“I’m deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior … I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did was not acceptable, and I am the only person to blame. Any questions?”
No, Tiger Woods didn’t utter that last line and hold a Q&A Friday morning after his 13-minute apology, which drew about 300 media members, 25 satellite trucks and was carried live by the major broadcast networks. “I understand people have questions,” Wood said. “I understand the press wants to ask me for the details and the times I was unfaithful. I understand people want to know whether Elin and I will remain together. Please know that as far as I’m concerned, every one of these questions and answers is a matter between Elin and me. These are issues between a husband and wife.” As they should be. Move along people, nothing here to see.
I mean, seriously, aside from delving into the sordid details of his infidelity – Was Rachel Uchitel first, how is she compared to Joslyn James and were there ever any threesomes? – Woods said everything that he needed to say. And he answered the one question that carried criminal implications by clearing his wife of assault on Thanksgiving night, addressing widespread speculation that she whacked him with a golf club. “Elin never hit me that night or any night,” he said. “There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our marriage, ever.” If he’s lying about that, he’s not the first victim to cover for an abusive spouse.
Anyhow, as for public apologies, Woods scored a hole-in-one Friday. He called himself wrong and foolish, bemoaning the shame and pain he brought on himself, his family and others. With reddened eyes, he paused and looked deep into the camera: “For all that I have done, I am so sorry.” It seemed heartfelt to me. He didn’t satisfy everyone, though, and that’s no surprise.
There was rampant criticism from the moment we learned Woods wouldn’t take questions. The Golf Writers Association of America boycotted the event. Some folks blasted the apology before it was issued, claiming it’d be nothing but an image-repair publicity stunt aimed to ease Woods’ transition back into the public’s (and corporate sponsors’) good graces. After he spoke, there were complaints that he seemed insincere, he was robotic and he was too rehearsed. But he could have assumed the fetal position on Oprah’s couch and bawled like a baby, and skeptics would have accused him of being insincere and overly dramatic.
A bit of perspective is needed here. We’re talking about a public figure, not a public official (big difference), who has been ensnared by adultery. If not you or your spouse, someone close to you (or their spouse) has probably been caught by the same trap. Sharing the details with anyone other than a counselor solves nothing.
And like Woods said, the real apology to Elin isn’t in his public comments; it’s in his behavior over time as he attempts to save the marriage. His marriage is what’s at stake here, whether they’ll remain together while raising their two children. Whether he returns to form, recoups his endorsements and breaks Jack Nicklaus’ record for most major championships are secondary concerns. With Forbes estimating his career earnings at $1 billion-with-a-capital-B in his career, Woods isn’t hurting for money.
If he took a year off to salvage his marriage, it’d be the best investment he ever made. He said the things most important to him are his mariage and his children; while a lot of people say that, it’d be nice to see him prove it. Superstar athletes, celebrities and politicians get the headlines in these situations, but it’s really an Everyman/Everywoman condition.
Yes, public figures have an advantage in attracting and attaining pieces on the side, but John and Jane Q. Public do their best to keep up. Then, whether they’re busted on “Cheaters” or in some other fashion, they’re left to recover (or not) in the privacy of their homes. The unions that survive – if the offender is sufficiently repentant and the offended is sufficiently forgiving – often emerge stronger than ever. Getting caught can be a wake-up call or the game-ending buzzer; Woods is shooting for the former: “It’s now up to me to make amends, and that starts by never repeating the mistakes I’ve made,” he said. “It’s up to me to start living a life of integrity.”
Religion is enlisted in many recovery efforts and Woods’ is no exception, though you rarely hear public references to Buddhism. But the principle he highlighted is sound advice regardless of one’s religion or lack thereof. He said Buddhism teaches “to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously I lost track of what I was taught.”
The same is true for the portion of society that doesn’t honor the old-fashioned principle of privacy. Though the 24-hour news cycle, YouTube videos and gossip outfits such as TMZ obscure the fact, some things truly are, “none of your business.” Despite the impulse to know everything about Woods and his mistresses, and what really happened on Thanksgiving, we should learn restraint. I don’t blame Woods for refusing to talk about it publicly. I hope he never does. He said all he needed to say about the matter Friday. No question.
Deron Snyder is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer based in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.