You're allowed to falter. You're allowed to screw up. You're allowed to deceive. You're even allowed to lose, once in a while.
But you cannot allow yourself to become a cartoon.
Try this example: Dennis Rodman.
Dennis Rodman led the NBA in rebounding six years in succession. He was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year. He was a first team All-Defense selection seven times and a second team choice twice. He retired with five championship rings.
He should be an ultra-mortal lock for the Hall of Fame, and, of course, he'll never get in.
Why? Because he became a cartoon; that's why. He became as famous for his eccentricities as for his playing. The trappings of Dennis Rodman eventually overshadowed the greatness of the player. And he was great.
You can make a case that he was, inch-for-inch and perhaps even just player-for-player, the greatest rebounder of all-time, better than Wilt, better than Russell, better than anybody. Averaging 18 rebounds a game in 1991-92 and 1992-93 was a helluva lot harder than averaging 27 a game (Wilt in '59-60, and '60-61). There were far fewer rebounds available; that's why.
Then throw in the defense and the fact that he was an excellent facilitator on offense. He was a tremendous basketball player, but, sadly, an even bigger clown off the court, and sometimes even on.
There should be no question about his Hall of Fame credentials, but he can't even get nominated. People regard him as a cartoon, and nothing more.
Tiger has more than likely moved into that category. Being a garden variety philanderer who legitimately falls out of love with his legally-wedded wife and into love with another woman is something people can understand, perhaps even relate to. But when you compile a dossier like his, with porn stars and blond bombshells of little personal substance, and your private e-mails and cell phone messages are out there for all to read and hear, you have entered into another category.
That's where I think Tiger is already. He's a joke, a punch line, a cartoon. That's the last thing you want to be, and I'm not sure it's reversible.