It was a different Tiger Woods who came before us recently. He wasn’t cocky or overconfident, guarded or skeptical.

It was a different Tiger Woods who came before us recently. He wasn’t cocky or overconfident, guarded or skeptical.

This Tiger was repentant and solemn. He had the look of a man who knows he needs to step carefully on his high-wire act.

Perhaps Tiger apologized because someone told him to. Certainly, any spin doctor worth his salt would have insisted that a public apology was the right way to go. His sponsors — the ones who didn’t drop him after news of infidelity was splashed across the front pages — surely have a stake in seeing Tiger’s public persona improve a few notches as well.

And then there is his wife who, after such public humiliation, also deserves an apology before the masses.

Some people, however, say the whole deal — the affairs, the sex rehab, the apology — are none of our business. They say it should not faze us when a sports figure behaves immorally.

Aren’t they, after all, being paid to shoot a hoop, swing a club or throw a ball?

My answer, unequivocably, is no.

Some jobs aren’t just jobs. They don’t start at 9 a.m. and they don’t end at 5 p.m.

Consider the medical doctor taking an airplane on vacation with his family. When an emergency comes up and a doctor is needed, that physician is compelled to stand up and lend his expertise. It doesn’t matter that he’s on vacation. That’s the burden of his knowledge.

Consider the CEO who refuses to hang out at the bar, telling off-color jokes, because he’s never really off the clock.

Consider the journalist who wants to be politically active in his free time, but doesn’t want to color his professional judgment.

Plenty of people make sacrifices on behalf of their careers. Most don’t get paid nearly as well as a professional athlete.

So does the public have a right to be disappointed in Tiger? You bet.

No, it’s not right that paparazzi follow a celebrity’s child to school. There’s a line of basic decency, and photographing children at home or school is crossing that line.

It is, however, reasonable to expect a sports figure such as Tiger to act as a role model. Here’s the thing: Tiger doesn’t only make money to golf. He makes money to be Tiger. The sponsors he has, the endorsements he’s made, the magazine covers he’s graced — many of those are in place because of his appeal beyond the green. Tiger has made golf a mainstream sport and, in doing so, sold part of himself.

If all Tiger wanted to do was golf, he could have said no to the lucrative offers that came his way. Then many of his actions would have flown right below the public radar.

But when he said yes, he sold more than just his face for that 30-second spot. And now, what he does off the golf course is newsworthy. That’s a choice he made.

There are pros and cons to any job. At a factory, the con is that you’re doing the same thing every day. As a letter carrier, it’s the fact that you’re delivering mail in rain and snow. As a waitress, it’s that you are on your feet for eight hours straight.

For Tiger, the con is that he is held to a higher standard.

Hopefully, he will come to realize the same thing that so many other pro athletes already know:

Being a role model gives you the power to influence people in ways you never could have imagined. And in the end, it’s not a curse. It’s a blessing.

Rockford Register Star

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the newspaper.