Tiger Woods pulls an upset: Cheating apology converts a cynic
This time when Tiger Woods disappeared behind the blue curtain, he left looking a little more human and a lot less like the con man of old.
Which means that Tiger aced his overstaged apology announcement.
Look, if you’re a journalist you wanted to hate this production. Woods and his team of handlers engaged in their usual manipulative, control freak act: Not allowing any questions, limiting attendance to three reporters and plenty of Tiger friends and only using a single camera.
And Tiger’s supposedly crack PR team places him in front of an actual, real blue curtain? Are you kidding me? Have they never heard of symbolism? Why not encourage Tiger to break out into a robot voice to drive home the idea he’s an unfeeling cyborg while you’re at it?
Yet, all the staging blunders were buried by Tiger’s words.
Words of actual apology. Words that didn’t skirt the real issue. Words that obviously pained him to say.
I’ve been covering Tiger Woods at golf tournaments for a decade. I’ve seen him at his best - walking along inside the ropes all 90 holes of his greatest triumph, that 2008 U.S. Open win at Torrey Pines when he dragged his busted-up leg to the trophy stand. I’ve seen him at his public worst - ordering his thug of a caddie, Steve Williams, to harass fans and camera men, staring daggers at young tournament flacks just trying to do their job.
I’ve never seen Tiger Woods like this.
Apologies have become something of a cottage industry in professional sports. Steroid cheats (sluggers A-Rod and Mark McGwire), cell-phone-camera-caught weed smokers (Olympian Michael Phelps) and dog fight ring kingpins (Michael Vick) all largely follow the same script no matter the level of their offense. Tiger Woods is the last athlete you’d expect to break from that pattern.
Only, he flipped the script. Tiger didn’t say sorry for some nebulous thing he never defined. He didn’t claim that while he regrets what he did it didn’t really hurt anyone. Instead, he spoke the words.
“I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated,” Woods said.
Woods became the first superstar athlete of these times to actually admit to the sense of entitlement that everyone knows is there. “I convinced myself that the normal rules didn’t apply,” Woods said. “I felt like I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt I was entitled.”
Tiger talked about almost feeling he’d earned his discretions because of all the hard work he put into golf over his lifetime. It can be argued that this makes him even more of a creep. But, it’s still rare burst of honesty from a creep.
Ninety percent of married, male professional athletes think the same thing. They’d just never say it.
Calling it the best sports apology of this decade is akin to declaring MTV’s latest Jersey Shore episode the most sophisticated Jersey Shore of all time. The competition is less than steep. Still, this is the most honest, sports sorry we’ve seen.
“I recognize I brought this on myself,” Woods said, while smartly not setting the timetable for any return to competition (the U.S. Open at Pebble in June is the earliest golf fans should expect to see him now).
Now, there were false notes in Tiger’s announcement. He shouldn’t have brought up how the work at his foundation would go on - as if he’s been saving the world and its kids. Please.) He probably should have kept his recommitment to Buddhism to himself.
He didn’t “lose” his way. He acted like an overindulged frat boy on a worldwide skirt bender.
Still, Tiger convinced this cynic. Tiger did something real - maybe the first real thing he’s done in forever in front of a camera. That overrides everything behind that blue curtain.