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What the John Terry scandal tells us about England, America, and Tiger Woods

Six months ago, discussions involving Tiger Woods focused on whether or not he would win more major championships than Jack Nicklaus. No one really knew much about him, other than that he was an incredible golfer and a fierce competitor with a beautiful wife and a strong dislike of photographers. Suddenly, everything changes. The facade is pulled down. Now when we talk about Tiger, we talk about his infidelity and indiscretions.

We understand that he wanted privacy so that he could keep up the appearance of the perfect husband and father but live the rock-star lifestyle. Tiger surrounded himself with enablers who pandered to him. His agent helped him become the wealthiest sports figure in the world. That same agent put a protective cocoon around him. Tiger's caddy kept the competitive juices during tournaments and protected him from the awful discomforts of clicking cameras and thoughtless fans. His life was well planned and completely fake.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the John Terry scandal swept through football. Terry was involved in an affair. News leaked that the captain of England's National Team had been unfaithful to his wife. However, this wasn't really news because it wasn't the first time he had cheated on his wife. Rumors of alleged affairs had circled around him for years. One website alleges relationships with 13 different women since 1999 despite the fact that Terry has dated Toni Poole, his current wife, since high school. The couple were married in 2007 and had twins together in 2006.

So why was this different? Terry was revered by fans of Chelsea and England despite his personal life. He was made team captain for both club and country. In reality, his indiscretions are no different than those of many of his teammates for club and country (Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard). The culture amongst the players not only allows for this poor behavior, it acts as a catalyst. Footballers party hard. They go to the club to celebrate after a win and to drink away their sorrows after a loss.

At the same time, the status that comes from being a "WAG" means that these guys can have a second life as doting husband and father since it seems that these women only leave the husbands if he happens to die (Cheryl Cole might buck this trend). Terry was even named "Father of the Year" in a poll of English adults (sponsored by a Ketchup maker). However I can't tell if anyone takes it seriously seeing as Indiana Jones and Homer Simpson were #1 and #2 fictional characters people would like as their father and Peter Andre was the winner last year. The English are either dopes or hilarious.

Back to my question. Was was this different? Why did John Terry pay his mistress hush money? Why did Terry get a gag order on the press when the story started to leak out? Because of Wayne Bridge:

That's Terry on the right and his former best buddy, Wayne Bridge. Bridge was Terry's teammate at Chelsea and was a member of the England Men's National Team. Terry cheated on his wife with Bridge's ex-girlfriend, Vanessa Perroncel. Perroncel and Bridge have a child together. For the English, this went too far. There was a line that Terry crossed by having an affair with his teammate's ex girlfriend. The line seems to be pretty fair down the path of shame, but there is definitely a line. For a celebrity athlete like Terry, you can cheat on your wife, mock Americans after 9/11, and assault security guards in night clubs.

But cheating on your teammate goes too far. Terry was stripped of his role of Captain of England's National Team and there was a feeling that the National Team Manager, Fabio Capello, was doing it not only for team unity, but because of the demands from the people.

Let's compare Tiger and John. Both crossed a line. I don't care to argue about which country has stronger morals or higher standards, but we can all accept that both athletes crossed a line. Tiger even apologized to the public for his indiscretions, and, while many think he doesn't owe them an apology, he had to do it in order to repair his image (I'm sure Nike is working around the clock on a rebranding strategy). Terry betrayed a teammate, which has a direct affect on the unity of the National Team and their prospects in the upcoming World Cup, which means he betrayed the public as well.

Tiger is still not back. Terry is and I think it gives a good indication of what might happen when Tiger returns. Here are the Premier League matches he's played since the shoe dropped:

Hull City
--- Stripped of England Captain's Armband ---
Wolverhampton Wanderers
Manchester City

In Terry's first game back, he came out firing on all cylinders. He was emotionally charged up for the game. He was defensively strong and even managed to score a goal. The match was at Burnley and he was abused by the fans. The Burnley supporters were very vocal and loud. Terry's teammates came out in support of him and everything seemed fine. No dip in form, no negative repercussions on the playing field.

Against Arsenal, a home game, the Chelsea fans brought banners and were very supportive. After the game, Terry thanked them profusely for their support. Chelsea diehards were behind him all the way. Again, Terry was very emotional, but played well.

Then he was stripped of the captaincy and Chelsea headed to Everton where Terry was abused by Landon Donovan and Louis Saha. Chelsea lost 2-1 and Terry was atrocious. He misjudged the long ball and was abused by Donvon's speed.

The big one came on February 27th when Chelsea hosted Manchester City, Wayne Bridge's team. He had no idea what was about to hit him. This game had more pressure than could be imagined. The press was writing pages for the build up. Manchester City rallied around their teammate and catapulted themselves to a 4-2 victory. It was an incredible game. The peak moment was when City's Carlos Tevez beat John Terry to tie the match. Tevez ran over teammate Wayne Bridge and pointed to him. "This is for Wayne!" It was an incredible moment of unity and the entire team rallied around their betrayed teammate. It was all City from there on out. Chelsea and Terry simply didn't have that kind of unity and strength.

The John Terry scandal tells us three important things about Tiger's comeback:

1. It will be easy to ride the adrenalin of emotion when he first returns. Those first three tournaments will be intense as friendly and angry fans come together to either shout praises or scorn but Tiger's own emotions will carry the day, and like Terry, he'll perform well. He'll sink the puts and pump his fists as the crowd roars. "He's back" will be our first reaction.

2. Some venues will undoubtedly be like home matches, full of support, but at some point, his form will slip. Tiger will have his own "Everton" where he plays poorly and the fans shout abuse. He'll miss a cut and the gallery will pile on the abuse. "He's lost it" will be our second reaction.

3. The tournament after he suffers the most abuse will tell us if he can handle the heat. It's at that point when we'll know whether he will can regain his spectacular form. Terry's form dipped at Everton and then he walked into an ambush against Manchester City, with the world watching, he failed again. That's when we can make our final decision on Tiger.

Can Tiger handle that game after "the game?" If he plays a tournament with a "Phil Mickelson" crowd a few weeks before a major, will he be able to bounce back from a bad day?

We tend to forgive our heroes in football and life, and with time, we'll forgive Tiger and Terry.

What we don't know is whether they'll ever return to the form they had before they fell.
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