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Tiger Woods, as you may have heard, has had a stressful last few months. Tiger Woods, as you may also have heard, was spotted at a Nickelback concert in Orlando. Big deal, right? Of all the things Tiger could have done to unwind, going to a Nickelback show has to be pretty low on the list of controversial activities.

Not so fast. Now comes a report that Tiger's inner circle is upset that he was seen at a concert while his wife and children were on a plane to Sweden. Looks bad for the marriage, the thinking apparently goes.

To which I say: oh, come on. Are you kidding me?

Look, Tiger Woods should be able to go to a friggin' Nickelback show without it being a big deal. If you're going to criticize the guy for this, criticize him for his godawful musical taste, but nothing else.

Ah, but in the always-blame-somebody world we live in, that's not how it goes. Rob Shuter, writer of the "Naughty but Nice" (ugh) column at PopEater (via Shackelford), has this report:

Tiger Woods' road to public relations redemption seems to have hit a snag, and the people who have been working relentlessly to revamp his image following his infidelity scandal are not happy with the golf legend. Sources close to Tiger tell me that they are "mad as hell" that he thought it would be a good idea to attend a Nickelback concert and party backstage while his wife Elin and the couple's two young children took off for Sweden.

Oh, "sources"! I hate "sources." Hate them because anybody could be a "source," and there's no way you can verify or disregard their authenticity. But hey, for the record, let's just say the "sources" are on-target. I believe they are, and here's why.

I maintain that Tiger's "inner circle" is a gaggle of clueless, sheltered clowns who have absolutely no idea what they're doing, and here's why: the only thing Woods has done right, from a PR perspective, since his accident was his Monday Masters press conference. Every other step, from his staying silent for months after the accident to his robotic February media statement to his five-minute "Q&As" to his disastrously selfish post-Masters interview, has been a case study in how not to manage a crisis. So much of this could have been avoided had somebody, anybody in Tiger's "inner circle" had the foresight to step up and think about more than just the most superficial image-related elements of this scandal.

It's not often that I've felt bad for Tiger in all of this, but this story -- like the revelation of the sexts and the stalking of his children by paparazzi photographers -- is one of those times. The guy ought to be able to relax and take in some lame rock n' roll if he wants. To me, that humanizes him far more than some contrived press statement or obviously pre-written words of "apology." Let the guy have his life back.

Shuter's source says of Tiger, "Everyone is at the point of giving up trying to help him." Good. Beat it, "handlers." Stop trying to "manage his image," and let the guy just play some golf. We know he's flawed, we know he's imperfect. Most of us still want to watch him play. Don't go trying to convince us that he's suddenly turned into some amalgam of Jesus, MLK, Gandhi and The World's Greatest Dad, and we'll all get through this just fine.


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