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SportsColumnistsBarbara Barker

Wow, America loves its adulterous athletes

Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the

Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the second hole during the final round of the 139th Open Championship on the Old Course, St Andrews in St. Andrews, Scotland. (July 18, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty

Americans might not want to be married to someone who shares the same values as Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods, but that doesn't stop us from loving them from afar.

This is the only kind read I can get on the news Tuesday that Woods and Bryant, two of our country's most famous adulterers, are now tied for first place in a poll of America's famous sports stars. Woods had held that position alone since 2006, but dropped into a tie with Bryant in a Harris Interactive poll that surveyed 2,227 adults, the company announced Tuesday.

For months, we've been subjected to one long bimbo parade as woman after woman came forward to talk about the extra-marital affairs they had with Woods. Yet, apparently we weren't as disgusted as we proclaimed to be. Adultery, it turns out, may be costly in divorce court - or in the jewelry store in the case of Bryant who bought his wife a $4 million ring after his "incident" in Eagle, Colo., in 2003 - but it doesn't count for much in the court of public opinion.

I can hardly wait to tweet my good friend the Francophile. She's constantly talking about America's puritanical obsession with fidelity, how we are bothered by the fact that powerful men, and sometimes powerful women, cheat on their spouses. In France, Americans are constantly told, everyone has a mistress and nobody seems to care.

But maybe we don't care either. Maybe we just like to hear about the details. As long as our powerful men look into the camera and say they're sorry. As long as they can still swing a golf club or win an NBA title, they are okay by us.

Curiously, loyalty to a city ranks higher than loyalty to a spouse. The same Harris poll revealed that LeBron James had dropped from third to sixth in popularity. Though the poll was conducted a few weeks James officially announced he was dropping old weathered Cleveland for hip happening Miami, it would be fair to say some respondents were already getting fed up with his will-he-stay, will-he-go act.

Or maybe it's not so much loyalty but style that counts. Brett Favre, after all, has left his fair share of teams, yet he's never done it in the nasty way that LeBron did. Each time he's done it with such hand-wringing angst that he's managed to move up from ninth to fourth place in the poll.

I guess the biggest lesson in all of this is that it pays to be human, to have some ugly flaws. Because poor Derek Jeter, a guy whose only known sin is that he's a notoriously bland nice guy, just won his fifth World Series ring but finished in third place behind two adulterers.

Go figure.


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