Privacy, a Forgotten Virtue

By Baird, Julia | Newsweek, December 14, 2009 | Go to article overview

Privacy, a Forgotten Virtue


Baird, Julia, Newsweek


Byline: Julia Baird

Tiger is an athlete, not a politician.

Groupies are the scourge of sportsmen's wives. They hang around outside locker rooms for hours, offer bare breasts for autographs and ooze availability. Golfers have long lamented that baseball groupies are hotter, but they have their fair share of female fans. In a remarkably candid profile written for GQ in 1997, Charles Pierce revealed that even Tiger Woods took notice of the women who would "swoon behind the ropes" when he walked by. Pierce noted one woman in particular who was watching Woods was "dressed in a frilly lace top and wearing a pair of tiger-striped stretch pants that fit as though they were decals." A bystander said that the previous year, this same woman wore pants featuring sharks when following Greg Norman.

Sartorial horrors aside (shark pants?), it's not difficult to imagine how hard it would be to keep your cool when married to a man constantly pawed, fawned over, and treated as a god. (Even Michelle Obama was reported saying she wanted to tell her husband's most physically ardent fans to "back off" and "get a life": "It's embarrassing.")

This is why Woods's strongest argument for privacy is the need to protect his wife, Elin Nordegren, who must be beside herself with anger and humiliation. Sure, we all want to know the details of the night he crashed into a fire hydrant and she smashed the windows of his car with a golf club. But we do not have the right to know either what happened with his wife or the more prurient details of his moral "transgressions." He is not a politician, priest, or morals crusader. He is an athlete.

Why do we even pretend that sports-people are models of propriety? Or rather why do we need them to be? They are physically gifted, driven, and disciplined. That's what you need to excel at sport. Not moral strength, courage, decency, or fidelity. These virtues are admirable, but are a bonus: they should not be an expectation. Yet we continue to project an irrational desire for the physically perfect to be spiritually strong.

You'd think, from the response to Woods's plea, that the right to privacy no longer exists for anyone who dares to excel; that it is an archaic notion that we did away with when God invented computers. …

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