What a difference a day makes.
Twenty-four little hours ago, most commentators in the sporting world were predicting something along the lines of this:
- Tiger Woods speaks from Florida
- He apologises for his misdemeanours
- He makes a comeback either at the Tavistock Cup or the Pheonix Open
- He faces some tricky questions from the media
- Woods wins soon after his comeback
- He challenges for the Masters
Pundits and sporting personalities alike, were basing their predictions with the traits and character-qualities of the old perception of Tiger Woods in mind.
The world number one has always had an uncanny ability to bounce straight back from a bogey with a birdie; the general consensus was that somehow, Woods would be able to get his personal life back on track in the same rapid manner.
It is perhaps surprising given the furore that the scandal surrounding Tiger has caused, but few people – until now – have stopped to think that Tiger’s misdemeanours in his personal life, could seriously de-rail his professional career. This is because through all of the years in which he has dominated the world of golf and lived at the forefront of the public eye, he has always projected an image of impeccability; an unstoppable train which nothing can halt. These personal failings, although they seemed very serious, did not really make anybody think Tiger would leave golf and – as ridiculous as it sounds – especially the majors.
Today’s media event from the TPC at Sawgrass gave us a true insight into the gravitas of this whole situation.
There will be no quick comeback for Woods and definitely no Green Jacket.
Opinion will flood newspapers and news channels over the next few days as the sporting world attempts to digest today’s latest development and let there be no doubt – there will be serious criticism of what happened in the Sunset Room at 16.00 GMT.
Criticism not at what it was that Woods said, but of the media event itself. They will suggest that it was overly-staged and will pass negative judgement on the way in which the audience in the room was specifically selected (by not making the event a traditional press conference – in which journalists are invited to ask questions – Tiger’s media-handlers have left themselves wide open for criticism). Censurers will condemn the event as being nothing but one big public relations exercise. They will insist it was entirely custom-designed; everything from the pre-written speech, to the fact that Woods was stood on the stage by himself – surely to enhance the perception of him being on his own in this juncture of his life, in need of sympathy, help and guidance.
To take this view would be selfish. What were these critics holding out for? Did they want Tiger to be sat down whilst the world and his wife looked down on him, passing judgement and asking only the most awkward questions? Did they want his manager Mark Steinberg by his side, so that they could grill him too?
A story and scandal such as this, will always have the media smelling blood; to send Tiger Woods out to face a traditional press conference, would have been a kin to sending a man out to the slaughter, or worse, public execution. It was never going to happen. Anybody who feels the need to criticise the event, needs to take a reality check.
No PR agency would have let Woods answer journalists’ questions today, if they did, they would quickly lose a client.
Before the media event at Sawgrass, people were already criticising Woods’ camp for scheduling the meet. They insisted that if Tiger was not going to invite questions, why ‘stage an event at all, why not just release a press statement on his website‘?
Anybody who watched the speech will now know, exactly why Woods did not just post a statement online.
They will know now that today’s media event was organised to make certain points clear clear; most notably, that Woods has been undergoing a course of therapy and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.
Therapy? Tiger Woods…therapy? The three words do not seem to sound right in the same statement.
But times change. And the perception we now have of Tiger Woods in 2010 is different to the perception we had of the man even in early 2009. The old perception was false, that much is now clear. In order to create a new image, more based in reality and on truth, Woods needs help.
Thanks to today’s speech we now know that it was an essential baby step in what will be a much larger healing process. It was not organised to absolve Woods of all his previous wrong-doings, but to assert some sort of control on the situation.
Tiger needed to bring some transparency to the affair and to disspell certain allegations rife in the media. Accusations have been made suggesting Woods took performance-enhancing drugs in his early career and allegations were made after his car crash on Thanksgiving Day, that there had been a physical fight between himself and wife Elin Nordegren. Both of these were confirmed by Woods today as being completely false.
In his speech, Woods said ‘I was unfaithful, I had affairs and I cheated‘. And that was all he needed to say regarding the specific details of his wrong-doings.
Compared to yesterday, Tiger now has a relatively clean slate from which to move forward from. The public know what happened – he cheated. The public know how the golfing star feels – he is deeply sorry. And perhaps most importantly, the public now know what to expect in the coming months – therapy, healing and more time away from the golf course.
Now that he has dispelled certain rumours and come clean with the sporting world, the planet’s number one golfer can concentrate on getting his head around his actions in previous years and the consequences that will follow them.
Tiger told us today that whilst he intends to return to golf sometime in the future, he does not know when.
The rest of the PGA and European Tour may want Woods to return as soon as possible and the media world may want to know the ins and outs of every single one of his misdemeanours but what is important now is that as an audience and as fans of his golf, we allow Tiger the time he needs to find a fit and proper state of mind.
He has done enough for the game of golf to deserve this time off at least.
The scandal surrounding Tiger Woods will alter the way we view sporting celebrities forever. Never again will a revelation concerning a sportsman or sportswoman’s personal life shock us as much as it did with Woods. Today’s media event was hard to watch and whilst it put certain allegations to bed, it certainly was not positive – nobody should have to defend themself to the world in the same way that Woods chose to today.
The situation is truly bizarre. Woods has built a career on being faultless. He spoke today of how in the past, he had felt he deserved a little slack in his personal life, because of all of his hard work in his professional life. The man convinced himself he was impeccable to the extent to which he actually thought he was entitled to be not-so-impeccable now and then in his personal life.
He is going to need time to re-evaluate who he really is and this could well prove to be the hardest stage of his therapy course.
When Woods first burst on to the golfing world, Nike ran an advert in which children of all ages from around the World, spoke four very clear words to the camera. They said ‘I .. am .. Tiger.. Woods’ . The words empowered the children.
Now, in 2010, the world’s best golfer needs to look inside himself and ask a very simple four-word question; ‘Who is Tiger Woods?‘
Hopefully he will find balance in his life once more and return to golfing greatness. Tiger Woods is a gifted-child born to play golf. Thankfully for us, the golfing universe, class is permanent, not temporary. With eager anticipation, we will wait.
By Ross A. Fox