Tiger Woods hit the ball right on the Swoosh early in his prepared statement.
“As Elin pointed out to me, my real apology to her will not come in the form of words; it will come from my behavior over time.”
Maybe he should’ve stopped there.
Words weren’t all we got on Friday when Woods finally stepped to the podium not in a golf shirt and yet not in a tie, either — and definitely without a wedding band.
The public and the media at large have been clamoring for a look at Woods for three months since his bizarre one-luxury SUV crash set in motion a downfall of epic proportions. And the world stood still on its axis for 13 1/2 minutes as sports’ biggest figure did his best to wear the persona of contrition and sincerity.
It was a desperate attempt to show a human side to the public figure Woods and his advisors have gone to great pains to create since he burst onto the celebrity scene on “The Mike Douglas Show” at age 3.
On its surface, the informercial played well for Tiger. It was a well-struck first step in his attempt to repair the most tarnished of images. The comeback path has been cleared.
But for all of the public apologies to the wife he disrespected with a seedy kind of sexual fervor comparable only to the drive he has to win golf tournaments, it was little more than a careful collection of simple, albeit well-chosen, words.
Woods said all of the right things. Out of his 1,500 words, he mentioned the word “golf” twice. His focus isn’t on the links or major championships on courses he owns, and it shouldn’t be. At least that’s what the one-man drama unfolding at PGA Tour headquarters was meant for us to believe. No doubt Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem was pleased from his front-row, enabling seat. The linchpin to the Tour’s success was bringing it.
What can be believed, though? The man admitted to infidelity again, something he had already done via his Web site over two months ago. He said he was sorry so many times, and to so many groups of people, the effect was somewhat lost. Repetition tends to fade into the ether — though, thankfully, for the voyeurs in us, the 13 minutes were there for everybody to see live on any channel, and then at the top and bottom of every hour for the next three hours on ESPN. Oh look, it’s on again…
With fame, fortune and iconoclastic status in your hip pocket, there tends to be little room left over for sincerity and humility. At least that’s what the viewing public usually thinks, unless they’ve been duped over time into believing the crafted image in those 30-second spots is the real deal. But when that artful facade is torn away, credibility, honor, goodwill and truthfulness are rarely fully recovered from the wreckage.
And so we are left only with what Tiger Woods was willing to give us, not at all unlike the vague Web site statements. We got to see him, hear him say these words, and with that, perhaps there is more of an ability to form an opinion about the whole mess. We can choose to take him at his word, to believe his statements, his look, his countenance and the tremble in his voice.
But if we do those things, we must do them without taking into account that all we got was precisely what Tiger Woods wanted us to see and hear. Nothing more, and likely, nothing less. He set all the parameters — the 40 specific people in the room, no questions, the planned photo ops of him jogging and hitting balls in the days leading up to the charade. This was his show, choreographed by him, for him — and for his career.
“I don’t get to play by different rules,” Woods unabashedly said. “The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me.”
It wasn’t that way on Friday.
And so already, some of the words are empty.