Sports scandals … so many, so little space.
Lance Armstrong angered us, the years and years of lies, the fortune he amassed on the back of them, the code of silence he enforced and the lives he affected, the way he elected to finally come out of the drug/doping closet, our belief that he still is playing games and didn’t come completely clean. Sometimes when you lie for so long, you believe them and the truth is like a foreign language. There may be other motives.
The Manti Te’o story is a scandal only by gross exaggeration, but it certainly intrigued us and drew on a bunch of emotions. I am willing to accept, at face value, that the Notre Dame linebacker was duped, but the love story in and of itself was and still is awfully bizarre. The Irish and the Heisman Trophy run certainly played into the exaggeration.
The most polarizing figure in all of sports may be Ray Lewis. You love him, you hate him, your call. So as not to dredge up the whole story, let’s just say he has gone from a double-murder suspect who pleaded to lesser charges — reportedly paying serious coin to families of the victims to settle civil suits and a huge fine to the NFL — to one of the iconic players of his era, the emotional leader of a Super Bowl team, and something of a role model.
This all has played out over little more than a decade and when it comes to reputation and character reclamation, somehow, few have done it better.
The most stunning and startling scandal of my professional lifetime, though, involved Tiger Woods and his serial philandering. He didn’t have sex with every aspiring porn star, escort, waffle house waitress, and all-around bimbo in America and selected other countries, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. Perhaps, as the losing team in a close game often claims, he just ran out of time.
All the while, he had this stunning Swedish bikini model wife and two beautiful little kids at home who had presented him with the tableau of All-American family man that he parlayed into incredible off-the-course riches. We watched most of those sponsors peel off as if Tiger had contracted the plague while one Escalade wreck after another crashed at his feet. We lost count of the women, but not of the jokes as he became a punchline in every Jay Leno and David Letterman monologue.
It is possible, considering the loss of sponsorship income, the loss of competitive income while he lay low early in the 2010 season, and a divorce settlement that rivaled the GNP of a small country, that no athlete ever suffered a more expensive fall from grace. Frankly, I didn’t know if he’d recover and that wasn’t factoring in leg injuries and continued swing changes.
On Monday, Woods won the 75th title of his PGA Tour career, the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in California. Despite a sloppy finish that reduced the margin of victory, it was another of those dominant performances and no-doubt wins that have defined his career.
Also, Golf Digest recently put out its 2012 earnings list and Woods was No. 1 with $86 million. It included $9 million in on-course earnings and $77 million more from estimated endorsements, appearance fees, licensing fees, and other businesses.
So time heals wounds and life goes on even after life-altering moments. Ask Tiger. Ask Ray Lewis. Manti will be fine. Even Lance Armstrong will find a way, if we let him.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.