It ain’t easy being Tiger Woods these days. Let’s face it: although there’s no denying that the guy got himself into this situation, I don’t think a single one of us would want to be standing in his shoes right now. And while everyone is talking about what he’ll do next—a return to golf? a reunion with Elin?—I was very intrigued by the number of strands woven into his public apology yesterday. If you didn’t get the chance to see it (mystifyingly, my law professor actually took a break during class so that we could watch), CNN has the full text available here.
What follows is a candid discussion of what I consider the most interesting passages in his statement. As you’re reading, no matter what you think of the man (if he even deserves that title), consider how gut-wrenchingly torturous it must have been to stand in front of millions of viewers and say these words:
10. I have let down my fans.
My first reaction to this statement was that a man who is still thinking of his fans (or thinks he still has any) has not yet learned his lesson. However, what he says is true. At the time of his actions, Woods did have countless adoring fans, and he did let many of them down. While this notion might be difficult for most of us to understand (having never had fans ourselves), just knowing the sheer number of people he’s disappointed must weigh heavily upon Tiger.
9. My behavior has caused considerable worry to my business partners.
Estimates are still emerging, but none of us really knows how much money Woods lost as a result of the fact that he couldn’t keep his pants on. Again, we may not feel sorry for him, but most of us can’t even imagine what it’s like to make a personal mistake that costs us millions of dollars. This was a meltdown on a financial scale we could never comprehend.
8. I have made you question who I am and how I have done the things I did.
Woods actually made similar statements at several points. He seems preoccupied with the notion of how, and perhaps he still hasn’t entirely answered that question for himself. To make the choices he did without knowing how he did so just goes to show how easy it can be to get caught up in the game.
7. I have a lot to atone for.
I frequently wonder what people mean when they say words like these. If atoning means “making amends or reparations,” how exactly does he plan to do that? Does he only need to repay those who were disappointed in him? What about those for whom his behavior simply confirmed a preexisting suspicion that he was arrogant and selfish? Will any of these impressions vanish due to anything he does now?
6. There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our marriage. Ever.
Part of me is glad that Woods made an affirmative statement on this question (I’ve never appreciated an issue-dodger), but to me it smacks a bit of “I did not have sexual relations with that woman…” Complete denials, even if completely true, introduce doubt as soon as they’re uttered. Besides, by speaking directly to the issue, isn’t Woods admitting that it’s any of our business (which it isn’t)?
5. Elin deserves praise, not blame.
This single sentence is extremely psychologically interesting to me. Where does it come from? Yes, Woods had just finished defending Elin against charges of domestic violence in the previous paragraph, but this doesn’t really have anything to do with blame. (I can’t think of a single person who would blame Elin for going after Tiger with one of his own clubs; there’s something poetically just about the whole thing.) Is this idea merely something Woods has been trying to sell to himself? It would be a shame if he was the first (and only) one in three months to associate his wife’s name with blame…
4. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me.
This statement sounds like an honest self-assessment and is actually quite deep. Let it be a warning to us all. Enough said.
3. They said I used performance-enhancing drugs. This is completely and utterly false.
At this point, my attorney-radar went off—and more than a little bit. Tiger is striking back here, and he’s doing it in a way that’s clearly designed to protect his career. I can’t help but think that with his marriage in shambles, his career (if anything) is all he has left. (Well, that and his Buddhist spiritualism, I suppose.) If Woods is making this statement here and now, we can only hope it’s true, but I’m not sure I would have used what ought to be an emotional apology to lay the groundwork for a career comeback. It risks coming off as… oh, I don’t know… opportunistic?
2. 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.
It’s fascinating to me that Woods actually believes this is possible at this point, but from one human being to another, I hope he’s right. I’m not “in the know” enough to be aware of whether or not there is the potential for reconciliation between Woods and his wife, but let’s not forget that the longer she remains in the marriage, the more she ultimately gets if and when they do separate—and that new mansion in Sweden must have cost something.
1. These are issues between a husband and a wife.
For me, this is perhaps the most divisive question of them all. As a nation and a culture, I’m not sure we really know what we think of this one. Many of us seem to agree that some things should be left private, but many more of us turn on the television to watch just the same. No one will argue that we’d want the same scrutiny turned upon our own lives, but perhaps we think that things should be different for celebrities. I really think there are a number of people who would be genuinely sad if celebrity gossip simply disappeared. Are the rest of us justified in disapproving of such an approach, or should the majority rule?
Imagine if none of us had ever heard of the infidelity of Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Mark Sanford, and all the rest. Would we have been so much worse off? Do you agree that we deserve to know? Do you believe that celebrities bare their secrets as they bear their fame, or should some things always remain private? At the end of the day, I’m still piecing together what I think.
But I’m pretty sure that there’s no “celebrity exception” to the Golden Rule.