What's left for Tiger Woods now?
It was never going to be 750 million. Never.
That a figure so ridiculous ricocheted so long around the Internet without contradiction is testimony not just to this medium's bottomless, uh, credulity, and to P.T. Barnum's immutable one-a-minute sucker calculus, but to how bad this all looked to so many for so long.
Can today's news even be called news? Can the arrival of the inevitable in any way surprise anyone? This isn't news, it's the last act of Agamemnon -- a foregone conclusion. We all knew this divorce was coming, knew it from the time we were told of the second or third cocktail waitress and the second or third event planner and the second or third porn star; knew it somewhere between the panicked voice mail and the pancake house and that late December list of naughty and naughtier. Even when Tiger Woods slunk into "rehab," it was pretty obvious there was only one endgame.
And so at last the great day arrives. The day on which the zombie sporting press can stop pretending to care about Tiger's wife and kids (what were their names again?) and get back to worrying about his hand action and club selection.
As can TW himself.
Unburdened by sham humanity and relieved of the moral imperatives of personhood, Bachelor Tiger's only remaining responsibility is to history. Can he break Jack Nicklaus' record for major victories? And more importantly, by doing so can he provide ethical cover for himself, and for a generation of sportswriters and sports broadcasters and tournament organizers at once so naive and so cynical that they believed utterly in the inevitability of his technical excellence?
That record, like Tiger's youth, suddenly looks very far away. And what once seemed fated, destined, is now a one-iron over water from a choking, terrible lie.
I'd like to wish him well. I would. But I cannot. He's been given everything, been touched by every celestial gift, and in return has found a way to corrupt everything he's ever touched. In the months and years ahead, when he shovels money at his children and calls it love, I won't be there to transcribe the lie.
With me or without me he'll get at last, as must we all, whatever he deserves.
Because at the end of things -- with records broken or records unbroken, with families broken and families unrestored -- who that he might care about will be left to care about him?
Who that he might care about will be left to care about anything he's ever done?
Jeff MacGregor is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. Please continue to submit your answers to his question "What are sports for?" You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.