I'm not exactly sure what Washington Post "golf writer" Leonard Shapiro wishes Tiger Woods had done differently. Should Woods have turned down all that sponsorship money out of tender consideration for Accenture's feelings? Should have have called a press conference and disclosed each affair immediately after it happened? Should Woods have confided his deepest secrets in sports columnists?
Thirteen years after Tiger Woods's first PGA Tour victory, we're getting a peek behind the curtain of secrecy Woods and his handlers so meticulously weaved over the years, and the view is very different from the family-man, good-guy image he parlayed into a billion in the bank and global fame....
I'm stunned, and maybe that's why I've also been feeling somewhat uneasy ever since Woods's run-in with a fire hydrant on Nov. 27 became public. Plainly put, I'm also a little embarrassed that I did not have a clue about Woods's bizarre double life in what has become one of the most shocking free-falls from grace in the history of sports. Everywhere I go these days, people who know what I do for a living keep asking the same question: Did you have any idea this was going on?
I smile and sheepishly shake my head: No, I did not, never even a whiff.
Shapiro sent an email out to a bunch of his fellow golf writers and it turns out that none of them had any idea that Woods was cheating on his wife. And they all seem a bit affronted by Woods' "act." You would think that Woods had personally betrayed them somehow. They seem to think Woods did something wrong when he allowed the press to presume that he was a faithful husband—all married people are presumed to be successfully and joyfully monogamous—and that Woods betrayed them when he failed to come clean after golf writers filed worshipful stories about Tiger Woods, Family Man. It seems a bit hypocritical to chide Woods for the contrast between his public image (good golfer and decent guy) and his private life (good golfer and serial adulterer) knowing that the media—including all those jilted golf writers—would've crucified Woods if he had been open or obvious or indiscreet.
Woods was a hypocrite, I suppose, but isn't hypocrisy what we all want from adulterers? Hypocrisy is "the tribute that vice pays virtue," as the saying goes, and men and women with far less to lose than Woods are expected to behave just as Woods did: keep up the appearance of monogamy—even if you've cheated. Especially if you've cheated. Because if every married person who has cheated were to suddenly admit to it or get caught people would realize how common infidelity is and quickly begin to question the wisdom of placing so much importance on monogamy. People might conclude that marriage is more important than monogamy and decide to be a bit more realistic about the vows we take and the vows we extract.
Which is not to say that cheating is okay. People shouldn't cheat. (There are certain circumstances under which cheating is permissible—sexual neglect, sexual abandonment, sexual selfishness.) But cheating is as routine as it is regrettable and we should regard it as an unpleasantness that an otherwise healthy relationship can survive—we should regard it as an unpleasantness that an otherwise healthy relationship is expected to survive—particularly when there are children involved.
And, I'm sorry, but the hypocritical "act" that Shapiro accuses Woods of performing—allowing himself to be presumed to be faithful—would be impossible without the willingness of golf writers and other Americans to suspend our disbelief. Knowing what we know about infidelity and power and wealth and fame and men and women, did Woods deserve the benefit of the doubt? Does anyone?