- Jemele Hill, ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine
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This is a sucka move, Tiger.
I can't believe you're running. Can't believe you've allowed these alleged mistresses and tabloids to run you off your job.
Since your life erupted in scandal over Thanksgiving weekend, you've made a series of mistakes and miscalculations as you've tried to recover from this continuous assault on your character and family. But announcing Friday that you'll take an indefinite leave of absence from golf is, by far, your worst idea yet.
I say this not knowing for certain if the indefinite absence was your idea or your wife's, or if it came from your handlers. But unless Mrs. Woods thought this was the only way the marriage would survive, putting your golf career on hold for any length of time exposes a cowardice I never knew you possessed.
If this was a scheme concocted by your handlers, get some new people. One of the reasons you're in this mess is because your handlers helped you craft an image that wasn't really you. Swearing on the golf course is you. Throwing clubs is you. A lot of people took issue with those offensive jokes you told GQ's Charles Pierce in 1997; that was you, too. But if stepping away from golf is a calculated public relations stunt meant to generate some empathy, that means you've learned nothing from this entire ordeal.
Of course, you should have known when your alleged infidelities first became news that things could only get worse. You should have known that if you had any suspicious relationships with any women who weren't your wife, the tabloids and other media would flush them out and pad their bank accounts until all your business was in the street.
That's the game, which you obviously either didn't know or didn't care to know. Still, just because your side women are singing like Patti LaBelle, that doesn't mean you become a willing hostage. Despite the clamoring for you to come clean -- a laughable idea, because it's as if people expect you to pass out a list containing the name of every woman you've had a sexual encounter with since getting married -- the only people you owe an apology to are Mrs. Woods and your business partners.
An indefinite leave of absence doesn't solve anything. It just shows the tabloids and these alleged mistresses that they've won and you're afraid of them.
Mistresses and tabloids: 1 under.
Tiger: 5 over.
Golf isn't the problem. But it could be the answer. Certainly a lot of people are fascinated and disappointed by your train wreck of a personal life, but most people want to see you back on the golf course, competing in -- and winning -- tournaments.
If you play, and especially if you win, it will remind people why they were drawn to you in the first place. It wasn't your wooden acting in those Gillette commercials that made you must-see TV; it was chasing down Jack Nicklaus' record and winning the Masters at 21.
I know some of my media brethren are pretending you patented creepin', but a lot of people in this country can identify with your situation. They've had marital issues as a result of infidelity, too. Granted, most of them probably weren't as Wilt Chamberlain-esque as you, but the point is, there's a reason "Cheaters" has lasted 10 seasons.
People have greatly underestimated the public's common sense and vastly overstated their disappointment in what you've done. According to a recent Marist poll, seven out of 10 people think you should deal with your personal crisis privately. Also, an astounding 91 percent of people Marist surveyed said your infidelities wouldn't cause them to not buy the products you push. In other words, people don't care if you cheated; they just want your Dri-FIT shirts to do the job.
You're a cheater and a bad husband, not a serial killer. And if I were you, I would just take these body blows to my image, ignore the golfers who have criticized me (but who have bigger bank accounts because of me), try to salvage my family in the most private way possible -- assuming that's what you want -- and return to the golf course with a chip on my shoulder the size of this continent.
The best revenge is success.
If I'm you, the minute a reporter asks me to comment about my personal life, I go Drew Rosenhaus and say (tersely), "Next question." I make it clear that we're only talking 9-irons, not nine blondes. I show them Tiger Woods ain't no punk.
In other words, stop acting like a prisoner and behave more like a man who is truly ready to face his problems. Act like you're the face of golf. Own this and move on -- and give less than a care if some people don't move on with you.
Use this situation to your advantage. Your buddy Michael Jordan used any slight, no matter how small, to drive him. And this personal failing and the fallout from it should motivate you for the next decade. The season Kobe Bryant was accused of rape, he averaged 24 points and played in all 82 of the Lakers' games, even though he could have been sent to prison. His rape case -- which was eventually dismissed -- cost him endorsements and public approval, but he regained all of that, mostly because of his brilliance on the basketball court. If he can do it, you can do it.
Besides, the tabloids could have a new woman claiming she slept with you every day from now 'til next June and it wouldn't change a thing. At this point, the American public gets it: You're a golfer worth a billion dollars and you were a cad. The people who disapprove of you because of that will still disapprove of you even if you save a child from a burning building tomorrow. And the people who love you are going to love you regardless.
So don't bother seeking approval through carefully written public statements. Shrug off the idea that you should have some "Come to Jesus" news conference or do a sit-down interview to explain yourself. You wouldn't tell the public the whole truth anyway; and once again, the tabloids would have the upper hand.
This scandal might have momentarily stolen your dignity. Don't let it take your peace of mind.
Jemele Hill can be reached at email@example.com.
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