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Hoosiers Lesson For Tiger Woods

December 1, 2009

In one of the best sports movies of all time - the 1986 film Hoosiers - based on a true story - there is a poignant scene that may be applicable today to the current controversy surrounding world class golfer Tiger Woods and his wife Elin Nordegren.

The movie is about a small-town Indiana high school basketball team and its new coach with a checkered past - Norman Dale (played by Gene Hackman). The townspeople are hungry for a winning season - yet the team’s star player Jimmy Chitwood is so broken up over the passing of the former coach - that he refuses to play for new Coach Dale.

Coach Dale does confront Jimmy to find out if he intends to rejoin the team - and also delivers a message of his own to the star player - one Jimmy does not expect.

"In the 10 years I coached I never met anyone who wanted to win as badly as I did," Coach Dale explained. "I’d do anything to increase my advantage. Anybody who tried to block the pursuit of that advantage I’d just push them out of the way - it didn’t matter who they were or what they were doing.

"But that was then," Dale says, as Jimmy listens but doesn’t say a word. "You have a special talent - a gift. It’s not the school’s, it’s not the townspeople’s, not the team’s and not mine. It’s yours - to do with what you choose. Because that’s what I believe - I can tell you this: I don’t care if you play on the team or not."

This is an important message for those pundits and golf writers who now have lots of advice for Tiger Woods and his wife Elin in the aftermath of a bizarre accident. In the early morning hours of November 25 Tiger crashed his 2009 Cadillac Escalade into a fire hydrant and neighborhood tree after leaving his own driveway about 2:30 a.m. He was later treated and released at a local hospital.

When officers arrived at the crash scene, they found Tiger lying unconscious with cuts to his mouth and face - his wife at his side. Both rear windows of his SUV had been smashed open with a golf club - admittedly by his wife who said she was merely attempting to rescue the golfing great from the crashed SUV and smashed open the windows to do so.

Tiger’s refusal to talk to police or to answer questions about what happened has created a lot of suspicion among journalists and many believe the incident is tarnishing his pristine image and it could ultimately cost him millions of dollars in lucrative endorsement deals.

Tiger is not phased by this, however, and has chosen to remain private about the details and accept whatever consequences there may be to his business and promotional endeavors.

The fact is no laws were broken - he is under no legal obligation to meet with the police - alcohol was not involved - and although Tiger was later charged with a minor driving infraction which resulted in a fine and driving points - he seems willing to accept whatever negative publicity might come his way as long as he can continue to protect his wife and family from public scrutiny.

Only later when various women came forward to disclose their relationships with Tiger did he issue a statement apologizing to his family for transgressions he regrets "with all of my heart."

Yet most fail to recognize the simple lesson learned through Coach Dale in the true life story Hoosiers - namely that it is Tiger who has the special talent - and he alone will celebrate the rewards or suffer the penalties that may come along with it.

As Coach Dale said to his star player Jimmy Chitwood, "It’s yours - to do with what you choose."

Tiger has chosen to remain publicly silent.