I've been to Orlando for business conventions, golf trips and theme-park visits, but when it comes to the guts of a city the neighborhoods, the police, the politics I don't have any feel for the place. So following the Tiger Woods saga, from the first scary news that Woods had been injured in a car accident to the parade of cocktail waitresses and lingerie models ready for their close-ups, has been educational.
I've learned about places where the locals hang out. For example, I can't wait to check out the Blue Martini bar and Perkins restaurant the next time I'm in town. I've also learned a little bit about the territorial politics of the place, and it looks like a complete mess.
The real news of the Woods story is the actual accident. We can talk about his right to privacy in his personal life all day, but he doesn't have any "right" to drive his car so erratically in the middle of the night that he ends up smashing it into a tree in his neighbor's front yard. The question from the very beginning has been, why did the crash happen? If you look at the accident report, it's difficult to imagine how someone could drive a car this poorly under any circumstances.
In the earliest reports of the crash, police said that alcohol was not a factor. Then we started to learn about the bizarre politics of Orlando law enforcement, where the reporting Windermere police had no jurisdiction in Woods's neighborhood. Then we learned the Florida Highway Patrol would be investigating the crash, and the county sheriff explained that "information provided by the city of Windermere may, in fact, be counterproductive to the ongoing investigation into this incident."
Oh yeah, and, by the way, no one ever actually tested Woods for drugs or alcohol that night.
In Tuesday's paper, Scott Maxwell of The Orlando Sentinel asks the most important question: Did Woods get special treatment from the Florida state attorney's office, which rejected the Florida Highway Patrol's request to subpoena Woods's post-crash blood test despite a witness account that Woods had been drinking that day and that he had prescriptions for Ambien and Vicodin.
But now this case is raising questions about whether justice in this community is truly blind or maybe peeking out from beneath her blindfold to see who's in trouble before rendering a verdict.
The latest shows that State Attorney Lawson Lamar's office wasn't convinced there was enough evidence to suggest Woods might have been drinking before he crashed his car into a tree ... and a fire hydrant ... and ran over a curb ... and clipped a hedge ... after drinking earlier in the day, according to a witness.
Take a moment here to decide for yourself whether you think law enforcement would give you the same benefit of the doubt.
No knock on Woods. He did what anyone should do in his situation: hire a lawyer and say as little as possible. The knock is against a system where the rich and famous play by a different set of rules than the rest of us. That's the real story here, not the salacious details of Woods's personal life.
Now if you'll excuse me, the latest copy of US Weekly just arrived.