ESPN's Rick Reilly - a Colorado native - is the last person who should be opining on Tiger Woods' personal and professional life. And yet he's doing it endlessly anyway. It's time for Rick Reilly to shut up.
I should probably be skewering the Nuggets for dropping a fourth road game against a sub-.500 opponent rather than take on a columnist who rarely covers the NBA. But after reading Rick Reilly’s pompous, unrealistic, holier-than-thou, how-to-fix-your-marriage column directed at Tiger Woods on ESPN.com yesterday, I’ve finally had enough of this Reilly high-horse nonsense that's been going on since Woods crashed his SUV into a fire hydrant two weeks ago. For whatever reason, Reilly has become the self-appointed arbiter on all things in regards to Woods’ – shall we say complicated – married life, and I've been getting progressively more enraged with each Reilly appearance on the subject. You see, not only is Rick Reilly one of the last people who should be publicly advising Tiger on his marital problems (more on that shortly), but all of Reilly’s advice, notably what was written in his latest column, is dead wrong.
Before diving into my rebuttal of Reilly’s farce of a column (titled "An image-rehab plan for Tiger Woods"), let me first state that I have no connection to Tiger Woods whatsoever, nor do I claim to know Rick Reilly personally. However, since the Denver sports and social scene is relatively small, I’ve met Reilly a few times over the years. Being a longtime admirer of his work, a fellow Coloradoan and a syndicated cartoonist, sports animation producer and Nuggets blogger, I figured Reilly might be interested in talking to me the few times we’ve met. But instead, each time I’ve introduced myself it’s been painfully obvious that Reilly – who’s nice for the first 30 seconds you talk to him and then basically ignores you while you stand there – can’t wait for the conversation to end. When we last ran into each other, during a Nuggets playoff game, I attempted to congratulate Reilly on joining forces with Bill Simmons at ESPN.com (I’m a huge Simmons fan) just to see what kind of reaction I’d get. Reilly couldn’t help himself and cracked on Simmons by saying something like: "I don’t know how that guy has the time to write so much. I guess it helps when you just sit around the house watching TV all day." This was typical old media smugness and condescension from Reilly that we bloggers have heard from him before.
So do I like Reilly personally? No, not really. But I respect what he’s done with his career and commend his charitable work (I even donated to Nothing But Nets after seeing Reilly advocate for it on "The Colbert Report").
Maybe my personal thoughts on Reilly color my professional view of him in an unfairly negative way, but from my vantage point he’s completely out of line and hypocritical when it comes to legislating how Tiger Woods should move forward from his infidelity debacle. After all, Reilly, himself a father of three, is on to marriage number two and those of us who live in Denver or spend a lot of time there certainly know he took full advantage of his D-List (or is it E-List?) celebrity status after his own divorce in 2003. Like any of us would do after divorcing our wife of 20 years, Reilly was routinely seen with girls substantially younger than himself before remarrying in 2008. Like most guys who stupidly marry too young – as Reilly did at 25 years old – I’m assuming Reilly had to "sew the royal oats" before settling down again. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that and I bet he had a hell of a lot of fun doing it.
Given all this, why of all people is Rick Reilly publicly telling Tiger Woods how to live his life? Making Reilly's arguments even less credible, not once in his column does he refer to his own past shortcomings as a husband and father. And yet Reilly has the audacity to claim that Tiger has "lost his mind." Lost his mind? Really, Rick?
Moreover, in the column – as if stolen right out of a chick lit fantasy tale – Reilly preposterously proposes, among other things, that Tiger beg for forgiveness on Oprah, skip the Masters (!) and possibly the U.S. Open (!!), spend 24 hours a day on his marriage (that sounds fun), fire his caddy, fire his agent and get some "new friends."
Are you @#$% kidding me, Rick?
Not that Tiger needs my advice either, but never one to complain without offering solutions, here’s what the world's most recognizable athlete should do: get divorced, surround himself with his closest friends, keep caddy Steve Williams as close by as possible, avoid the press (especially hypocrites like Reilly), play hours upon hours of golf and start winning tournaments again.
And while Tiger goes back to work, the Rick Reilly's of the world should join the rest of us in reality and acknowledge that marriage is no longer a viable lifestyle choice for the modern day professional athlete – especially for someone with Tiger’s remarkably high level of visibility. Unless they’re in the Kurt Warner camp whose fear of retribution from Jesus for stepping outside their marriage is bigger than their fear of TMZ, marriage doesn't work for even the average pro star.
Beyond the embarrassment of getting caught fooling around and the lives around you being temporarily humiliated in the process (note I didn’t use the words "permanently" or "ruin"), marriage isn’t even practical for pro athletes on a business level anymore. In the old days, an athlete had to get married to improve his image with sponsors and then fooled around on the side while the press protected him. These days, not only don’t they need marriage for the sake of their sponsors (how many endorsements has Derek Jeter lost out on by being single all these years?), but by getting married they’re setting themselves up to fail as everyone is the media now and outing celebrities is the cheap path to boosting web traffic. I guarantee when the news of Woods’ various affairs came out every athlete north of 40 years old from Michael Jordan to Arnold Palmer thought: "Phew! Thank god the internet wasn’t around when I was at the top of my game! (wink, wink)." And yet Reilly adamantly insists that Tiger go back to the marriage well? What is this; the 1950s, Rick?
This isn’t to suggest that I condone what happened with Tiger (lying is lying, regardless of whom you’re lying to) or that I don’t feel bad for Elin Woods and their two kids, because I feel awful for them. I come from a divorced home and know it’s not easy (and my parents marital problems certainly weren’t on the cover of every trashy women's magazine at the grocery store checkout line...sorry, girls, but it's your magazines that are turning this non-story into a national outrage). So whatever Elin is owed based on their prenuptial agreement, Tiger should triple it – maybe even quadruple it – for the painful public embarrassment he caused her and her family and for lying to her. But if Tiger really does care for her and love her, money’s not enough: he should let her go free rather than commence the Reilly-endorsed charade of saving the marriage through counseling, groveling and skipping golf tournaments. At this point, all that stuff just takes valuable time away from the driving range. Time Tiger will need to win all four majors next year as part of his "Fuck You" tour.
Like many celebrities – Rick Reilly included – Tiger did something really fundamentally stupid long before he cheated on his wife: he got married too young. Clearly Tiger, still a young man, wasn’t ready to stay within the boundaries of the marriage he and Elin agreed upon (some celebrities have open marriages; I suspect this wasn’t one of them). But rather than double-down on stupid by attempting to salvage his marriage only to get caught again (and he will get caught again), Tiger should do the right thing, ignore everything Rick Reilly and other would-be marriage counselors in the media are suggesting and BE SINGLE.
Besides, women dig single dads. Just ask Rick Reilly.