I can’t take it any more. The media has made me really want to root for Tiger Woods for the first time ever. Let me explain.
Background: I’ve never either liked or disliked Woods very much. I admire his truly admirable educational enrichment work with children. I admire his strong support of our military personnel. And I was awed by him winning the US Open on a broken leg in 2008. But he has always left me cold. He scowls and struts and barely puts up with his fans and never shows the natural graciousness that, say, a Jack Nicklaus always has shown. I’m a Nicklaus fan, big time, and I never thought Woods’ character came close to Nicklaus’, so I don’t want Woods to break Nicklaus’ records. I also resent that Tiger for most of his career has plyed well only when it is only for himself, but not very well when playing on a team, for his country. I didn’t like that he joined the call for players to be paid for the Ryder Cup. All of which is to say that while I don’t really root against him per se, I’ve never rooted for him except during Ryder Cup and Presidents’ Cup matches — and that for the sake of his team, not for his own sake.
Now, though, just when he has been disgraced, I may just have to root for him at least a little. Not because of his disgrace, but just in reaction to the godawful media coverage thereof. I vowed to myself I wouldn’t say much about this, and I resisted the temptation as I read column after fulminating column blasting Woods and particularly blasting his silence. And then in the week since his one media appearance, I’ve boiled as one sports columnist after another has adjudged Woods’ conference and blathered about whether he looked sincere and passed moral judgment on him. But tonight I got home and my Sports Illustrated had come in the mail…. and I couldn’t take it any more. It featured not the worst column on Woods, but definitely the straw that broke the Hillyer camel’s back. Alan Shipnuck, the writer, acted as if Woods owes him something and owes the press something. And he dripped with disdain for Tiger’s staged, nervous, “sad performance.”
And the shots he took were nasty. Woods had “a wasp waste and delicate wrists.” What was “jarring” was “how diminished he looked” while “swallowed up by a too-big blazer that recalled a coat borrowed by a teenager who had been forced to put on a jacket at a fance restaurant.” (What is WITH Shipnuck’s obsession with physical appearance, anyway? He sounds like the WaPost’s fashion writer, Robin Givhan.)
Shipnuck the chipmunk wrote that Woods “sounded like all those messed-up child actors on episoes of E! True Hollywood Story: Don’t blame me, blame the fame…. It’s clear now that Woods needed the coddling; he seemed so shaky emotionally it’s doubtful he could have withstood any exposure to an inquisitive press corps.”
Then, the Chipmunk got to what REALLY bothered him: that Woods “practically snarled one line in addressing the media” — the line where he told the media to leave his wife and kids alone. Horror of horrors! How dare Woods tell the media to back off from his innocent family! Chipmunk wrote: “He does not seem to grasp that his misadventurous lifestyle invited the paparazzi’s lens.”
Well..NO. It. Doesn’t. Not in Chipmuk’s lifetime. Only a sick, depraved piece of worthless nothingness without a real life or character of his own would think that Tiger Woods’ family is fair game because Woods supposedly “invited… the lens.” For that matter, no, Woods did not even invite the lens on himself, much less his family. It is not Chipmunk’s business, or the business of any of ours, what Tiger Woods does in private as long as Woods keeps it private. He may be a scummy sex fiend. So what? That is between Woods, his family, and whatever higher power he may recognize (or not recognize).
How many NBA and NFL players do the same sorts of things Woods has done? Why is it okay for them, but not for him? The truth is that is is normatively NOT okay for any of them; it is awful; but again, it is a private sort of awful that is not for us to judge, and certainly not for us to investigate and splash all over the news pages and airwaves. Tiger Woods owed us NOTHING except when he is properly in public: He owes his fans some friendliness, and he owes the game better self-control over his club tossing and his F-bombs and his scowls and his occasional other examples of boorishness. but his sex life, no matter how sleazy (unless he breaks the law or assaults somebody) should be nobody’s business but his own and his aggrieved family’s.
As usual, Jack Nicklaus had the best response, early on after the scandal broke, when he was asked about it. “That’s none of my business,” Nicklaus said, and he was right. Woods owes nothing to the Chipmunks of the world. Yes, he should apologize to children who idolized him, but that’s it.
If I were Tiger Woods (which I wouldn’t be, because I would never behave like he has), here’s what I would have been tempted to say, short and sweet, rather than taking 13 minutes to try to hit all the “right,” expected notes:
“Hi. I have only a few things to say. First, I apologize to parents who encouraged their children to admire or even idolize me, and to the children who did. I am unworthy, and will try to do better. Second, I deny without any reservation every single bit of the rumors that my wife Elin attacked me on the night in question or in any other way did anything that caused my accident. To say otherwise is slander. Third, I deny categorically that I ever, in any way, shape or form, took any illegal or unethical or even shady performance-enhancng drugs, treatments, or assistance. What I have accomplished on the golf course, I did through hard work. Period. Fourth, I realize now that in the times and places where I am rightly in public, I have not always behaved in ways that honor the game I love. The golf course is a place of integrity and honor and sportsmanship and a place where behavior must be at the highest level. I will try to behave better there.
“Finally, I have one last word, to the media, to the scandalmongers, and, frankly, to everybody who would demand any other answers from me or any other explanations or apologies: Nope. I will not go there. Everything else is between me and my family. Period. If you have nothing better to do with your life than to obsess about my private life, you are pathetic. I do not owe you a press conference. I do not owe you a photo op. I do not owe you anything. Go away. Leave me alone. Even more importantly, leave my family alone. Immediately. They are innocent. You are not. You are scavengers. You are parasites. You do not know the difference between public and private. I am an athlete, period. I am not somebody elected to hold a public trust. I will not dignify you with any self-psychologizing in public, no public expressions of my private shame, no other information. It is none of your business. None of your business. None of your business.
“And if you think it is, you are sadly mistaken. Go live your own lives. Let me live mine, and work on improving mine, in private. This is what I demand. And this is all you will ever get from me on these topics. Ever. Go away. Now.”
There, that would take just 2 1/2 minutes rather than 13. And it would tell the media parasites where they can go. Which is what they should be told. And, I dare say, it would be widely applauded by the public.