Tiger Woods apology sets his biggest challenge: Getting through a 21 Century sex scandal without dishing details
I know it feels that way, because his 16-minute mea culpa was carried by a phalanx of network TV stations, cable newschannels and online outlets as if he was delivering the State of the Union.
But the State of Tiger delivered today was about one word: apology. And it felt less like a message to us than a plea to sponsors, his 12-step process and his wife.
Unfortunately, Woods has set a herculean goal: He wants to get out of a 21st Century sex scandal without coming clean.
And he wants to do so while at the center of the world's largest sex scandal when we have never had a greater appetite for the details of powerful people's sordid escapades.
Compared to that, winning a Masters tournament is going to seem like a trip to Disneyland.
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Mark Sanford's wife Jenny scored the ultimate jilted spouse's revenge, penning a tell-all book on the South Carolina governor's dalliances so quickly, you wonder if she wasn't roughing out the book proposal the day he started his infamously fraudulent "hike up the Appalachian Trail." Andrew Young, the disquietingly slick aide to John Edwards, also wrote a best-selling book about helping his former boss cover up his affair and love child.
In years past, these people might have been ostracized as sleazy opportunists or sad revenge-seekers. now, they are celebrities who sit across from Larry King and Diane Sawyer at the center of the media spotlight.
Woods own apology today was broadcast live on all major TV networks and cable newschannels, aired live on at least tow local radio stations and streamed online on YouTube and Hulu.com
Which means the intensely private Woods is stacking his legendary discipline and future performance in golf against a worldwide gossip media structure and public expectation that forgiveness comes after disclosure. Good luck, pal.
Here's what else struck me:
He made sure to inoculate wife Elin, who wasn't present, against any charges of domestic violence by the public or anyone else: "Some people have speculated that Elin somehow hurt or attacked me on Thanksgiving night. 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"
He also admitted celebrity entitlement, something which also felt like a nod to his victimized wife: "I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. 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."
All that stuff from Brit Hume about Christianity offering better guidance in scandal than Buddhism holds no water with Tiger: "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. Buddhism teaches that a creation of things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught."
Don't dare impugn his sports achievements, either: "Some people have made up things that never happened. They said I used performance-enhancing drugs. This is completely and utterly false."
Don't expect him back on the golf course anytime soon: "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. When I do return, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game."
And tabloid gossip reporters need to back off: "Some have written things about my family. Despite the damage I have done, I still believe it is right to shield my family from the public spotlight. They did not do these things; I did. I have always tried to maintain a private space for my wife and children. They have been kept separate from my sponsors, from my commercial endorsements. 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."
It's clear Woods shared more than he wanted to today. But it's also clear it won't be enough to stop the behavior he's cited above.
This may be the toughest part of his many steps to redemption to achieve. Because, until Woods or someone close to him comes forward with some semi-official version of what actually happened, there will always be space for others -- especially the many women he cheated with, including some who already have TV and media deals in place -- to offer their version.
And we will be happy to take it for the truth. Until something better comes along.
Your swing, Tiger. Make it a good one.