Tiger taking golf into tabloid era

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We live in the Tabloid Era. Anything that has a whiff of scandal instantly grabs our attention.

Sports have contributed generously to the scandal sheets and the 24-hour news networks. From O.J. Simpson to Tonya and Nancy, from Kobe Bryant to Pacman Jones, from Mike Tyson to name your favorite baseball player with roid rage, virtually every sport has done its part to provide fodder.

Professional golf has been lagging behind for awhile. Other than a John Daly meltdown here or a Martha Burk protest there, it has managed to avoid turning into a three-ring circus.

Well, apparently golf has just been duffing around the putting green all this time. Now it’s ready to tee off at TPC Ignominy on April 8.

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Does anyone really think that Augusta National, in all of its self-importance, pomposity and tradition unlike any other, will be able to stem the tidal wave of the absurd that will accompany the return of Tiger Woods to the game he was supposed to use as a vehicle to change the world?

Oh, sure, them good ol’ boys drinking (bourbon) whiskey and wearing green jackets and straw hats will be able to keep the foolishness outside Augusta’s pristine pastures. They’ll step up security and toss out the first lout who yells “Hey Tiger, are you into the rough? Josslyn James thinks so.” They’ll screen the press credentials so somebody from TMZ can’t ask Tiger if he went to Perkins for breakfast. Jim Nantz’s hushed, reverential tone will ensure that a national TV audience has few opportunities to snicker at comments about the greens being bikini waxed.

Three weeks of hype will have to crest somewhere, though, if not at the door of Butler Cabin.

And good luck avoiding the hype or, if you’re hip to the hype, sorting the thoughtful analysis from the balderdash.

Three weeks is a long time. Heck, it’s been less than a week since the comeback date was announced and the Tiger debates (Will he or won’t he win? Will he or won’t he be a hero if he does?) are on the verge of eclipsing, if not out-shrilling, the health care debate.  ESPN already has a 30 for 30 documentary, “Steve Williams, Worlds Worst Wingman” in production, and Glenn Beck already has a chart showing how Tiger’s infidelity is part of President Obama’s plan to make us a communist country.

Once the NCAA Tournament starts to fade away, ESPN will be wall-to-wall Tiger, as will Fox News, MSNBC and CNN once the Democrats are done with their shenanigans. Articles on sex addiction and sexting will blanket the front page of virtually every newspaper. There’s still plenty of time for some more revelations from mistresses to be leaked to Deadspin or TMZ, and if you think columnists and the TV talking heads have run out of Tiger to talk about, you’re kidding yourself. They’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ve even yet to see or hear anyone revisit the nonsense about whether getting married was good for Tiger’s game.

Once the fateful weekend arrives and CBS’ Nielsen meters start spinning, some of us will have reached our limit. Most of us won’t. If Tiger is in the hunt Saturday and Sunday, most of us will hang on every swing, because thank God there will still be some sliver of athletic drama to salvage from this soap opera. Win or lose, it will be right back to the soap opera — immediately if he wins, from the moment of Billy Payne’s uncomfortable handshake and Nantz’s first awkward question in the cabin.

And the cycle will begin again, until another superstar athlete does something really stupid or criminal to feed the tabloid monster.

Randy Whitehouse is a staff writer. His e-mail address is rwhitehouse@sunjournal.com

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