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CHRIS ERSKINE / FAN OF THE HOUSE

Tiger Woods, meet A.C. Green

More amazing than reports of the golfer's transgressions is how the Lakers' forward kept to his personal code during the 'Showtime' years.

December 10, 2009|Chris Erskine

The other night, in a backyard aglow with wine and holiday lights, one conversation went a full 10 minutes without any mention of Tiger Woods, a U.S. cocktail party record.

When Tiger's name finally came up -- and it always does -- you never heard so much tsk-tsking by husbands in your life. How disappointing this whole Tiger mess is, they all agreed, mostly because their wives were standing right there.

After two weeks, the only thing that is really apparent is that Tiger Woods, probably the best athlete of the era, found a game he couldn't master. Marriage.

Join the rest of us, pal. You were always a little smug about life. Now you're just one of the guys: flawed, humbled, hopefully wiser.

"Just do it," you said. And you did.

Pro jocks? Maybe they shouldn't wed at all. Maybe they shouldn't make life commitments until they are no longer on the road half the year, surrounded by beautiful cocktail waitresses who are barely covering the rent (and themselves).

Women with few scruples -- and crippling debt -- only seem to be your friends. In that moment, near closing time, when they are pretending to hang onto every word of your dull, self-centered stories, what they are really hearing is "ka-ching, Bloomingdale's, ka-ching, ka-ching, Tiffany's."

Hugh Hefner, the Brett Favre of sex, weighs in to say he's not surprised at the Woods scandal, for monogamy is a flawed concept.

"I think the only surprise in it, quite frankly, is that anybody would be surprised," the Playboy mogul told E-Online.

Marriage, he says, "is very nice for raising kids, but the notion that monogamy lasts forever is a wish!"

Ex-Laker and tower of integrity A.C. Green says he believes that Tiger's drive to succeed might be what brings him through this mess.

"The thing about him is that he is a great competitor," Green said. "He has a history of coming back from behind, and I think that will serve him well."

You no doubt remember Mr. Green. He won three championship rings with the Lakers, and became known as the NBA's iron man, playing in a record 1,192 straight games. He didn't miss a basketball game for almost 15 years.

But there was another streak in Green's life that may be even more remarkable: the abstinence streak. The deeply religious Green took a vow of chastity until marrying in 2002, meaning he remained "pure" through the Lakers' "Showtime" era.

Think of that. The Lakers are probably sports' most sexually charged franchise. Laker Girls do the sort of hip thrusts that can take the rust out of Jerry Buss' hair. Through all that, Green remained a virgin. Talk about an iron man.

A.C. Green was the 40-year-old virgin before there even was a "40-Year-Old Virgin."

For you youngsters out there, "virginity" is a rare and often controversial condition. To be a virgin means that you have not engaged in sexual intercourse. It's a quaint notion that went out with buggy whips, coal furnaces and the Clinton administration.

Admittedly, it's difficult to maintain a moral equilibrium when all your preachers and congressman seem to be living life on the edge.

Now, welcome the extremist views of Mr. Green, a man who led a moral life, an actual role model. His views may seem saintly and Victorian -- but his behavior and personal code of ethics certainly make things feel less hopeless.

Dignity, he reminds us, remains an option.

Looking back, Green said Tuesday, his Lakers teammates initially didn't buy into his chastity vow.

"But as time went on, when the guys saw some consistency to the way I was handling my life, they gradually came to accept it, to the point where some asked me to talk to sons and daughters," he said.

Green, who majored in speech communication at Oregon State, speaks carefully and well. He doesn't scold or proselytize. Through his youth foundation, he aims to alert adolescents that there is another way.

"The future is yours to define," he tells at-risk kids. "It's not defined by the public or what people think is popular. It's defined by you."

The foundation has reached 100,000 adolescents, he said, through lectures, videos and various camps. He uses his notoriety to gain their attention, then leans on sports concepts to hold it.

"It doesn't really have anything to do with a person's religious background," he explained of his pitch for abstinence. "It's about self-control . . . identifying your core values as a person."

For kids who've made bad choices, he brings up the concept of "halftime."

"At halftime, sports teams gather and figure out what they're doing wrong," he said. "Well, we tell the kids that they can have a halftime too. They can stop, change their patterns of behavior and make their lives better."

And Tiger?

"I think Tiger . . . he has some things in his life, obviously, that he has to look at and evaluate," Green said.

"Tiger is having a halftime moment in his own life."

Erskine also writes "Man of the House" in Saturday's Home section. chris.erskine@latimes.com

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