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Sometimes it is best to just say nothing, even if you're Tiger Woods

February 19, 2010 | 10:00 am

Tiger You have to wonder why Tiger Woods even bothered. For three months, as his sex scandal unfolded, as the army of his mistresses amassed and his sponsors dutifully retreated, Woods refused to make any sort of public statement beyond an angry insistence that this was a private matter and everyone should just leave him and his family alone. Although this attitude seemed at best naïve and at worst hypocritical — if you’re going to make money off an exemplary public persona, you should probably not commit serial adultery — it at least made some sort of sense. Woods was going to control his downfall with the same iron grip that propelled him into fame in the first place.

But today he caved — to public outcry, to media bashing, to corporate pressure, to badgering from the PGA. Whoever he was seeking to placate with his non-press conference press conference, Woods did nothing more than reignite the news cycle. Blinking before an audience that included his mother, Woods’  words of apology were not so much scripted as carefully groomed to hit all the necessary talking points — he knows he hurt his family, he knows he failed as a role model, he knows he disappointed his friends, etc. Three months to think about things, and this is what we get -- nothing we haven’t heard before from a seemingly unending series of adulterous men. Even David Letterman, never the most emotional of men, seemed more genuinely remorseful. The only thing that set Woods apart was that his wife was mercifully not forced to stand there by an American flag.

But then that’s the risk you take when you wait so long to make your public statement — your wife has had enough time to absorb the shock and get her own lawyer.

It’s hard to see Woods’ apology as anything more than a necessary step toward getting him back on the green where he can start winning things and making people money, which will allow everyone to forget that he is not the kind of guy you want your daughter to date. Certainly, Americans should know by now that expecting a professional athlete to exemplify anything other than physical talent and immense dedication to same is a dangerous habit. Parents seeking a role model for their child should probably look to people who have not posed shirtless in Vanity Fair. 

Still, it would have been nice if Woods had seemed more genuine — the only real emotion he seemed to be experiencing was anger at the media, and a general air of irritated resignation at having to make this statement in the first place. Which, of course, he did not. The world would have gone on turning without a prepared statement from Tiger Woods. But unless Woods is planning to retire, to embrace a truly private life, then going out there with a “I’m saying this and then I’m not saying anything more” is just ridiculous and disingenuous.

This is all part of the game, as he well knows. Today and tomorrow, it will be Tiger Woods 24/7 and you can’t help but think that’s exactly how he likes it.

--Mary McNamara

Photo: Tiger Woods photographed on July 2, 2009. Credit: Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP file photo.