Commentary

Tiger's business is his and no one else's

Originally Published: December 1, 2009
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

Oh, my gosh, Tiger Woods did/didn't have a dispute with his wife, did/didn't get chased out of the family mansion by his golf-club-wielding/loving spouse, did/didn't get freaked out by the confrontation/nonconfrontation and did/did suffer minor injuries after his Cadillac lost a two-round bout with a fire hydrant and tree!

Isn't it all so very exciting?

Except that I don't care. Check that -- I care if domestic abuse was involved because that's criminal. Otherwise, it isn't any of our business if Woods and wife Elin Nordegren Woods maybe, possibly, allegedly had an argument in the privacy of their home, followed by Mr. Woods' having a car accident in the privacy of his own driveway.

If this were Woods' Isleworth neighbor who had the accident, absolutely nobody would care. But it's Tiger Woods, perhaps the planet's most recognizable athlete, so suddenly we feel it's our right to know everything that happened and it's Woods' responsibility to tell us.

Woods owes us nothing, especially an explanation. If it was an argument that triggered the wee-hours accident, then that's between husband and wife. If there was spousal abuse, then the charges will be made public and we'll know soon enough. If not, then the 24-hour news cycle will have to find another story to attach its suction cups to.

Something happened behind the gates of that luxurious Orlando-area housing development in the predawn of Friday. You don't just climb into the family SUV, slam into a hydrant and tree and get knocked unconscious because it seems like the thing to do at 2:25 a.m.

But that's all we know. We've heard a 911 tape. We've been informed by the Florida Highway Patrol that Woods' crisis lawyer has canceled his client's interview with investigators. We've read a carefully crafted statement attributed to Woods that said, in part, "The many false, unfounded and malicious rumors that are currently circulating about my family and me are irresponsible."

He's right. Nothing personal, but I'm not prepared to take the grocery store tabloid plunge on this one just yet. Too much history of lawsuits and ready, fire, aim reporting.

Instead, I'd rather give the benefit of the doubt to Woods, whose most glaring public weakness up to now has been his five-alarm language on the golf course. In private, who knows?

Woods' image has been given a weekly mani/pedi since he turned pro in 1996. He is the world's best golfer and one of the world's most recognizable brands. But where some athletes provide total media access, Woods grants glimpses into his personal life in teaspoon-sized portions. He is the Kim Jong-Il of sports: viewable, but impenetrable.

The recent auto accident -- and the rumors surrounding it -- has empowered people to take a can opener to that morning in Isleworth. But why stop there? Let's roll out all the rumors and demand that Woods come clean.

What we conveniently forget is that Woods' image is a creation that features Perfect Tiger. He has the perfect golf game, so we assume he has the perfect life. And Woods and his handlers have done nothing to dispel that perception.

But he isn't perfect; nobody is. Something precipitated his car accident, but that something is for him, not us, to decide if it's to be made public. Again, that dynamic changes only if something criminal was involved.

Whatever happens, Woods' reputation will need a mulligan by the time this is over. His Tiger-controlled, North Korea-like Web site statements answer few questions. And with mystery and virtual silence comes suspicion.

But neither Woods nor his wife has been accused of anything except waking up the neighbors. If there are marital difficulties, that's for him and his wife to address. I don't need a marriage counseling update from Tiger and Elin to make my life whole.

Woods is the most accomplished golfer in the game. That doesn't mean he'll be the most accomplished husband, father, role model or SUV driver. Just because I buy a ticket and schlep out to watch him hit a 3-iron to Venus doesn't mean he owes me a play-by-play account of the car crash.

But what about all those endorsement dollars? He's selling us a version of Woods that maybe doesn't exist. We deserve the truth -- isn't that the argument we're hearing in the aftermath of the SUV incident?

Hate to break it to you, but that version of Woods is called advertising. To think he owes us an explanation because we buy the golf shoes he pitches is naive. He owes us greatness on the golf course. He owes us to show up for his tee time. That's it.

Now then, if he wants to tell, say, Nike co-founder Phil Knight what happened that morning, OK, that makes sense. The tens of millions that Knight and others pay Tiger to endorse their products give them the right to at least ask for an explanation. But it doesn't guarantee they'll get an answer.

Woods will survive this. Michael Jordan survived the gambling stories and a costly divorce. Alex Rodriguez survived the steroid admission and a divorce. Kobe Bryant survived a sexual assault case and a visit to a jeweler.

This isn't the Woods family's finest moment. But until further notice, it's their moment, not ours.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter