Tiger scandal hits close to Longwell's home

Ryan Longwell's wife and kids returned to their Florida home Monday and witnessed first-hand the media crush surrounding Tiger Woods. Longwell relayed the crazy scene and talked about celebrity temptations, family priorities and misidentified neighbors.

For the last several days, the media firestorm surrounding the allegations of golfer Tiger Woods having an extramarital affair that was unearthed following a bizarre car accident scenario more than a week ago has continued to grow unabated.

From sports talk radio to mainstream entertainment television to news programs, the circumstances surrounding injuries to Woods and subsequent rumors and revelations have been a field day for celebrity gawkers and lookie-loos. It is a train wreck people have slowed down to watch and follow.

For most, the paparazzi video and helicopter footage of Woods mansion in a gated Florida community have been fodder that has fueled the media fire and made the story a "talker" among friends, family and co-workers. For Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell, his family has been near Ground Zero in the center ring of this media circus.

Longwell and his family live in the same gated community and, when he's been seeing footage included in the various Woods stories, he has seen his own house, and the houses of his neighbors and friends being accosted by the intrusive horde that passes for tabloid news media. The carcass is fresh and the jackals have arrived – a scenario made more difficult knowing his wife Sarah and their two children are essentially trapped in the middle of it all.

Just as troubling for Longwell, an acquaintance and occasional golfing partner of Woods, is that the stories that have come out about Woods smack in the face of some of Longwell's most deeply-held personal beliefs.

"It's tough," Longwell said. "You guys know what makes me tick. I've always felt that, if you're successful in your work – whether it's golf or the NFL – but aren't successful at home, that doesn't count. You just pray for his family, pray for his wife and kids. You pray that, if what is coming out is true, he can learn from it and move on."

It's a story that has morphed over the past several days. What started as a "breaking news" story about a potentially fatal car accident involving Woods transformed into a more unseemly story of betrayal and potential domestic violence. The longer Woods remained silent, the more the throng of reporters and tabloid types descended on the area. Following the Vikings' win over Chicago, Longwell's family, which had come up for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, returned home to find themselves in the crosshairs of the controversy.

While some neighbors have just opted to barricade themselves in their homes until the media blitz subsides, Longwell said it isn't as easy for his family. "You've got to get the kids to school," he said with a shrug of his shoulders. You can't stay inside. You deal with it."

The deluge of reporters and competition to get video or photos of either Woods or his wife Elin have led to attempted intrusion into the gated community as well as misidentified people from the neighborhood.

"There are only two gates to get in and out of there," Longwell said. "You come out the gate and all there is are news vans and paparazzi. The picture that the (Associated Press) had of Elin leaving out the gate on Saturday? That wasn't Elin. It was one of our good friends who walks dogs."

Longwell said that celebrities – be them golfers of Woods' stature or NFL athletes – have their share of women that are attracted to them due to their celebrity. Each player reacts differently to the sort of attention they are paid, but Longwell said his priorities remain with his family – whether he is working in Minnesota or at home in Florida. You won't see him out on the club circuit.

"Personally, I've just avoided those kinds of situations," Longwell said. "I know that my reputation with my wife and kids is far more important than kicking a football or off the field. It's your mindset, how you approach things and where your priorities are."

As with most stories of this nature, most recently one involving talk show host David Letterman, the "wow" factor will wear of quickly and the paparazzi will scurry off to the next story. But Longwell said this experience has taught his family a lesson it never thought it would have to deal with – the cultural obsession with celebrity and how it can affect a lot more than just a husband, a wife and an alleged mistress.

"However all this comes out, I think it serves as a reminder that this is the kind of society we live in these days," Longwell said. "Scandals sell and there seems to be a pretty big audience for that kind of stuff. Unfortunately, these things impact a lot of people. Hopefully, it will all blow over, but it's been a lot of excitement down there that nobody wanted or asked for, but likely isn't going to go away too soon."

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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