During The Transgression Troubles, almost all of Tiger Woods' sponsors bailed on him like he was radioactive. Only two, Nike and EA Sports, stayed the course. Both had invested enormous sums of money and reputation in Woods, and figured, rightly, that in the long run Woods would be able to improve his image.
Now, however, word is coming out that EA Sports may be losing a bit of patience with Woods. Certainly there's nothing imminent, but EA chief executive John Riccitiello indicated that it's about time for Woods to start hoisting trophies again.
"This is no threat against Tiger," Ricitiello said at a Reuters Global Media Summit. "We're with him because he has the promise of being the world's best golfer ... We have no plans to move away from him, but it's a business relationship on the basis of we make the best golf game and he's the best golfer. Both of those things need to be true in the long run for the partnership to make sense."
Note the use of the word "promise" in that second sentence. While that's fairly standard everyone-needs-to-pull-their-weight business-speak, Riccitiello also had a line that will set Tiger fans' teeth on edge:
"He sort of stuck with us for a very long time and we made great business together," he said, "and we're willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for a period of time."
By "very long time," Riccitiello means "13 years and counting," since Woods has been a fixture atop EA's golf games since 1998. And while EA is developing new, Woods-free golf games and also bringing in Rory McIlroy as a co-star, the company insists that it will be rolling out a new Woods console game next year. And realistically, there's no reason why EA won't hang with Woods for years to come.
After all, Lee Westwood PGA Tour 2012 doesn't quite carry the same name-value cachet. No offense, Lee.