2010 World Cup begins: 101.

Days until the World Cup Final: 142.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 197.

Days until the new Meadowlands Stadium (still unnamed) opens: 198.

Days until East Brunswick plays football again: 203.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 279.

Days until Derek Jeter collects his 3,000th career hit: 467.

Days until the Rutgers-Army football game at Yankee Stadium: 631.

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