Ross Karl: The troubling dilemma of Tiger Woods

Woods made a long-awaited return to from at the PGA event in Florida this week.
Woods made a long-awaited return to from at the PGA event in Florida this week. Photo credit: Getty

OPINION: I find nothing in sport quite as breathtaking as watching that red shirt on the final day. It's evocative.

A 40-foot putt... "Get in the hole"... fist pumping. Tiger's in the running.

The problem is seeing Woods back in contention creates a conflict between my sporting passions and moral code.

It's a hard watch.

It's tough to be "woke" and support a fallen idol at the same time. I want to stand for something greater, but I also want to jump to my feet when that ball rolls into the cup.

As a sports lover and bleeding-heart liberal, it's left me with many questions.

Can you support their athletic endeavours, while also protesting against off-field behaviour that shouldn't be tolerated?

Does supporting a great athlete on the field mean condoning the bad things they've done off it? Will people judge me for cheering Tiger's renewed success, having booed his moral failures?

Can I stand in judgement and still be a fan?

These conundrums reminded me of a conversation I had the night before Elin Nordegren chased Woods out of their house with a golf club in 2009.

I was asked, "if you were to be any athlete on earth, who would you be?" My shortlist was obvious - Tiger and Roger Federer.

I chose Woods.

He was squeaky clean. He seemed to have it all, including the perfect little family.

He was the charismatic king of the sport that the world's top athletes long to be good at. Michael Jordan wishes he was actually the best golfer on the planet.

Enough said.

It was a wake-up call when news broke the next day of his serial cheating. Everything but the golfing success and money was a lie.

We thought we knew him, but like many celebrities, we really had no clue about the real Tiger Woods.

Overnight, there was a new question. Could I continue support fallen idols on the sports field?

Because Tiger's been a golfing non-event since 2009, I wouldn't find my answer until the Chiefs strippers scandal at the end of the 2016 Super Rugby season.

The Chiefs have been my family's team for 20 years. Suddenly, it seemed that they stood for everything my family doesn't.

The Chiefs were rocked by scandal in 2016.
The Chiefs were rocked by scandal in 2016. Photo credit: Photosport

Being "woke" and supporting the Chiefs was a problem. Are they mutually exclusive?

NZ Rugby's botched investigation into the scandal helped make up my mind. I would have no team in 2017 and wouldn't go back to supporting the Chiefs until I was convinced they represented something better.

The first awkward moment of my stand came in a conversation with Chiefs lock Michael Allardice at an Adidas jersey launch in 2017.

They generously gave attendees a replica Super Rugby shirt of their choice. Allardice asked me which one I'd be getting - I said I was taking a Hurricanes jersey for a friend of mine.

He was curious who I supported and why I didn't want my own kit. I surprised myself when I blurted out a brutally honest answer.

"I was a Chiefs fan. I don't have a team anymore though."

I could see on his face that he immediately understood what I meant. I respected his reply.

"Well, I hope we can win your support back."

That comment brought something else to ponder. When to forgive and move on?

I'm a firm believer that nobody is perfect. As long as people sincerely apologise and learn from mistakes, they deserve second chances. 

But considering we don't truly know these athletes, it's almost impossible to know if they have repented.

As far as the Chiefs are concerned, they handled their scandal so poorly that I won't be requesting their jersey anytime soon.

There has been nearly a decade for Tiger to ponder his faults, so I'm hoping that means I can support him at the Masters, but who really knows?

After all of this, I know two things for sure - we need to stand up for what we believe in and sport isn't half as much fun when you're not supporting someone.

The conflict remains.

Ross Karl is Newshub's rugby reporter

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