So there you go. Tiger Woods is sorry. Or so he says.
If we can sift through the 15 minutes where time stood still in sports bars around the country, if we can somehow ignore all of the "hostage crisis"-level coverage this is getting on CNN, ESPN, and the Oxygen Network, then we can all step back and see this for what it is -- one guy (a billionaire athlete, granted, but still...) who cheated multiple times on his wife (a blonde Swedish knockout, granted, but still....) and got caught.
Happens every day. I don't condone it at all, trust me. But as I sat there watching the enormity this had all taken on, thinking about Tiger Woods being treated in Mississippi for a month for an addiction to sex (and the millions of men wondering "Ok, so this is an addiction that I have?"), and now watching him apologize to a nation as though he had just detonated a nuclear warhead in the middle of Times Square, all I could think was "Is this all necessary?"
In the end, the only ones that truly require an apology are Elin and the kids. Tiger can apologize to his sponsors and his close friends if he wants, but he doesn't need to do that on national television. Call them all personally. Visit them. Hell, fly them to Florida on your private jet and tell them face to face how sorry you are, Tiger. (To be fair, maybe he has; I don't know, and really I don't care.)
The fact of the matter is your crime, Tiger, is being naive enough to think you wanted to (or needed to) get married. Because if your "sense of entitlement" had been brewing for that long, what purpose did marriage serve? In the end, if you have no wife and kids, none of this an issue. You save yourself a trip to Mississippi, and really all you become is Derek Jeter with community college-level admissions standards. That's all. (Which makes it all the more crazy that Jeter decided to turn in his bachelor card in the midst of watching Tiger flame out.)
The sheep in the media will follow Tiger through the figurative gates of hell this afternoon saying how he appears sincere and rehabilitated and asking "what more could he say or do?", so forgive me if I'm not that guy. Step back and ignore the message in his speech this morning, which was "I intend to change, please believe this," and you'll see a guy who hasn't changed at all (and I'm not talking about his robotic mannerisms or condescending demeanor).
Tiger Woods is, was, and always will be about two things -- precision-level control of his image and environment, and ruthless aggression. I don't mean aggression like "physical harm" aggression; I mean the desire to mentally, figuratively reach into your chest, tear your heart out, and then discard it like an empty Coke can. It's what's made him the most feared athlete when it matters in the world. It's what also MAKES him the guy who would schedule his "apology speech" right in the middle of a golf event sponsored by a company that stopped believing in him (the Accenture Match Play).
Tiger Woods, changed man? Please. If I may break down excerpts of his speech today (my comments preceded by "SP"), indulge me...
"Many of you in this room are my friends. Many of you in this room know me. Many of you have cheered for me, you worked with me, or you supported me. Now every one of you has good reason to be critical of me."
SP: Ok, so NOW we have good reason to be critical of him. We didn't before, but now we do. So any of you who have criticized Tiger in the past, you were wrong. You better get your shots in now before adult swim is over because I'm sure soon it will not be OK anymore to criticize the chosen one.
"Elin and I have started the process of discussing the damage caused by my behavior. As Elin pointed out to me, my real apology to her will not come in the form of words. It will come from my behavior over time."
SP: Or if you're Kobe Bryant, it will come from a $4 million ring. Continue....
"I am also aware of the pain my behavior has caused to those of you in this room. I have let you down. And I have let down my fans. For many of you, especially my friends, my behavior has been a personal disappointment. To those of you who work for me, I have let you down personally and professionally. My behavior has caused considerable worry to my business partners, to everyone involved in my foundation, including my staff, board of directors, sponsors, and most importantly, the young students we reach. Our work is more important than ever."
SP: Notice no mention of any fellow golfers on the PGA Tour who frankly are hurt directly in the money clip more than anyone outside of Tiger's immediate family by Tiger's absence from the golf scene. Yet another indicator of the "ruthless aggression" I spoke of earlier. You're either with Tiger or against him, and frankly hundreds of trips down the eighteenth fairway on Sundays after four days of owning all of you fools is a little much to overcome. You're all against him.
"Thirteen years ago, my dad and I envisioned helping young people achieve their dreams through education. This work remains unchanged and will continue to grow. From the Learning Center students in Southern California to the Earl Woods scholars in Washington, D.C., millions of kids have changed their lives and I am dedicated to making sure that continues."
SP: TRANSLATION: "See, I'm not such a bad guy!"
"But still, I know I have bitterly disappointed all of you. I have made you question who I am and how I could have done the things I did."
SP: Actually, quite the contrary, Tiger. None of us knew who you were before. To your point made earlier in today's "apology," you are a private person. So with all due respect, all you did was clarify and confirm who you are. Thank you. Continue....
"I'm embarrassed that I have put you in this position. For all that I have done, I am so sorry. I have a lot to atone for."
SP: Other than explaining the fetish with greasy spoon waitresses, I would disagree. Just get back out and swing the clubs again, please. Ultimately, that's all we really care about.
