Why Are We Interested in Tiger Woods' Personal Life? Because We're Human

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2010

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 11:  Tiger Woods walks off the 18th green with his caddie Steve Williams during the final round of the 2010 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 11, 2010 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Why are people so interested in Tiger Woods’ personal life?

It’s a debate that’s been raging for months.

Some feel that there’s some kind of underlying media conspiracy to take down Woods.

Some feel that an athlete’s personal life should remain private and are completely baffled as to why people would be interested in an athlete’s personal life.

Well, here’s the answer:

1) Since when have we not combined athlete’s personal lives with their performance to create a well-rounded story?  

After a long struggle with breast cancer, Darren Clarke’s wife passed away just two months prior to the 2006 Ryder Cup matches, which were scheduled to take place in Clarke’s home country of Ireland.

How is Clarke’s personal life any of our business?

How was his wife’s personal struggle with cancer any of our business?

Yet no one hesitated to look at Clarke’s return to the golf for the 2006 Ryder Cup as the feel-good story of the year.  

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As we all know, Muhammad Ali returned to professional boxing after being banned for three years due to his legal troubles.

How were Ali’s personal legal matters any of our business?

How was Ali’s personal view on the Vietnam War any of our business?

Yet his comeback story is to this day considered one of the greatest of all-time due almost solely to his personal struggles.  

How is Mickelson’s wife’s illness any of our business?

Yet his wife’s battle with cancer combined with his on-course play was THE story of not only the 2010 Masters, but also the 2009 U.S. Open, long before the Tiger (womanizer) vs. Phil (family man) story began to emerge.

The list of examples could go on for days, but the point is that combining athlete’s personal lives with their athletic performance is something that has been going on since, well, the inception of organized sports.

2) Our athletes are human beings

There are those that say they are ONLY concerned with an athlete’s performance on the field.

Well, if that were the case, why would we ever watch movies such as Seabiscuit, Hoosiers, Brian’s Song, The Rookie, Cinderella Man, etc.?

If that were the case, why would we ever watch a documentary or read a biography about a particular athlete’s life?

Why would we be interested in the personal stories behind these athletes if it was of no interest to us—remember, the “why are people interested in Tiger Woods’ persona life” crew are only interested in what athletes do on the athletic field and are in no way interested in their personal lives.

The fact of the matter is that when we watch sports, we are watching human beings compete, which means that there is inevitably going to be a human side to athletics.  

If there was never a human interest story related to athletes, teams, etc., why not just throw some robots out there and let them compete, lord knows, we probably have the technology to do so.

The answer is that as much as we pretend that we’re only interested in the way Alex Rodriguez hits a baseball or the way Tiger Woods hits a golf ball, we too are human beings, which means that we are, by nature, interested in other human beings.

If we weren’t, we’d all be charging our batteries every night instead of sleeping, or filling our tanks with gasoline rather than eating a meal.

With our interest in the human side of athletics comes both good and bad stories.  

We cannot decide to immerse ourselves in feel good stories such as Darren Clarke, Phil Mickelson, Seabiscuit, etc., and then ignore the bad stories such as Tiger Wood’s womanizing, Michael Jordan’s gambling and affairs, Allen Iverson’s arrests, Ben Rothlisberger being accused of rape, or Magic Johnson contracting the HIV virus while cheating on his wife.

This river runs in two directions.

We can’t decide to lap up the feel good stories about athletes overcoming personal issues to perform amazing feats while then saying that we should not be interested in Tiger Woods’ personal life.

That folks is the pure definition of being hypocritical.

We are, and always have been, interested in athletes as human beings, and when you’re dealing with human beings, there are always going to be both good and bad stories…and we can’t simply decide to ignore the bad.

For more PGA Tour News, Insight and Analysis, check out The Tour Report.

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