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"I Need Your Help"

Those who heard Mr T. Woods speak yesterday are no doubt in one of two camps - those who think him facile, cynical, even hypocritical (or overheated in protest), and see this as a laughable celebrity moment - and then again, those who (or so I hope) see the pathos and significance of what could be a genuine flood of change, taken hold of in this man's onrushing loose life. The important words, surely, were "I need your help". Billionaires, world famous and great at their work, rarely stoop to such vulnerable postures. There is something of the New Testament in such a humbled mightyman, calling for help. In that series of books, he would have received it, from a loving man-God, who forgave all and accepted all sexual sins. Sex addiction, such as Mr. Woods has bluntly explained it, is no joke.

Rather, it seems the virus of the age - and not just for those, such as he, who had immense power and immense opportunity. The Internet now permits anyone to access lewdness that would have made Caligula blush, and in seconds. And, in secular fame-based Western cultures, famous men and women are almost expected to be promiscuous (at least rock stars and film actors and male novelists and poets are). It seems odd that only politicians, priests and sportsmen are censored for priapic adventures - but then, only if they purport to be holier than holy. Always, it is the Tartuffe who suffers, more than the blatant Falstaff, to mix playwrights. Mr. Woods is an emblem of a terrible truth - sex is a temptation that no one (almost) is immune to; and, even in these post-Victorian times, there is a hygiene to our days and nights - we are expected to keep some of us to ourselves and in our pants.

From Walcott to Amis, from Spears to Woods, figures who run amok in the fields of play are called to account. Feathers should never be too ruffled. Sport must not rut too much. We fear Dionysus and pretend to be Apollo. Mr. Woods deserves our respect for inadvertently tearing the modern mask aside, much as Wilde did 100 years ago or so. We should help him, and ourselves - but not to too much.

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