Four months, one week and four days after the National Enquirer reported he was having an affair with Rachel Uchitel—initiating a calamitous chain of events for him personally, publically and professionally—Tiger Woods finally fielded questions from a roomful of reporters. Thirty-five minutes and 48 questions later, we didn't know anything more than we had known going in. Which was this: Woods screwed up by screwing around, and he's really sorry and wants to move on by proceeding with his career.
That ought to be enough to satisfy the harshest Woods critics, those who have accused him of being duplicitous and disingenuous in public comments since crashing his SUV into a fire hydrant and a tree at 2 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving. But I'm sure it won't be enough. I'm sure they'll point to some answer, or some facial expression or body language, and declare that Woods is hiding something and trying to fool us into believing him. I'm sure they'll complain that he hasn't gone into detail about the accident, the type of therapy he's undergoing or the numerous allegations from alleged mistresses.
Frankly, that's none of their damn business, and Woods has stated as much—though much more politely. (Asked what he was in rehabilitation for, Woods said, "That's personal, thank you," but with the hint of a silly smile that sometimes surfaces involuntarily when one hears the word, 'sex.') But I would've been interested in his response to a question no one asked, especially in light of reports that golfers on the PGA Tour are among sports' biggest hounds, right up there with player-players in basketball, football, baseball, etc.: "How common do you think your behavior is among fellow golfers, and do you think your experience will influence any to change their ways?"
Earl Woods talked a lot of smack about how his son, Eldrick, was going to make an impact on the world. In a 1996 Sports Illustrated cover story—"The Chosen One"—Earl Woods said, "Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity." That's pretty heady stuff, putting Tiger on par with Jesus, Mohammed, MLK and Gandhi, among others. But if Woods ends up convincing guys to keep it in their pants when in the company of women not their wives, then his daddy was on to something. Goodness knows the repercussions suffered by mere mortals weren't enough to prevent Mark Sanford, John Edwards and—rest in peace—Steve McNair from dipping on their significant others.
However, wouldn't it be something if a contrite and chastened Woods, scared straight by the prospect of losing his wife and kids, became a poster boy for fidelity? We've had sports superstars champion abstinence before marriage—Tim Tebow and A.C. Green before him—but we've never seen one promote adherence to marriage vows. Judging by the ordeal he's endured, Woods is perfectly positioned to champion faithfulness and mean it. During his press conference at Augusta National, he said his father always told him that "in order to help people, you have to first learn how to help yourself." Woods said he never understood that until he entered treatment (allegedly for sex addiction). But he seems willing to use his experience to benefit others, saying that mess has put everything into perspective.
"It's not about championships," he said. "It's about how you live your life. And I had not done that the right way for a while, and I needed to change that. And going forward, I need to be a better man going forward than I was before. … I'm trying as hard as I possibly can each and every day to get my life better and better and stronger, and if I win championships along the way, so be it. But along the way, I want to help more people that are—that haven't quite learned to help themselves, just like how I was."
We know there are others like him out there (if not you, probably someone you know). If Woods' tale has a positive impact, leading to faithful spouses, stronger marriages and more intact families, his troubles will be worthwhile. Even if he never wins another golf tournament.
But I wouldn't bet on either scenario becoming a reality.
Deron Snyder is a regular contributor to The Root.