Is Tiger Woods entitled to a private life?
I don't play golf (4 years at St Andrews University and I never lifted a golf club in anger) and, despite being a pretty committed armchair sports fan, I don't particularly follow golf. In fact, I'm in firm agreement with Mark Twain, who memorably described the game as "a good walk ruined". That having been said, I do like playing golf computer games (I hope I'm not disclosing some deep psychological flaw in my make-up here) and I have certainly heard of Mr Woods, and had done so before his private life descended into the (for me at least) unimaginable media hell of recent times.
I also have to confess to finding the entire story very compelling (perhaps this is a more serious character flaw?), although a mate at work assures me that it's "only normal human interest" to find Mr Woods's seemingly spectacular fall from grace such fascinating reading and viewing.
But here's the rub - I don't think what's happened is any of our business, however interesting the story might be. If the allegations are true, Mr Woods has clearly behaved very badly towards his wife, but the people who will have to live with the pain and suffering caused by his behaviour are his family. I'm not sure what it's got to do with the rest of us.
Some commentators have suggested that Mr Woods has, as a result of his media image and commercial activities, waived any right to privacy he might otherwise have enjoyed. Whilst I accept that there is going to be an element of intrusion into his private life arising out of his performance on a golf course, I'm not aware that he's done anything that automatically entitles us to know what he gets up to in the bedroom (or with whom). Mr Woods is famous for being good (let's be honest, very, very good) at golf. All of his advertising (or all the advertising I've ever seen) plays on his golfing ability and nothing else. Critics specifically mention an advert released around Father's Day a few years ago where Mr Woods made reference to his recently deceased dad - the slogan was "To Dad and Fathers Everywhere" - but that hardly seems to give the media carte blanche to invade his private life (however messy) or, for that matter, Birmingham-based lawyers a licence to write blogs about it.
The question of whether people in the public eye are entitled to private lives is an important legal issue at the moment, with English libel law coming under particular scrutiny. I can't offer any great legal insight on the conundrum and certainly don't want to get into a detailed discussion about the Human Rights Act. It just seems to me that we're all entitled to a degree of privacy in our lives, and that applies to our mistakes (however spectacular) and irrespective of our fame, infamy or anonymity.
I haven't been able to write blogs as regularly as I would have liked during 2009, and pressure of work means I can confidently predict that this will be my final blog of the decade. I would therefore like to wish everyone (including Mr Woods and his family) a happy Christmas and a peaceful and private new year.