"But there's one issue I really want to discuss...."
SP: Uh oh, Tiger's getting the look on his face like Hulk Hogan would back in the day before he was getting ready to "HULK UP" and drop the big boot....
"Some people have speculated that Elin somehow hurt or attacked me on Thanksgiving night."
SP: (raising my hand...)
"It angers me that people would fabricate a story like that. Elin never hit me that night or any other night. There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our marriage, ever. Elin has shown enormous grace and poise throughout this ordeal. Elin deserves praise, not blame. The issue involved here was my repeated irresponsible behavior. I was unfaithful. I had affairs, I cheated. What I did is not acceptable. And I am the only person to blame."
SP: Somewhere, Kobe Bryant chuckles and mutters "Yeah, bro, that shit ain't gonna work..."
"I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in."
SP: Actually, Tiger, you were exercising exactly what you were taught to believe in -- you and your triumph over mortality. Because from the time you could properly hold a club and form a sentence (scary now to think which of those came first), you were told you were special. The Chosen One. Above everyone else. Right?
"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 ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. 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. Thanks to money and fame, I didn't have far - I didn't have to go far to find them. I was wrong, I was foolish. I don't get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me. I brought this shame on myself. I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife's family, my friends, my foundation, and kids all around the world who admired me."
SP: They wouldn't have applied to you if you had just stayed single. Just saying....continue....
"I've had a lot of time to think about what I've done. My failures have made me look at myself in a way I never wanted to before."
SP: You mean with welts on your face from a well placed eight iron?
"Parents used to point at me as a role model for their kids. I owe all those families a special apology. I want to say to them that I am truly sorry."
SP: Actually, I just pointed at you as someone who could hit a golf ball really, really far to my kids, but uh, thanks for the apology, dude....
"It's hard to admit that I need help, but I do. For 45 days, from the end of December to early February, I was in in-patient therapy receiving guidance for the issues I'm facing. I have a long way to go. But I've taken my first steps in the right direction."
SP: Step 1. Schedule apology speech in the middle of Accenture's big event. CHECK. Step 2. Well up with tears early and often. CHECK. Step 3. Deploy Buddhism card....
"Some people have made up things that never happened. They said I used performance-enhancing drugs. This is completely and utterly false."
SP: Somewhere, Rafael Palmeiro chuckles and mutters "Yeah, bro, that shit ain't gonna work..."
"When my children were born, we only released photographs so that the paparazzi could not chase them. However, my behavior doesn't make it right for the media to follow my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter to school and report the school's location. They staked out my wife and they pursued my mom. Whatever my wrongdoings, for the sake of my family: Please leave my wife and kids alone."
SP: That should work. The paparazzi usually just back off when you ask them to...
...uh huh. Yeah.
"Part of following this path for me is Buddhism, which my mother taught me at a young age. People probably don't realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years."
SP: At this very moment, leaders of the Buddhist church get their accountants on the phone and ask to re-do the budget numbers for 2010..."Yep, we have a new church member...uh huh.....yeah, he's LOADED!....uh huh....yeah, TIGER F-ING WOODS!!!.....I know, TOTALLY SWEET!!...."
"[Buddhism] teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught."
"As I move forward, I will continue to receive help because I've learned that's how people really do change. Starting tomorrow, I will leave for more treatment and more therapy. I would like to thank my friends at Accenture and the players in the field this week for understanding why I'm making these remarks today...."
SP: And that is...why again?....
"I do plan to return to golf one day. I just don't know when that day will be. I don't rule out that it will be this year."
SP: Riiiight....see you in Augusta, Tiger.
"When I do return, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game."
SP: Does that mean we can snap pictures during your backswing and not get f-bombs dropped on us?
"In recent weeks, I have received many thousands of e-mails, letters and phone calls from people expressing good wishes."
SP: Any voicemail messages? Huge. Quickly. Bye.
"To everyone who has reached out to me and my family, thank you. Your encouragement means the world to Elin and me."
SP: No prob. Tell her I said what's up. Huge. Quickly. Bye.
"I look forward to seeing my fellow players on the course."
SP: And they you. Signed, record purse amounts
"Finally, there are many people in this room, and there are many people at home who believed in me. Today I want to ask for your help. I ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again."
SP: Honestly, Tiger. I never really believed in ya to begin with, but ok. Go Tiger (sheepishly clapping....clap ...clap ...clap....)
SP: No, Tiger. Thank you. In the last few months, you finally became interesting to follow and write about again. Sounds like those days may be over, but damn it was sure fun while it lasted. See? Listen to me....that probably sounded like something one of your pancake-slinging whores would say. Oh well. Hit it long and straight, Tiger....see! There I go again! Damn, Eldrick. Please, come back soon.
Huge. Quickly. Bye.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 PM on the "Sean & John Show", and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.