By Jason Whitlock
Special to Page 2

If given a choice between living the life of Tiger Woods or Earl Woods, I'd choose Earl's.

Yeah, I'd rather be the father of one of the world's most accomplished, most famous and richest athletes than live Tiger's life.

Tiger and Earl Woods
Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo
Tiger clearly cared deeply about his father.

Maybe that's easy to say now, since I'm more than a decade removed from flaming out as an average mid-major college football player and having my pro football aspirations destroyed by general laziness, an affinity for Wendy's triple cheeseburgers and a lack of height.

I'd call myself over the hill, but I'm sure one of my teammates at Warren Central High or Ball State University would say they never saw a hill I could get over.

I guess I never had much of a chance of living Tiger's life. Nate Newton's? Yeah -- with the proper coaching, the right pot of gumbo and a south-of-the-border connection, I could've been Nate.

Too late now.

I'm closer to age 44, the age that Earl fathered Tiger, than I am to 30, Tiger's age now. So why not dream of being Earl Woods? I've got time to pull it off. And I'm not so sure Earl didn't derive more pleasure from his son's success than Tiger does.

Earl Woods, who died of cancer on Wednesday, truly lived every man's fantasy. He helped produce and groom one of the most dignified, competitive and successful athletes the world has ever known.

What could be better than that?

Nothing. It sure as hell beats living in the glass bowl Tiger lives in now, a life in which you have to listen to and react to constant speculation from total strangers about your life.

For the next few months, Tiger will hear about how his father's death affects his play. It will cause Tiger to lose focus. It will cause Tiger to gain focus. It might do both in the same tournament.

I was never a big Michael Jordan fan, but I always had great sympathy for Jordan when his father was murdered and people speculated that James Jordan's death might have something to do with Michael's gambling habits. That speculation must have caused Michael great pain.

Tiger and Earl Woods
Dave Martin/AP Photo
And Earl clearly took so much pride in Tiger's accomplishments.

We, as sports fans, hold this foolish notion that multimillion-dollar contracts and fame mean athletes and celebrities have no right to privacy and feel very little pain. We're wrong. I'm not sure how Tiger and MJ hold on to their sanity.

It's nearly impossible for Tiger Woods to go out for a normal dinner or spend an afternoon in Vegas just people watching. Do you know how much fun it is to people watch? Do you realize how pleasurable it is to go to a bar or restaurant and not be interrupted every 10 minutes by a stranger looking for an autograph, a picture or a five-minute conversation?

Tiger Woods has to be careful about telling dirty jokes, and the media get upset when he chooses to stay quiet on political issues.

No. I wouldn't want to be Tiger Woods. I'll take his wife and his money, but he can keep everything else.

Give me Earl Woods' life and legacy. I can only imagine the utter joy he must've felt watching his seed shock the world by living up to every bit of the hype that preceded Tiger's pro career.

More than that, Earl had to take immense pride in watching his son handle the scrutiny, criticism and fame with such class. Earl Woods raised more than a golfer. He raised a child bright enough to get into Stanford and wise enough to ditch school and conduct himself like a grown man on the PGA Tour.

Tiger is like a child TV star who happens to be well-adjusted and seemingly normal. Hey, maybe one day he'll crack, pay for multiple plastic surgeries and hold a child off a balcony? I doubt it, though.

Earl Woods invested completely in his son Tiger. I hope to one day make a similar investment.

Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for The Kansas City Star. His newspaper is celebrating his 10 years as a columnist with the publishing of Jason's first book, "Love Him, Hate Him: 10 Years of Sports, Passion and Kansas City." It's a collection of Jason's most memorable, thought-provoking and funny columns over the past decade. You can purchase the book at Jason can be reached by e-mail at Sound off to Page 2 here.