Catch a Tiger by the tale

We interrupt this previously scheduled column to bring you breaking news. Tiger Woods has called an impromptu press conference. We go now live to Orlando, Fla., where Woods is addressing the media:

“Good morning. As you’ve all heard, I recently crashed my Cadillac Escalade into a tree outside my home. This, obviously, is a highly unusual event. Those of you who follow golf will know that I haven’t driven into the trees since the second round of the 2003 Hartford Open.

“When a married, high-profile celebrity like myself gets into a car accident alone at 2:30 in the morning, many questions will be raised, questions such as: ‘Will Cadillac provide you with a brand-new replacement Escalade?’

“I am happy to inform you that the answer is: ‘Yes.’ But other questions are being asked, too, which is why I’m here today to truthfully explain the circumstances surrounding this incident to my wife, my friends, my loyal fans, and most importantly, my corporate sponsors.

“It’s important to address this situation because embarrassing information about me has been made public. And here I’m talking about the fact that my legal first name is ‘Eldrick.’

“I also want to tackle — head on — the malicious rumors being spread about me by sleazy, unethical, trashy tabloid magazines.

“They’re all pretty much true.

“As my PR firm wrote in my press release, I haven’t been ‘true to my values.’ Some of you will argue that if a guy has numerous affairs with several different women over the course of many years, adultery is one of his values. Fair enough. So today I’m publicly admitting to what my press release writer brilliantly likes to call ‘transgressions.’

“The truth is: I’ve engaged in a number of these ‘transgressions’ with many different women over the years. Some of these were long-term affairs. Some occurred at PGA tour stops. There was even a transgression at a Phoenix Hyatt involving a redhead, a tub of whipped cream and a llama on a trampoline. But that’s not important. You people in the media don’t need to know all the tawdry details about these sexual encounters. And I’m certainly not going to share with you any of the videotapes.

“I profoundly regret these transgressions, while at the same time recognizing they are not entirely my fault. Having attractive females throwing themselves at me is a recent development in my life; it’s definitely not something I experienced in high school. Do you have any idea how hard it is for a skinny, golf-obsessed 16-year-old, zit-faced sophomore named Eldrick to get to second base with a girl?

“No, I didn’t think so.

“Yes, I cheated, but these chicks were hot. Not that that’s an excuse, I’m just saying. It’s even more regrettable that my most recent mistress has been thrown into the middle of this media circus. After all, she is a mature, responsible, highly respected cardiac pediatrician from Sioux Falls.

“Just kidding. She’s a Vegas cocktail waitress.

“But again, this affair and the many others are not my fault. I live a very intense, stressful life. Sure, I spend all day playing golf for millions of dollars, after which I come home to a multimillion dollar lakefront mansion, where I’m greeted by my two healthy, beautiful children and my wife, who happens to be a former Swedish bikini model. But that doesn’t mean I have it easy.

“Especially now, as I work on reconciling with my wife, who — it turns out — can really swing a nine iron. How will I repair the damage caused to our marriage? I’m not exactly sure, but let’s just say that jewelry store owners in the greater Orlando area will no longer have recessionary concerns.

“So, to summarize, let me promise to you all that this kind of incident will not happen again. Today, in front of the world, I vow to love my wife, and to always be faithful to her.

“Just like I did on our wedding day.”


MARQUETTE, Mich. — Two people in Michigan have been charged with threatening to sell photos of John Stamos unless he paid them $680,000.

Allison Coss and Scott Sippola were arrested last week on an extortion charge at an airport near Marquette, in the Upper Peninsula. An undercover FBI agent had arranged to meet them there.

The FBI says it was contacted on Nov. 28 by a lawyer for an actor identified in a court document only as “Mr. X.”

Stamos spokesman Matt Polk said Tuesday the photos simply are pictures of the actor posing with fans. He says the photos eventually will be released.

Stamos is on Broadway starring in “Bye Bye Birdie.” He met Coss in Florida in 2004.

Messages seeking comment left Tuesday for lawyers for Coss and Sippola were not immediately returned.

NEW YORK — Bryant Gumbel shocked a television audience with the news that he’s recovering from lung cancer surgery and treatment.

The former “Today” show anchor, 61, said a malignant tumor and part of his lung were removed two months ago. He revealed his condition to Kelly Ripa while subbing for Regis Philbin on Tuesday’s edition of “Live With Regis and Kelly.” (Philbin recently had hip replacement surgery.)

“It’s nothing to hide from,” Gumbel said. “They opened up my chest, they took out a malignant tumor, they took out part of my lung and they took out some other goodies.”

Even with the surgery, some aggressive cancer cells had escaped, “so I went through some treatment and it’s done now,” he said.

Gumbel said he and his wife, Hilary Quinlan, had wanted to keep the news private. He said he had even kept his staff at the HBO sports newsmagazine “Real Sports” in the dark. HBO said Gumbel didn’t miss an episode, taping shows on both Sept. 15 and Oct. 27.

“We hope,” he said. “We HOPE, it’s over.”

Gumbel was host of “Today” for 15 years, ending in 1997, as the show became a ratings juggernaut. He worked first with Jane Pauley, briefly with Deborah Norville, then with Katie Couric. He moved to CBS for a prime-time newsmagazine. After that did poorly, he moved back to the mornings, hosting “The Early Show” from 1999-2002.

He’s receded from the public eye since then, concentrating on “Real Sports,” an Emmy-winning monthly magazine that takes a newsy look at sports issues.

Until he was called out by Ripa, there’s some question about whether Gumbel’s health news would still be under wraps. At the opening of Tuesday’s show, Ripa told Gumbel that “you just made me almost faint.”

The two had been talking backstage and Ripa mentioned that she wanted to dance with him to accompany a segment with a woman who dances for exercise. Gumbel demurred, and when Ripa pushed it, he said he was not allowed to dance. Then he told her the reason, she said.

Gumbel said he’s meeting with his surgeon and oncologist next week and hopes to be cleared to play golf.


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