A Week Of Sex, Drugs And Jail

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - March 24, 2010
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Tiger Woods returns in pursuit of his fifth green jacket

After four months of near daily tawdry Tiger tales, it seems a bit off that the latest announcement regarding the world’s best golfer would be the most sane news item of the week.

That Tiger Woods is returning to competition at the Masters is no surprise. What is remarkable is that he remains the lead story during a span when a major league manager admits to using cocaine, Michael Jordan becomes the first former player to become a majority owner of a team and Oregon is continuing along its path to claim the title as college football’s biggest cesspool.

But such is the strange power and unimaginable draw of the only golfer to ever become the world’s biggest sports star.

The only tournament besides the Masters that made sense was the Arnold Palmer Invitation. Woods has won the event six times, and he has played the course as his tradition tuneup for the Masters, which follows the King’s event by two weeks. Augusta, being one of the few remaining bastions of old world, exclusionary golf, is the ideal spot for Woods to hide in plain sight. Access is tightly controlled, behavior held to the highest standards, and should Tiger finish in the pack, which is most likely considering his layoff, he doesn’t have to spend one minute before the press.

Questions, however, still remain. Has therapy left him better able to control his emotional outbursts associated with errant shots or mistimed shutters from the ever present press corps? Will anyone daring enough to offer even the most minor criticism continue to be tossed into the eternal void of shunned existence, or will such commentary now be met with reasoned disinterest? And what happens the first time someone holds up an “I slept with Tiger Woods” sign? Will Steve Williams go bulldog in protecting his meal ticket? Will Tiger demand the person be removed, or will the former Stanford Cardinal just continue on?

The NBA’s board of governors did the prudent thing approving Jordan’s ownership bid for the Charlotte Bobcats. He’s got the cash and the backers to make the move on the second phase of his post-playing career, and his adherence to the corporate line guarantees he won’t suddenly go Mark Cuban on league officials. His qualifications for ownership and his ability to do the job are less clear.

The only thing an owner really needs is a checkbook. He can outsource everything else. The financial stability of the team depends on astute basketball-related business skills - of which Jordan has exhibited almost none.

Bob Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television who purchased the expansion Bobcats in 2004 and remains a minority investor, said in statements about the sale, “As the new majority owner of the Bobcats, his (Jordan’s) dedication will be stronger now more than ever.” It had better be. Jordan’s tenure as the absentee administrator for the Washington Wizards’ was a complete failure. While perhaps the greatest player ever, he showed little acumen in player evaluation, the ability to work a meaningful trade or any real dedication to the job. He can’t afford such luxuries as owner of a team that is worth less today than when it first opened for business.

No one should be shocked that Rangers’ president Nolan Ryan and owner Tom Hicks didn’t fire manager Ron Washington after he admitted to using cocaine.

Everyone in sports is a proponent of second chances so long as the person involved has talent.

Sports Illustrated broke the story that the 57-year-old manager failed a drug test in July 2009, and that he had told his employers about the transgression immediately after he found out he was to be randomly drug tested. While it is hard to believe that his first-time trip to nose candy factory began after he passed the half-century mark, it is even harder to believe that managers are held to a higher drug standard than players who are not tested for recreational drug use. But such is the way of Bud Selig’s baseball, where no problem is too big to sweep under the rug of ignorance.

Speaking of bad decisions, the once well-thought-of Ducks football program has continued its flush toward septic tank notoriety with two more criminal convictions in a series of events that has taken coach Chip Kelly from talented good guy to haphazard enabler of bad behavior. The second-year coach cannot be held accountable for all player transgressions, but as the head coach he is ultimately responsible for a program that has gone rogue. Athletic director Mike Bellotti also shares blame, as some of those punished were recruited by and played under the former head coach.

According to Oregonlive.com, eight Ducks players have run afoul of the law this year, while a ninth was kicked off the team for using vulgar language on his Facebook page questioning the suspension of Kiko Alonso, who was arrested for DUI, minor in possession and other traffic offenses. It appears that criticizing your coach is a sure way out, as is committing a crime as a non-impact player. Wide receiver Garrett Embry, a special teams player who was found guilty of the exact same crimes as quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, was dismissed from the team, while Masoli was suspended for the season. Walk-on defender Matt Sims was canned after being charged with harassment after a fight, while kicker Rob Beard got a one-game suspension for the same charge. The fact that Beard got knocked out during his mele and that Sims’ altercation was in response to Beard’s brawl may have played a role.

But the bigger question surrounding all this inappropriate behavior is the NCAA’s nonreaction. In the mind of the NCAA, getting a free pizza is a serious crime warranting a full-scale investigation, but stealing a computer, false cracking someone or being caught driving drunk is simply an internal matter better left to the schools. NCAA rules are nothing if not hypocritical, but prohibiting gifts while ignoring crime is inexcusable.


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