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Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, Sex, Scandal and Our Double Standard

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08:  Tiger Woods of the United States looks on during the final round of the 2012 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2012 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Jim OstermanContributor IApril 16, 2012

As fans we love being able to hold our athletes to a higher standard than we could ever hope to achieve. We seem unwilling to ease our death-grip on the notion that athletic prowess should come with unimpeachable character, while we so easily give ourselves a pass.

Tiger Woods cavorted with porn stars. Michael Phelps was photographed taking a hit from a bong. Pro athletes from all sports father scores of illegitimate kids with more than one woman.

Scandalous? Reprehensible? None of our business?

We first fall in love with our athletes for what they can do in their chosen sport. The Olympian who shatters world records. The golfer who leaves the rest of the field behind at a major. The passer who makes impossible throws again and again. The hitter that sends baseballs into space. We gasp. We cheer. We watch their highlights again and again. We don't give a second thought to what happens away from the arena.

Why do we care? If famous athlete can perform at an unheard of level in his chosen sport why do we care how much he drinks, who he beds or if he calls his mother every week? How many of us would enjoy the same level of scrutiny?

Ever shave a little on your taxes? Fudge an expense report? Get drunk in public and make a fool of yourself? Lie about who you had sex with? Flip someone off in traffic? Verbally abuse a waiter? Watch porn?

And when that famous athlete leads his team to the winning touchdown or scores the big save in the World Cup are we cheering their athletic ability or their character?

Unless any athlete stands up and tells the world they are a paragon of righteousness and a role model, what they do on their own time is their own business.

Until then we're all living in glass houses.

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