Fortunately for Woods, there's one thing America likes more than the unsavory fall from grace: The comeback. Right, Britney Spears?

Woods will remain—dented armor, tarnished image and all—a popular icon. He might have been too good to be true. But he's still damn good.

He's a globally recognized persona who evoked impeccability and historical greatness. He's taught thousands of kids at his Tiger Woods Learning Center and influenced millions of others to at least think about values via golf. Before last week, he might have thrown a club or uttered a naughty word, but now his pedestal has been lowered to earthly, conceivable heights.

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

But you know what? Woods will win more major championships, and you'll still buy Nike shirts, and your kids will still fight over the Tiger Woods Xbox video game and that last Gatorade. The brand—perhaps now with an even more relatable connection to fans—will endure.

It's because, like it or not, athletes are role models. My parents raised me. But a sports star—Bjorn Borg—did some detailed molding.

It was Mom and Dad who provided and poured the foundation through principles, rules and right-or-wrong boundaries. I'd be home by my 10 p.m. curfew because of my parents. But I'd show up stoic, with long hair because of the Wimbledons won by the Swedish tennis superstar. In my roles as columnist, blogger and radio talk-show host, criticism—much of it fork-tongued—comes acute and from all angles. To this day, Borg's unflappability is in my temperament tool box.

Certainly Woods' saga will temporarily rankle conservatives, corporations and, yes, kids. He'll pay a $164 traffic ticket and perhaps a priceless penalty upon his once flawless image. But at some point he'll re-emerge as an unprecedented athlete, humbled human and stark reminder of how dangerous this whole hero worship thing can be.

The moral to the immorality: Invest your admiration in athletes judiciously, because ultimately they—like us—are perfectly imperfect. Whether it's Cowboys at Monopoly's or Tiger in turmoil, sooner or later in every fan's life the moment arrives.

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