Liotta: The game of golf suffers most from Tiger scandal

Before you groan at yet another in the countless stories on Tiger Woods and his fall from golfing grace, I think there’s one victim yet to be named and yet to be dragged through this tragedy: The game of golf.

To this point, the game has been an innocent bystander, nothing more than the unfortunate sport that offered Tiger the opportunity to show off his competitive talents. But there’s a train wreck out there just waiting to pile onto this car-crash episode in American sports: The first tournament when Tiger Woods returns to competition — if he ever plays again.

Every observer, expert and pundit who has offered an opinion on Tiger’s mess has predicted that his return to competitive golf will be a media circus. And, the way it stands now, every reporter, photographer and camera operator from ESPN to TMZ will descend upon the tournament trying to pry every sordid detail of Tiger’s side to this story. They’ll be in the media room, on the practice range, lining every fairway.

And, if nothing else, Tiger has to put a halt to this one moment of ugliness out of respect for the game.

I don’t care if he has to walk out to his front gate, sit with the paparazzi for an afternoon (or two), let them take every picture they want, and give one no-information answer after another no matter how long the endless stream of questions.

Tiger owes it to the game to get past this where-were-you-when moment in our history of sports culture without dragging some unsuspecting tournament venue through the soiling the attention his return will generate.

Can you imagine him re-emerging at Augusta National? The world’s media outlets will attempt to storm the gates. No matter how much fun it would be to watch a great standoff, the game deserves better.

I was unable to sleep the other night, and eventually got around to thinking about Tiger and all he’s meant to golf fans over the past dozen years or so. With Christmas less than a week away, I decided he was the equivalent of a golf fan’s Santa Claus. He never failed to live up to their expectations.

I was lucky growing up. Santa never missed a Christmas in my house. Never suffered a slump. I watch my 6-year-old talk about his Christmas upcoming, and there isn’t a doubt in his mind that Santa and his reindeer won’t be out Christmas night getting the job done.

That’s what it was like watching Tiger Woods play. Whenever his moment arose, Tiger had an answer. Just like Santa Claus.

And now the media — every outlet from ESPN to Extra, Extra — is acting like that 12-year-old who this time of year just can’t wait to let a small child in on a little secret. It’s sad that the country’s media resorts to this to get an audience.

Unfortunately, Tiger deserves every second of the ugliness. It’s just that the game of golf does not.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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