Like Many Before and Most To Follow, Tiger Woods Dramatically Joins The Human Race

For me, it arrived November 18, 1984.

Born, raised and saturated with the DNA of the Dallas Cowboys, I was profoundly distraught over a lackluster loss to the lowly Buffalo Bills on a sad Sunday afternoon. Downtrodden bordering on depressed, a buddy and I ventured to lift our spirits at the old Monopoly's club on Northwest Highway.

While we stood outside dissecting the defeat and gauging the far-reaching, negative ramifications it would surely have on America and its Team, three familiar figures appeared. Wearing sunglasses. Fur coats. Smiles.

Tiger, Tiger, burning bright, keep your damn pants on, all right?
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Tiger, Tiger, burning bright, keep your damn pants on, all right?

And when Ron Fellows, Michael Downs and Tony Dorsett circumvented the line, bypassed the red velvet rope and strode briskly into the joint for a night of fun, frivolity and females, innocence vanished and perspectives warped. Shoved aside by harsh reality, my naïve notion that professional athletes were pristine role models—somehow immune to being human—was gone. Forever.

The Cowboys weren't wallowing in sorrow, burying their heads in playbooks or urgently scheming to never again let down their fans. Nope, they instead eschewed head coach Tom Landry's cathedral for a night of downing amaretto sours, boogying to Culture Club and ogling the scantily clad hostess rolling giant, inflatable dice. They were...like me.

Gulp.

Tiger Woods fans, how'd your moment feel?

It arrived, of course, last week with a simple, yet shocking salvo: "I have let my family down." After mysteriously crashing his SUV in Florida in the wake of a National Enquirer story exposing alleged infidelity, the greatest player in the history of golf and the world's most recognizable athlete was suddenly dogged by the most frightening acronym this side of HIV and IRS: TMZ.

There emerged a New York nightclub hostess, nine additional women, the infamously incriminating voice mail and, finally, the US Weekly headline we thought we'd never see...

Yes, He Cheated.

"I regret those transgressions with all of my heart," Woods said in a statement on his Web site. "I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults, and I am far short of perfect."

Turns out Superman's kryptonite wasn't Phil Mickelson or the yips, but rather good ol' fashioned booty calls. Ring a bell? In the transcendent Nike TV commercial, countless kids peer into the camera and state, "I am Tiger Woods." I'm guessing these days millions of philandering men—and women—gaze into their morning mirror and think, "I'll be damned, so am I."

Suddenly, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo jetting off to Las Vegas in advance of a game against the New York Giants seems trivial, and Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki's quick, honest handling of ex-fiancée Crystal Taylor's criminal indiscretions appears heroic. Not that Dallas doesn't have its share of salacious scandals.

Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton paused his born-again, feel-good testimony for a night of debauchery in Arizona last winter. Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill was convicted of corruption. And just last week, a Grand Prairie priest pleaded guilty and a Kaufman County Baptist church music director resigned—both for using church computers to download hundreds of images of child pornography.

Even in my own home, infidelity, accessorized with a defiant cover-up, recently reared its hideous head. And after seven years of relative bliss, I divorced my wife.

But this latest ice-water-down-your-underoos awakening isn't Eliot Spitzer or Dave Letterman or Bill Cosby or Steve Phillips or Jim Nantz. It's bigger than Alex Rodriguez using steroids or Michael Phelps hitting a bong or Marion Jones lying or Michael Vick killing dogs. Combined.

It's Tiger Friggin' Woods. The Chosen One. White America's favorite black man. The planet's first $1 billion athlete. The infallible deity who wore his Nike swoosh as a halo. To see Tiger whipped by somebody named Y.E. Yang at last summer's PGA Championship was shocking, but to learn he was punctuating cross-country extramarital affairs with common-man sexting is undeniably monumental.

This one will have a Clintonian echo. In fact, only one man's "transgressions" could shake our core more violently—Barack Obama. OK, and maybe Roger Staubach or Nolan Ryan.

Woods was so revered that during the 2003 Byron Nelson Classic in Las Colinas I saw him get a rousing ovation for—swear—exiting a Port-A-Pot.

"Just when I think I've seen it all," Woods joked after his round that day. "I mean, I appreciate the support, but...I can assure you I didn't do anything superhuman in there."

He didn't break any laws, just our hope. And to think, we thought he broke the mold.

Tiger Woods is no longer a flawless, athletic android. He is Eldrick Woods, mere mortal.

"I have lost all respect for him," said golfer Jesper Parnevik, who introduced his former nanny, Elin Nordegren, to Woods. "It doesn't even feel like it matters what he has done on the golf course. We have been nice to Tiger before, but now he only has himself to blame. We thought better of him, but he is not the one we thought he was."

Nike's "Just Do It" will never be the same again.

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