Twenty years from now, the Tiger Woods scandal is likely to be something of a historical oddity, a remember-when for people of a certain age. It's all-consuming when you're in the middle of it, but with the passage of time, you wonder what all the fuss was about. So let's consider how the big actors in this drama will be affected from here on out:
Tiger. Obviously, the damage done to him is, to some extent, irreparable. This scandal will be a subtext of every story that delves more deeply into him than the day's play for the rest of his career. But if he's able to shake off the rust and get at least one major win this year -- and more importantly, if he's able to make a serious run at Jack Nicklaus' majors record -- this will fade farther into the background.
The other PGA players. I'd imagine things will get a wee bit tougher for players in the public eye these days. Woe betide the pro who decides to go out for a little extracurricular entertainment. And I'd imagine the wives are taking a little closer look at what their men are doing on those tournament trips, too.
The media. The golf media discovered something of a spine during the Woods scandal, then went right back to fawning over Phil Mickelson. The established sports media also got their first real taste of the fighting-dirty, sources-be-damned methods of the tabloid media. And the next athlete scandal, wherever it shows up, will make for an interesting case study in how well the lesson stuck.
The mistresses. They'll be largely forgotten, except for one or two who will show up on VH1 clip shows and the like whenever there's a "2000s retrospective." And that's probably for the best.
The sponsors. If Tiger wins, they'll come back. And if they don't, others will.
The fans. Chances are, they'll almost all be back. Eventually.
The drug allegations. This is the big one. This is where the real story could come from in the entire Woods scandal. Woods has denied using any form of performance-enhancing drug, but fully one-fourth of the PGA players surveyed by Sports Illustrated don't believe him. If it breaks that he did use drugs, that'll make this scandal look like a gentle massage. So to speak.
So there you have it. This may have been the biggest sports story of the year, but the longer we go, the less I think it's going to have any real staying power. It'll be present in any discussion of Woods, yes, but I see this fading into the past fairly rapidly. You?
The "Wrapping Up Tiger" series:
• Monday: How ready is a non-Augusta tournament to host Tiger Woods?
• Tuesday: How can Tiger Woods continue to repair his image?
• Wednesday: How will the Tiger Woods story change the world of golf?
• Thursday: What did everybody learn from the Tiger Woods saga?
• Today: What will be the long-term effects of Tiger's story?