Tiger Woods still believes this is not any of our business. In a perfect world, he would be correct. Because in that perfect Tiger Woods world, he would apologize to his wife, his children, the family members and friends whose lives he damaged with his actions, and then he would spend the rest of his days trying to rebuild bridges.
The problem: Tiger Woods doesn’t live in the perfect world. He lives in the real one. Because in the real world, he has hurt the sport of golf, the fans that follow it, the youth who idolize him, the sponsors that pay millions to support the PGA Tour, the networks that pay millions to broadcast it, and the other golfers who happily walk off the 18th green after completing a round of 65, only to face questions about Tiger and the porn star, or Tiger and the coffee shop waitress, or Tiger and the 12-step program to being satisfied with having a Swedish super model for a wife.
Two University of California-Davis economics professors recently estimated that stockholders of Nike, Gatorade and other Woods’ endorsement companies lost $5 billion to $12 billion in the wake of the sex scandal. That’s as public as it gets.
On Friday, Woods will speak. Sort of. For the first time since the National Enquirer broke Bimbogate nearly three months ago, Woods will hold a news conference. Except it won’t really be a news conference. There will be little news and no conference.
A few wire service reporters. A “small group of friends, colleagues and close associates.” One camera. Zero questions.
I’m having this visual of the Pope-mobile, with John Paul II waving from inside the walls of bullet-proof glass. Not that he had anything to answer to.
“A person of Woods’ stature needs to have a public dialogue,” said Sherri Fallin, a crisis management specialist at Duffey Communications. “The questions he might get [at a press conference] are very tough. But his communications people could prep him for that. To put yourself on the right track, you need to address the situation and have that two-way dialogue.
“This is America. Anyone can turn their reputations around. But you have to speak to the people. You have to be contrite and then talk the talk and walk the walk.”
Woods is all about image. That hardly makes him unique in the celebrity world. But he’s still trying to control the message, and it’s too late for that. Healing can’t begin if he keeps building walls around him.
Either he still hasn’t fully grasped reality, or his army of handlers dine at the same restaurant as Michael Vick’s defense team. Somebody’s still not getting it.
Golf needs Tiger Woods. He is sending the message it’s not the other way around.
His agent leaked word of the news conference during the first round of the Accenture Match Play Championship. His statement will take place during the third day of the tournament. Funny. Wasn’t Accenture the first company to drop Woods as an endorser? (For the record, Accenture said it was warned about the announcement. But that doesn’t explain the timing.)
Woods will read his statement from the clubhouse at the TPC Sawgrass, the Tour’s headquarters. But the PGA is mandating nothing in return.
“It’s selfish — you can write that,” Ernie Els told Golfweek. “I feel sorry for the sponsor. Mondays are a good day to make statements, not Friday. This takes a lot away from the golf tournament.”
On Thursday, Michael Buteau, the Atlanta-based sports writer for Bloomberg News, found himself rushing to the airport in Vancouver, where he was covering the Winter Olympics, to catch a marathon flight to Florida for Woods’ little gathering. “I’m missing men’s figure skating and luge skeleton,” he cracked by phone.
Buteau will be one of the select few in the room. But even he isn’t certain what he will get from it.
“They’ve said no questions during the press conference,” he said. “I don’t know if that means we can’t ask one after the formal part is over. … It seems very weird. But this entire story has been weird.”
In the perfect world, Woods’ infidelity is not our business. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Neither does Woods, even if he doesn’t seem to realize it.