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Necessary and done. That’s the briefest best I’ve got for Tiger Woods’ press conference yesterday. Over-rehearsed some say. Under-rehearsed is more like it. My professional assessment is that he gave it three or four out-loud run-throughs. Double that would be about right. Good rehearsal means you’ve arrived at the point where you embody the message. You are the speech and the speech is you.
To those who criticize his having a speechwriter work with him, I think he’d be crazy not to. He’s a golfer not a rhetorician. He needs to control his own message in this venue and not be making rambling, off-the-cuff remarks, as car-wreck fascinating as that might be.
While the speech itself could definitely have been a bit shorter and tighter, the challenge to the speechwriter is to make it long enough that it feels substantive and complete. The audience wants some sense of satisfaction once it comes to an end. Because he wasn’t allowing Q & A (very wise) and because 70 days have gone by with no word from him, Tiger’s apology had to be long enough and meaty enough to satisfy the circling, salivating media and the general public. What’s unfortunate is that he wasn’t quite “one” enough with the message to sustain a fourteen-minute apology. He didn’t elicit a whole lot of empathy, so having him up there for so long gave the viewer more time find reasons to dislike him or not believe him.
A few specific thoughts on the spectacle:
Simple language. Dumbed down? Maybe a bit, but it was clear and understandable and certainly didn’t contribute to a perception that Tiger is stuck-up or elitist. He may be, but the speech draft wasn’t.
Tightly controlled. Only a handful of journalists were allowed, and there were just two camera angles. Fine. He needed to control this.
Remorse. The apologies themselves seemed genuine. Those were the real moments in the speech. It all came down to the gulp and the “I am so sorry.”
Sorry vs. sorry I got caught. I’ll opt out on this one. Judge not and all. He is truly sorry about something.
The mother. She looked genuinely upset. At times, she couldn’t even make eye contact with her son. And she seemed to get more out of the hug at the end than he did.
The ladies. What’s this nonsense about how he should have apologized to the women? No, no. Definitely no. Not publicly anyway. To do so indicates he had an emotional relationship with them. Let them whine and spew, “he lied to me” to extend their two minutes of fame, but no, he does not want to treat them as former partners in loving, caring relationships. I know that may sound harsh. By not doing so he keeps them right where he should—as co-participants in meaningless sex. Keeping it strictly about the physical act makes his sex addiction therapy and hopeful recovery more credible.
Buddhism. One word: what? Brit Hume probably isn’t sleeping any better knowing Tiger was raised with and is returning to this set of principles and beliefs. The injection of Buddhism felt rather forced. It is his mother’s religion and despite what he said about returning to it, I’m guessing it is… his mother’s religion.
The no-Elin factor. In terms of his getting his career and reputation back on track, yes, it would have been advantageous to have her there. If, however, she is angry, emotional and unable to pull off the forgiving, supportive partner role, then better not to have her there. Her every expression and every twitch during his remarks would be scrutinized. Unless she could really do it well, leave her out of it and contain the damage. On a side note, were I Elin’s personal PR counsel, then I’d say she’s increasing her own chits in the public-opinion goodwill bank by not appearing. She had a couple of options in this whole mess – jump right into the muck and help her honey climb out or take the reserved, silent approach and wait it out. Both are valid. She picked B. I hope it works for her.
The clunker line. “Elin has shown enormous grace and poise. Elin deserves praise, not blame.” Who is blaming Elin? Blame seems to be squarely directed at Tiger these days. His behavior is what dragged his wife and kids into paparazzi frenzy. And praise? Is he asking the media and the public to praise her? For what exactly? How about just leave her be? She doesn’t seem to be asking for praise. She seems to want to be left alone.
Huh 1. The performance-enhancing-drugs comment seemed a bit out of place. Not terrible, just a little odd.
Huh 2. “There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our marriage.” This comment was probably not necessary for a multitude of reasons. And call me totally cynical, but it seems within the realm of plausible that Camp Elin wanted the lines about domestic violence and her deserving praise included. Who knows, I’m just saying I could believe it.
Huh 3. For a man who has devoted himself to himself and to the sport of golf, his comment about wanting to return the favor someday and help others in therapy rang hollow. Maybe best to just work on removing the stick in his own eye.
The limping end. Believing in Tiger again….yeah, don’t know that I care whether or not I do.
This strange tale could go anywhere from here, but I’m guessing Tiger will drop out of sight for another 60 days or so, emerge with a few brief comments about his personal life and make known his plans regarding golf. And then he should stay tidy and focused. Forever.