Judge Tiger Woods only as a golfer

SPORT has the confusing ability to bridge the racial divide while sometimes polarising people even further on the basis of the colour of their skins.

There are many stories told about how sport was used to defeat racial discrimination and degradation. No lesser a story is that of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

Owens disproved Adolf Hitler's theories of "Aryan whites" being the superior race by not only equalling the world mark in the 100m race, but also by breaking world records in the 200m race and in the long jump. Alongside fellow stars he also won the 4x400m relay race. His records stood for more than 20 years.

On the other side, we know about how footballers like Frenchman Thierry Henry and Cameroonian Samuel Eto'o, and many others, have continued to face insults from racist fans in Spain and Italy.

For some reason, the trials and tribulations of Tiger Woods in the past three weeks have reminded us of how race can raise its ugly head where it has no business to do so.

There have been many articles written about how the fact that Woods's wife and all his mistresses are white, is very instructive in his troubles. I wonder if his troubles would have been any milder if he cheated on the right side of race.

Woods has been attacked for his denial of his black heritage and for not choosing his friends very carefully. Utterances by fellow sportsmen, especially golfers, have also been looked at through race-coloured glasses.

I do not know whether men (or indeed women) cheat more or better or worse when they do it with those they share physical and colour features with. Frankly I do not care.

The reality of the matter is that people cheat on their partners and spouses all the time. The trick is not to get caught. If, and hopefully not when, you are caught, make up quickly.

I hope Woods survives this round, not because he is Woods, but because he is a human being. Not because he is black, but because he is human. Not because he is a superstar, but because he is human.

Those of us who judge him - including my colleagues in the media - are entitled to their judgments. For me, the only lens through which I want to look at Woods is the one of golf.

If ever there is a pact between Woods and I (and the whole world, except his family and harem) it is that of sport and entertainment.

Though unwritten and unspoken, Woods has promised us that he will play the best golf he can. And hands up anyone who can say he hasn't delivered on that promise.

He has stayed atop the world rankings longer than anyone else in the game.

Even when he was going through agonising pain he managed to pull himself through an 18-hole playoff to win that memorable US Open last year.

He has the most unbelievable array of golf shots in his bag that many golfers, including fellow professionals, can only dream of. He has the biggest fighting spirit and a winning attitude. He is a great athlete. And that's the promise he made us.

Once he fails us on that promise, then I will be the first to judge him harshly.

This is my last column of the year. So, before I run out of space or forget, let me wish you a happy and safe holiday season. This column will be back on January 8 next year.