Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tiger Woods: Kabuki Theater

The strangest 15 minutes ever:

In his first public appearance after the November head-on collision of his squeaky clean image and an unsavory secret life, Tiger Woods was somber in expressing remorse, stern in scolding the news media for stalking his family and reporting untruths, and spiritual in saying he had drifted from the Buddhist principles he was taught as a child.

In front of about 40 inner-circle people that included his mother, Kultida, but not his wife, Elin, along with a national television audience, Woods made his most direct statement about admitted infidelities in his marriage.
If you haven't watched the "Saturday Night Live" like presser, you really owe it to yourself to sit through it. As Bill Simmons of ESPN put it, "it was a borderline train wreck."
Everything about it seemed staged. Everything. When the main camera broke down at the nine-minute mark and Tiger had to be shown from the side, I half-expected to see that he was plugged in to the wall.

I was going to leave it alone. After all, that had to have been a humiliating experience for the guy. But listening to talking heads praise that ludicrous speech pushed me over the edge. Someone actually said, "It came from the heart." It did? Was it C3PO's heart?

When we first saw the room in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., it looked like the set of a "Saturday Night Live" episode: small podium, blue curtain, some heads. The camera panned the crowd, revealing that there apparently had been an emergency casting call for somber white people in blazers. (Why didn't I get an invite? I own a blazer! I could have looked somber!)

I thought it was fascinating that he apologized to his business partners well before he apologized to [his] families.
And at the very end, things got even stranger when Woods went off on a Buddhist tangent, explaining the central tenets of his faith in the same sort of Wooden manner he went through his apology. Simmons again:
As Tiger said, "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." That's an understatement. If this is true, he's one of the worst Buddhists of all time.

He talked about needing more treatment, and about "the importance of looking at my spiritual life and keeping in balance with my professional life." (This sounded like it was written through one of those Russian-to-English translators.)
I dunno. I'm not suggesting that Tiger wasn't sincere. What bothers me most about the entire spectacle was the wall-to-wall coverage, the fact that people felt like they were "owed" an apology by Woods, and the fact that Woods felt like he "owed everyone" one.

Maybe we all need to be in Rehab. Not to be too un-academic here, but he's a professional golfer. An exceptional one, granted, but that's it. He hits a small little white ball around for a living and is paid exceptionally well for it, but at the end of the day he isn't leading us to war, curing cancer or ministering to the poor. His having affairs isn't remotely connected to what he does for a living (unlike, say, a moralizing politician or preacher who gets caught with his pants down, in which case the hypocrisy and scrutiny is warranted and should be addressed).

What he did or didn't do behind closed doors really is none of our business, yet for some reason we all feel, him included apparently, that it is.

The whole thing reminded me of another kabuki-style apology, almost exactly 22 years ago to the date: Jimmy Swaggart's "I Have Sinned" moment from 1988.

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