Tiger, Donte and our sad society

February 22, 2010 | Paul Hoke

I would first like to apologize if this post becomes more of a civics blog then a sports blog. But it seems that more often then not, our society’s ails bleed over into sports, and vice versa. And there are no better examples of that then two recent headlines, both on a national and local sports level.

First…Tiger. Wow. How the mighty have fallen. And you know, the sad part is, I really don’t care. Look, what Tiger did, or is doing, or has done with half the women in this country is none of my business. He could have an affair with a martian and I wouldn’t care. He’s not my spouse, my brother, my uncle, etc…so what he does has no impact on my life what so ever. It’s all just another teaching point in the life of my young son. “See, Dylan, everybody makes mistakes.” What irritates me about “Tigergate” is how he and the media have handled it.

First, on Tiger’s end, that apology was the biggest fraud committed on TV since the whole Reality TV craze began. It was nothing more then a rich, spoiled brat standing in front of a carefully selected crowd, reading a pre-printed, half-hearted, “I’m sorry I got caught” statement. If he were a real man, he would have scraped the statement and taken questions from his “family and friends” in attendance (of which Elin was not part of). The sad part is, the real losers in this whole saga are Elin and those two little kids. The other problem I have with this is the whole “rehab for a disorder” thing. Sooooo, we’re now a society that blames our indiscretions on “disorders”. Is taking responsibility for our actions that tough that we have to label everything as a “disorder”? I have a short temper and am easily irritated by other people’s stupidity. Does that mean I have an “attitude disorder”? Or does it mean that every now and then, I get mad and act like an a-hole? My wife would say that latter. Don’t get me wrong, there are legitimate mental and physical disorders that many in our society suffer from. My oldest step-son suffers from bi-polar disorder, among others, and everyday life is a struggle for him. So I have first hand experience. But, Tiger is a 34 year old man who likes sex even if it means doing it with women that aren’t his wife. That makes him a “sex addict”? And he needs rehab for that? If that’s the case, they better build a new wing on the rehab center because they’re going to have to make room for all the other men in the world who like sex. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not standing in judgement of Tiger’s infidelity. I’ve never cheated on my wife, but I also don’t have more money then God and don’t have beautiful women throwing themselves at me at every turn. If I was in Tiger’s shoes, I would like to think I would remember the vows i took all those years back, but who knows. But I also know that if I did stray, I would be a man, apologize for my behavior (not the fact that I got caught) and not blame it on everything else, including some “disorder” that may or may not really exist. I didn’t hear the “I’m sorry” from Tiger, I heard “I’m sorry you idiots caught me.” If that’s how he feels, then fine, just be man enough to admit it.

As far as the media goes, I can’t really hold them accountable too much, because they are actually just doing their job. Tiger is the most famous person in the history of golf, and one of the most recognizable celebrities in the world. Detailing and reporting on the personal shortcomings and misadventures of iconic figures is part of the media’s job description. After all, “inquiring minds want to know.” What I have a problem with is that with everything else that’s going on in this country and the world, the personal transgressions of a flawed celebrity seem to take center stage while everything else is relegated to page 2 and beyond. Did you know that there was a mini-riot involving 150-200 juvenile delinquents at Towson Commons on Saturday night? No, you didn’t. Because that kind of stuff doesn’t get headlines because our media is too busy covering Tiger’s affairs and who your “American Idol” top 24 are. But that’s our fault as well. We’re more worried, as a society, about what Jon and Kate are doing instead of the real issues that continue to plague us.

The local sports story that has garnered a lot of attention recently has been the recent signing of WR Donte Stallworth by our Baltimore Ravens. I personally like the signing. He’s a talented receiver who should help the Ravens’ mediocre receiving corps. And if he doesn’t, if he can’t shake the rust off after missing all of 2009, then it’s a minimal hit for the team and they release him during camp. But the topic that has raised most people’s eyebrows regarding Stallworth is his conviction for a DUI related manslaughter charge that cost him the 2009 season and his roster spot with Cleveland. I will disclose that like most, I have suffered DUI related tragedies in my life. The worst was the March 17, 1993 death of my girlfriend at the hands of a drunk driver. Not a year goes by that I don’t honor her memory in some way. Needless to say, I don’t celebrate St. Patty’s Day the way most people do. So my opinion of people who get behind the wheel of a car after consuming multiple alcoholic beverages, tends to be a bit skewed. But as a rational thinking human, I also have the ability to evaluate each on a case by case basis, and not lump everyone in one group. The guy who hit Melissa was a 4-time offender who shouldn’t have been within 10 feet of a car, let alone behind the wheel. His blood alcohol content was over .20, more then twice the legal limit. Stallworth’s BAC was barely over the legal limit, and the person that he hit was partially at fault for the accident. But that’s not my point. What makes Stallworth different, is that from the moment he hit the victim, up to now, he has done everything the RIGHT way. He stopped his vehicle, he tried to render assistance, he called for help. And when faced with legal, social, and professional consequences for his actions, Donte admitted that he was wrong, and took responsibility for his actions. And that is why I’m ok with the fact that he is now a Baltimore Raven. If only there were more people in this society and sports like Donte Stallworth.

At the end of the day, we’re all human. We’re all prone to mistakes. There are no Gods among us, no matter how much we want them to be. But what separates us is what separates Tiger and Donte. My question to you is…which one would you root for?