It was a real pleasure this morning to see Tiger Woods in our studio during a summer in which we've covered so many unpleasant sports stories. WATCH VIDEO
From the Michael Vick dogfighting case to the NBA gambling scandal to Barry Bonds breaking one of baseball's hallowed record amid steroid allegations, it's been easy for sports fans to become disillusioned.
But here's Tiger Woods, the signature American athlete of this generation. We all know that he's achieving things no one has ever done in the sport of golf. He's ahead of Jack Nicklaus's pace in his quest to win the most major championships in history, and by some estimates, he could become the first athlete to earn $1 billion by 2010.
Even though neither you nor I will ever be as good at anything as Tiger is at golf, I still find him inspiring because of his relentless pursuit of excellence. Yes, he's outrageously talented -- he's been a prodigy almost since birth. But when you think about players in our most popular individual sports (namely, tennis and golf) who have so much success, so young, many of them lose the focus, ambition and work ethic that got them to the top in the first place.
But Tiger hasn't allowed that to happen; if anything, he's getting better with age. And if you can't find some inspiration from that, from seeing someone work to become the best -- and then work even harder to stay the best, then I don't know what to tell you.
In the past 15 months, I would argue that Tiger has ascended to an even higher level, because he's been forced to show us his human side. For years, he often seemed more machine than man, programmed to eliminate all adversaries on Sundays.
But with the death of his father and mentor in May 2006, and the birth of his first child, daughter Sam Alexis, two months ago, Woods has gone from a player we must hold in awe to a man also worthy of our love.