I'm not in Augusta, Ga., this week, though I enjoy the scents and sights of freshly thawed azaleas and a good pimento cheese sandwich as much as anyone. Even so, I'm happy to see The Masters coming up on the calendar. It signals spring in the South as much as bluebirds, peach blossoms and pollen.
Golf always takes center stage in the region this time of year.The Masters is held two hours away in the border city of Augusta, Ga., and then the PGA Tour moves to the S.C. coast and Hilton Head Island's Verizon Heritage Classic along the links at Harbour Town.
Of course, this week, golf is front and center everywhere this week -- from the NBC Nightly News to TMZ.com to ESPN to Entertainment Tonight -- because of Tiger Woods and his reported extra-marital affairs.
A salacious sex scandal? A fall from grace by an iconic athlete? Rehab? A former Swedish model turned woman scorned?
Tiger, you had us at salacious.
Augusta National chairman Billy Payne couldn't let the return of Woods to the sport happen without one more unsolicited scolding, one more blast from the past.
"It is simply not the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here," Payne said. "It is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grandkids. Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children."
Here's the problem with Payne's statement:
If Payne or anyone else needs some sort of fulfillment from a professional athlete -- with or without a closet full of green jackets -- then, they have failed themselves. If those same people aren't telling their "kids and grandkids" that heroes are not made on playing fields or defined by statistics or scores in relation to par as soon as those youthful minds can grasp it, then they are failing those children.
It's a necessary cynicism created by the off-field lives of Pete Rose, Steve Howe and Mickey Mantle, the after-hours world of former ABA/NBA star David Thompson, NFL stars Dexter Manley and Rae Carruth and countless disgraced and jailed others from every sport on the horizon.
Woods hurt himself and his family. The rest of us, including Payne? We're just rubbernecking after the fact.