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The Carletonian

Point-Counterpoint: Tiger Woods’ Public Apology

<ong>Woods’ apology a necessary step in road to recovery – By David Sacks

It’s hard to apologize, and even harder when you have to apologize to millions of people after harming many of them.  Tiger Woods, the private superstar who named his yacht “privacy” and never discusses his personal life, probably never thought he would have to hold a press conference addressing his off-the-course behavior.  But he had to, and he did.  While some might criticize him for not taking questions from reporters and only reading from a prepared speech, Tiger made big strides towards his recovery and regaining the respect of his fans.

Tiger has often been criticized for being robotic off the golf course.  Although he shows tremendous emotion while competing, during interviews and press conferences Tiger rarely reveals anything personal.  His voice is usually a monotone and delivers short answers to every question.  His handlers are always lurking, ready to cut off an interview if they feel the reporter oversteps his bounds or crosses his time limit.  However, during his apology Tiger showed true emotion.  There were a few instances when he had to pause because he was choked up, and said directly that he was “deeply sorry” and that he had let down his fans. 

However, words only go so far, and Tiger acknowledged that this apology is not the final step but just one part of the healing process.  Woods said that his real apology to his wife, Elin, would “not come in the form of words. It will come from my behavior over time.” He has already been proactive in that regard.  He sought out treatment and immediately returned to rehab after this apology.  Tiger knows the stakes, and realizes that this is his only chance to win back his wife and fans. 

The part of the press conference that was so surprising to me, given Tiger’s stature as a world figure and the respect that everyone had for him before all of his affairs came to light, was when he spoke about rules.  Woods said, “I knew my actions were wrong. But I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself…I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled.”  While we assume that many celebrities and athletes think they can get away with anything and can play by different rules, I have never heard people admitting to this feeling of entitlement before.  Woods claimed then that he understood the same rules “that apply to everyone apply to me.” 

Anyone familiar with Tiger Woods would not put his name and the word “balanced” in the same sentence.  Tiger always seemed to have a one-track mind.  He was focused on winning, perfecting his golf game, and that was it.  We admired him for his focus (the name of his brand of Gatorade), determination and will.  When Tiger had his first child, writers claimed that he would not be as effective on the golf course because he would need to live a balanced life.  However, we now know that Tiger’s life was even more unbalanced than once imagined.  Tiger acknowledged this lack of balance, stating he has learned “the importance of looking at my spiritual life and keeping in balance with my professional life. I need to regain my balance and be centered so I can save the things that are most important to me: my marriage and my children.”

Tiger’s apology, while not perfect, was a great start.  He apologized to his fans, his family, fellow professional golfers and was more human than we have ever seen him.  And for a man whose image rested on being so great that he was viewed as being inhuman, coming down to earth and showing his vulnerabilities and failures as a person is a significant act.  Tiger placed the blame solely on himself and is seeking treatment.

Woods further acknowledged that he has a lot of work to do and intends to dedicate himself to doing it.  For those of us who followed Tiger closely and know what he is capable of, we know that when Tiger dedicates himself to accomplishing something, nothing gets in his way.  If he brings the same determination to his personal life as he has always brought to golf, he will emerge from this process a changed and better person.  This apology was the first step in this process, and did a lot to heal those whom he hurt. 

Woods’ apology lacked conviction – By Justin Rotman

While Tiger Woods took the first step in repairing his shattered image and broken family life last Friday, he left a lot to be desired with his prepared statement and refusal to answer questions.  In his statement he admitted that he had cheated on his wife, he was “deeply sorry,” and that he recognized the mistakes he made.  He continually stated that he felt entitled to different rules because of his status, that there was no one to blame but himself, and that words don’t even begin to describe his pain of repair the damage he caused.  He confirmed that he had been in treatment for addiction, although he did not specify what for, and was to return to it the day after his statement.  Some people look at these admissions of guilt and apologies as a mature step in the process of a man transforming himself, but a closer look at Woods’ statement reveals that it may have been just as much a shot at repairing his image and he could have done much more to show his remorse.

Woods read on Friday from a prepared, scripted statement that he brought with him to the podium.  Undoubtedly Tiger could have written it himself, with his Stanford education and reputation for being one of the Tour’s sharpest golfers, yet there is no way of knowing whether Woods or someone within his legal or professional circle— his agent, lawyers, or a combination of them— wrote it.  Because it would certainly be awkward and out of place to announce that he composed it, unless Woods were to have spoken without the aid of a script he can’t sell us on the fact that those were his original words.  In an era where athletes show up on the field or the court and leave their issues off of it to be dealt with by their agents, it is natural to assume someone else wrote it and Woods merely practiced in front of a mirror.  Those are the rules of the game now, and if Tiger wants us to believe those words were his, he shouldn’t have read from a script.  

Woods also refused to take any questions.  This is notable because the world’s richest, most popular, most successful athlete was known throughout his career to crave control.  On the golf course, in interviews, in endorsement deals, and in his private life, he always wanted, needed, and got control.  When you’re the world’s first billion-dollar athlete on pace to assault Jack Nicklaus’ record for major championships well before you turn 40, you can have it.  But if you’ve been discovered for having mistresses numbered in at least the teens and are trying to save your family as well as your devastated image, you need to relinquish some of that control.  In only reading from a statement and not taking questions, Tiger revealed that he still carries the false notion that he deserves control at all times.

In Tiger’s apology, just like Mark McGwire’s with steroids and Michael Vick’s with dog-fighting, it automatically begs the same old question:  Is he sorry for what he did or sorry that he got caught? It is obvious that Tiger feels tremendous regret.  You could tell that he was emotional in his speech and truly felt embarrassed and saddened.  It was a time when we saw the most powerful athlete on earth show, for the first time, a feeling that only three months ago we couldn’t have placed Tiger further from: vulnerability.  Still, this wasn’t a one-night stand.  This wasn’t a little fling with one mistress.  These were sustained, multiple-year sexual relationships with numerous women across the country.  While his wife, Elin, was  giving birth to and raising their two young children, Tiger was out carousing with these women at tournaments and events time and time again.  It wasn’t as if Woods didn’t realize what was going on.  It wasn’t a one-time mistake.  He consciously continued these encounters for years.  There is no way we will— nor need— to know all the details of Tiger and his transgressions.  And, thanks to the millions he paid these women to keep their evidence away and mouths closed, we will likely be spared much of that information.

It is true that Tiger did not have to apologize.  He is not a politician paid by the people whose escapades cost us tax dollars.  He took a courageous first step in admitting his faults, yet did not go far enough.  The image of the perfect role model that he created cannot be repaired with a prepared statement after 3 months of complete silence.  Tiger needed to speak from the heart.  He needed to take questions.  He needed to give up control, to help us believe.  A major TV interview in the future would help his cause tremendously.  Reading words off sheets of paper does not. 

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