The apology on Tiger Woods' Web site says a lot more than simply the confessions of a star athlete proving human. For me, the bigger story is the stark reminder that, as Charles Barkley once pointed out, athletes aren't role models.
In other words, Tiger's transgressions may just be the final straw that breaks the back of those of us who still believed in heroes.
I like to consider myself a realist, someone who understands that sports is a game and a business concurrently, but that no one player is perfect. Yet, I must admit that I found myself believing in Tiger.
For that, shame on me. Shame on all of us.
Sure, Tiger has no one to blame but himself if he cheated on his wife. But our belief that sports stars can rise to heroic proportions and elevate themselves beyond mere mortal status is something that we, as fans, must never be guilty of again.
Well, you can certainly count this fan as one who will never believe in an athlete again.
I know this is patently unfair since there may be plenty of sports stars who do live their lives as honest, decent, hardworking people. For example, neither Peyton Manning nor Derek Jeter has a known blemish on his record.
But the key word in that statement is "known,” because, as we've learned, painfully, time and time again, there are skeletons just waiting to come out of the closet and spook us with stories of impropriety.
That's just the way it is, my friends.
Few of us believed that Tiger, who has a beautiful wife, all the money in the world, and two young children at home, was living a dual life. But, as you read between the lines, it becomes clear that the life that Tiger was leading was anything but pure.
Likewise, few believed that Manny Ramirez took performance-enhancing drugs. We heard the whispers, but didn't want to believe that A-Rod was a cheat. We wanted to believe that Marian Jones was telling the truth, and that Michael Jordan really could fly.
But now, we have become a society of disbelievers, and who can blame us? How do we know that Peyton Manning is as rock solid as he appears on the exterior?
Look, all this is nothing new. In the past, sports heroes were able to maintain their lofty status in the public eye because there wasn't as much instant media access and reporting of the personal lives of these folks.
People didn't know that Babe Ruth was a drunk and a womanizer, didn't care if someone was a racist. What they accomplished on the field was all we knew or cared about.
Well, all that has changed. Athletes are built up to grandiose expectations they can't possibly live up to, and then are torn down like they were made of paper.
We should all have a suspicious eye for everyone in that public sphere. It makes it almost impossible to believe that any athlete is worth our adulation.
We scorn the sports star who we cheered just last week. Throw down a massive slam-dunk, sink that winning putt, hit that home run and we love you. Expose your human underbelly for all to see and we hate you.
Oh sure, athletes get paid to deal with this, so this is no attempt to make anyone feel sorry for these often spoiled millionaire athletes. But it does raise a serious question.
Just who is at fault here, the athlete for not living up to our expectations, or us for having those expectations in the first place?
As The Who once sang, "don't get fooled again." Don't buy the hype when you buy the apparel. Understand that these are human beings and, as such, are far from perfect.
You don't have to forgive them, nor should you feel sorry for them. Feel remorse over the loss of the magic that comes with believing, if you must, but know that nothing is certain but death, taxes, and the Cubs never winning the World Series.
Heck, for Eldrick Tont, even his name isn't real.
Just like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, these heroes are not real. It's a grand illusion and, come to think of it, one that we can no longer accept.