February 19, 2010
Give Tiger Woods -- and his speechwriters, as there almost surely were -- credit. His Friday morning press conference was a case study in how to perform a public apology. He expressed contrition, he apologized to a laundry list of people he had wronged, he promised to continue to seek treatment and make amends.
The real question now is this: how can he expect anyone to believe him?
The Tiger Woods scandal isn't about golf. It never was. Had any other golfer gotten caught in multiple extramarital affairs, it would have been late-night joke fodder for a few days. But this story swelled as it did because Woods is more than just a golfer. He's an icon, a symbol, an inspiration and a role model. And when he let his family down, he also disappointed millions of fans -- and cost quite a few people a whole lot of money, lest we forget.
For the bloodthirsty in the audience, Woods admitted to everything. He didn't name names, of course, or address every incident in graphic detail. He didn't need to. He acknowledged that the "transgressions" happened, and he acknowledged giving in to temptation. Repeatedly.
He took appropriate swipes at the media which indefensibly followed his family and made his life a fishbowl hell the last three months. One hopes he'll be able to distinguish between bottom-feeding scandalmongers and the media honestly interested in relating the truth of his journey back to the top of the golf world, but it would be understandable if he's a little leery of the media for, oh, the next two decades.
Bottom line: Tiger said all the right things. And people are willing to forgive him, willing to welcome him back. But now comes the hard part -- following through. The temptations aren't going away, the opportunities to stray will always exist. And now Tiger will live his life under the kind of microscope that he's tried so hard to avoid. Facing a 12-foot putt to win the Masters is nothing compared to the pressure he'll be facing now.
Still, America is a land of second chances. Woods has done the amazing before, but if he can salvage his shattered reputation after this, that'll be his greatest achievement of all.
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