Today’s Tiger Woods press conference was an exercise in painful self-abasement that will achieve the opposite of its intended effect. I haven’t seen anything this painfully scripted since the Phantom Menace. The same George W. Bush media advisers who gave us Mission Accomplished were hired by Tiger to present the world with Emission Regretted.
There are right now two kinds of people on earth. Those who would die happy if they never hear the name of Tiger Woods again and those who want their pound of flesh. The people sick of the Tiger Woods drama could care less about his marriage, his personal life, and today’s awkward, script reading. Those who want their pound of flesh, are itching for Tiger to do the stations of the tabloid-cross: Oprah, tears, and "humility." "He owes us an apology," they say. What they don’t say is that an uncomfortable part of this is as American as apple pie: a prurient obsession with black male sexuality – particularly those African American men involved with sports. From boxer Jack Johnson to Tiger Woods, a sex scandal is never so juicy as when men of color are at the center of it.
Tiger is no Bill Clinton and he tried today, but the day’s carefully scripted message served to satisfy neither those sick of this story nor people who like their reality television in-the-raw. Tiger spoke repeatedly and vaguely about "never repeating the mistakes I made" and "running through the boundaries of acceptable behavior." I’m sure he believes he humbled himself, but the chum is now officially in the water. This particular chum stinks to the haters and just makes the fanatics hungrier.
But both sides don’t get the central dynamic of today’s Seinfeld-like press conference (it was about nothing). This is about brand rehabilitation for the first billion dollar athlete. This was about game-planning to get Tiger back on the course for the Masters in April. Apologies were forthcoming for Tiger’s business partners, as well as the people who "work for me” at Tiger Woods, inc.
Now he returns to the "sexual addiction clinic in Mississippi" (to help those wealthy men who get caught with their pants down. Men who aren’t caught need not apply).
The sad truth is that you could feel that Tiger Woods the man clearly wanted to get up and say, “I publicly apologize to my wife and family who I have publicly humiliated. To everyone else, it’s none of your business.” That might have felt right to the Tiger the man, but today we saw what you do when you’re a brand before a man.
[Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love” (Scribner) Receive his column every week by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact him at email@example.com.]