Tiger Woods and Michael Vick: Athletes’ actions affect fandom

Tiger Woods and Michael Vick: Athletes' actions affect fandom

Dante Frattini

As the recently completed Masters approached, I was thinking about my rooting interests. And how, in regards to golf, I normally have none.

The only time I’m really ever aware of golf is during the week prior to one of the major tournaments. Other than those four times a year, and I suppose the Ryder Cup once every two years, my interest in golf is about on par with my interest in anything gluten-free. That means aside from wondering why other people like it, I often forget it exists.

That all changed Thanksgiving 2009, when at 2:30 a.m., Tiger Woods drove his car into some shrubbery, a fire hydrant, and a tree – just one object short of another Tiger Slam.

Though Woods’ desire to keep his matters private prevented many of the details from getting out, that incident is speculated to have been caused by a domestic dispute. Woods likely drove off in a hurry after an argument with his wife Elin, who had recently discovered that Woods had not only been clubbing golf balls, but also waitresses, models and porn stars.

And somehow, that made me to root for Tiger Woods this weekend.

I have always been one to root for the underdog if I don’t have any personal interest in the teams or athletes competing.

I know Tiger Woods isn’t an underdog in the normal sense of the word. His transgressions didn’t take away from his talent or work ethic, but they did seem to stack the odds more heavily against him.

And I want to see him break through that. I want to see him win the next 12 majors. I want to see him flip everyone off as he walks up to the 18th green with a nine-shot lead. I want him to shout “King Kong ain’t got s— on me!” as he taps in his final birdie.

And this is when I start to think about Michael Vick, and how hard I rooted against him when he came back to the NFL following a league suspension and prison term. Both punishments were served for funding and participating in Bad Newz Kennels, a dog fighting ring.

Am I a hypocrite for rooting for one scandolous athlete but against another?

My dislike for Michael Vick has subsided over time, but I definitely won’t ever root for him – and I don’t share in many NFL analysts’ thoughts that a successful Michael Vick is a “feel-good” story.

Bad people can be good at things. Michael Vick just happens to be good at something so immensely popular and lucrative that millions of people want to see him do it. That doesn’t make it “feel-good.” I don’t see Disney trying to buy rights to “Unleashed: The Michael Vick Comeback Story.”

Crap, that would be a pretty good point, but I don’t even think Michael Vick is a bad person. Conversely, I don’t think Tiger Woods is a good person, so it’s not like my rooting interest is based solely on what I think of one’s character.

How can I best justify my seemingly contradictory thoughts?

Most simply, I think Michael Vick committed the worse crime. Well, Woods didn’t really commit a crime unless you count the driving violation that cost him all of $164. But Vick’s actions were heinous, cruel, malicious, reprehensible and – hold on, let me get my thesaurus – totally uncool.

Woods’ actions, on the other hand, were definitely wrong, but somewhat understandable if not completely forgivable.

Woods grew up a prodigy. His father placed a club in his hand before a rattle. Throughout his upbringing, Woods was practicing his golf game while his peers were out with girls.

I think Woods was trying to make up for his lost childhood by being immature and promiscuous just like Michael Jackson made up for his by building a theme park in his backyard.

That justification – if you buy it – is only half the reason I choose to root for Tiger. The other is that I’m no longer capable of getting worked up over infidelity. Unless, of course, I’m involved, in which case I get worked up over trying to come up with better lies.

Cheating is something that happens so often, it rarely comes as a surprise when it’s discovered. So when women began coming forward to claim they had affairs with Woods, I was hardly shocked.

I was completely shocked, however, when I saw helicopter footage of dog carcasses being excavated from Michael Vick’s Virginia property, which served as the headquarters for Bad Newz Kennels. Then it was learned that many of those dogs died – some by electrocution – at the hands of Vick.

I’m not defending Woods’ actions with the “but everyone else is doing it!” argument. Cheating on your wife and the mother of your children is obviously wrong. I am saying that it only takes an inconsiderate jerk to cheat, but it takes a special kind of a–hole to execute dogs.

The next guy I see walking down the street might have cheated on his wife dozens of times. And frankly, I won’t really care. So why should I care if someone famous or talented cheats?

I’m not condoning it. I wouldn’t want my sister to date Tiger Woods.

What’s that? Tiger’s ex-wife got how much in the divorce? OK, so I would want my sister to date Tiger Woods, but I realize that he’s not a great person.

And maybe neither am I. Perhaps a better person would find it in their hearts to forgive both of these men. And in Vick’s defense, he does seem a little more docile and aware of what he did, though I don’t think I’ll ever believe he’s being completely genuine with his apologies.

Woods’ life is irrevocably changed. His family is no more, a consequence I believe more severe and irreversible than a relatively brief prison sentence.

I actually feel empathy for Woods, perhaps because I know how many mistakes I am capable of. But killing dogs for pleasure isn’t one of them.

So every few months when golf becomes noteworthy again, I’ll be rooting for the Tiger Woods comeback.

And if I offended any Michael Vick fans out there, please don’t fight me over this.

I’d be no good to you anyway; I’m all bark and no bite.

Dante Frattini can be reached at [email protected]