Don't blame MJ for Tiger's fall

BY Jason Whitlock • April 1, 2010

It's ridiculous to blame Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley for Tiger Woods' love of gambling, waitresses, Playmates and porn stars.

Long before there were commercials telling kids to "be like Mike," Las Vegas built a three-mile strip of luxury hotels specifically to house and entertain men who love gambling, waitresses, Playmates and porn stars.

Blaming Jordan and Barkley for Tiger's indiscretions is the equivalent of fingering the pair for the wetness of water.

It's silly, naive and dishonest.

And that's my impression of the long-winded Tiger Woods expose in the May issue of Vanity Fair Magazine.

Oh, it was fascinating, too. I devoured the whole thing and highly recommend that you pick up a copy. Just carry with you a heavy dose of skepticism when reading the perspective attributed to John Merchant, a self-proclaimed former Tiger advisor.

Merchant, 77, is the lawyer who points a finger at Jordan and Barkley for the demise of Tiger's squeaky image.

"I told (Tiger), 'Stay away from that son of a bitch (Jordan), because he doesn't have anything to offer to the f***ing world in which he lives except playing basketball, which he did yesterday,' " Merchant told Vanity Fair. "Are they (Jordan and Barkley) his black role models? You've got to be kidding me."

Merchant is black and apparently quite bitter about being cut out of the Tiger gravy train in 1996, shortly after Tiger signed his $40 million endorsement deal with Nike.

Using an unidentified source, the Vanity Fair story paints the picture that Merchant was discarded by Team Tiger because Merchant righteously insisted that $1 million of Nike's $40 million go to a minority golf initiative rather than Earl Woods, Tiger's father.

Merchant boldly claims that he could've steered Tiger clear of temptations of the flesh.

"I honestly believe, if I had been there these things would not have happened," Merchant is quoted as saying. "Why? Because I don't give a good goddam about Tiger's money. I care about Tiger the person, who has earned the right to be respected. Everybody he talks to has to protect their paycheck. I loved that boy. I watched him grow over the years. I watched him relate to his father. I see all of that destroyed."

OK, now we're getting to the heart of my problem with pinning Tiger's mess on Jordan and Barkley.

Tiger had a heavily involved father who passed away when Woods was 30. Pardon the cliche: apples don't fall far from trees.

Earl Woods left his first wife and three kids to build a new life with Tiger's mother. Earl Woods, according to this same Vanity Fair story, seemed to share Tiger's affinity for hot and loose women.

We're blaming Jordan and Barkley? What about Earl Woods?

No parent is perfect. Good parents make mistakes along the way. It's my belief that Earl Woods was a good father who made several critical mistakes along the way.

He crippled Tiger with expectations only Jesus could live up to.

"Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity," Earl Woods told Sports Illustrated at the beginning of Tiger's career.

No doubt, all of us in the media should've called bull(spit) on Earl's assertion at the time he said it. Some members of the media did. I'm ashamed I was not one of them.

Why didn't I? Part of me assumed Earl was just talking (spit). Another part of me wanted Tiger to be Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis rolled into one. Important athletes make sportswriting important.

Tiger Woods as transcendent athlete is good for my line of work.

Looking back, we should not be surprised that Tiger lost himself in narcissistic sexual pleasure. His dad wanted him to be Jesus. Preachers' kids often rebel with sexual promiscuity, alcohol and drugs.

That's my fear. That Tiger's demons are worse than his appetite for easy women.

After his press conference in February, I wrote a column comparing Woods to Michael Jackson. No one blamed Elvis Presley or Quincy Jones for Jackson's fall from grace.

We blamed Joe Jackson, Michael's father.

Is there a difference between Joe Jackson and Earl Woods?

Both focused on raising entertainers more than human beings.

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