Woods isn’t the first athlete to fall from grace

Photo: Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT

By Kelly Hart, Sports Editor

Many people look up to athletes. They are always there, performing for eager eyes and a public that often looks to them as role models. Some athletes embrace the “role model” label, while others shun it.  

Unfortunately, the media and the public also thrive on finding flaws or dirt on those who are placed on pedestals. A failed attempt at a buzzer-beater and the media is ready with their questions, which is understandable. But the real controversy begins when athletes make mistakes in their personal lives.

That brings us, naturally, to the subject of Tiger Woods. If such a title existed, Woods would certainly own the title as the greatest golfer ever. And he is one of the athletes who embraced the fact that he was a role model. “I think it is an honor to be a role model,” said Woods in a Business Week article. “If you are given a chance to be a role model, I think you should always take it because you can influence a person’s life in a positive light, and that’s what I want to do. That’s what it’s all about.”

But with his latest blunder, Woods has unwillingly taken on several negative titles.

The saga of Tiger Woods

By now, most people who care know the basics of Woods’ story. Late last year, he took a 2:30 a.m. drive in his neighborhood that resulted in a minor car accident and many accusations. Rumors of alcohol, affairs, violence and drugs rose to the surface. “I heard that his wife took his golf clubs and beat him up with them,” said Fairmont junior Connor Darnell. But police reports confirm that alcohol and drugs weren’t a factor, and there were no signs of violence prior to the accident.

Woods eventually went public, admitting to having several affairs on his wife. Numerous women claimed to be the “other woman,” and the various text messages and voice mails they provided have led many to believe their stories are true.

Famous athletes know that people are going to be in their business. So the question is:  Why do they do bad things when there is a good chance they will get caught? “They don’t think it can happen to them,” said Fairmont junior Stacie Gilbert.

 Scandals aren’t a new phenomenon

Woods isn’t the only athlete who has fallen from grace. From Kobe Bryant to Michael Vick, athletes have made mistakes. Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers guard, was accused of sexual assault in 2003. The charges were eventually dropped, but the judgment still resurfaces. Vick, now the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, went to prison for operating a dog-fighting ring in 2007.

Both athletes still take criticism for their actions. Many die-hard fans turned their backs on them. “I still think Kobe is awesome at basketball,” said Darnell, “but I can see why people are against him.”

Even Michael Phelps, arguably the greatest swimmer of all time, has earned some negative media. Photos were leaked to the public of Phelps smoking marijuana. He also got a DUI at age 19. “Since Michael Phelps is everyone’s hero, you don’t really hear too much about his problems,” said senior Amanda Turner.

It may seem like scandals involving famous athletes are a recent phenomenon, but in fact this has been going on for quite a while. Pete Rose, formerly of the Cincinnati Reds, got in trouble for betting on baseball in the late ‘80s, and football star O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murdering his wife in the ‘90s.

“Athletes getting into trouble have been happening forever,” said junior Taylor Matheson. “The media just gets more involved these days,”

 Paying the price for transgressions

But does what athletes do in their personal lives change how people look at them as athletes? Certainly that’s true for some fans, but others can stay focused on their sports accomplishments. “What Tiger did doesn’t change my opinion on his golf game,” said senior Anthony Ganz-Sarto.

However, not everyone looks at it that way. Woods has lost many of his big-name sponsors like Gillette, AT&T and Gatorade. “It’s crazy how he lost his sponsors for something that didn’t even involve golfing,” said Turner.

Woods came out to the public with his apology. “I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children. I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I’ve done, but I want to do my best to try,” Woods wrote on his website, www.tigerwoods.com.

Throughout his apology, Woods talks about how he is taking care of his family situation out of the public eye. On Dec. 11, he announced an indefinite leave from professional golf to focus on his marriage and family.

“I agree that everyone should stay out of it and let him solve it himself,” said Gilbert.

Whenever an athlete is involved in a big event, the media will be there. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad, as in Woods’ case. “Celebrities are fine with the media being involved – until it’s for a bad reason,” said Turner.