Commentary

Raining on Tiger Woods' charade

He won't take questions, he won't face a challenge and he won't accomplish anything

Originally Published: February 18, 2010
By Jemele Hill | ESPN.com

I have no idea why Tiger Woods wants to waste everyone's time with this charade of a "news conference" Friday morning.

This will be the first time in months that the public has seen or heard from Woods since a bizarre one-car accident over the Thanksgiving weekend lifted the curtain on his tawdry personal life and sent him into hiding.

But if this news conference is Tiger's way of accepting responsibility for his actions, he's made a horrible miscalculation. Friday's session will come off as nothing more than a glorified public service announcement.

In a real news conference, the media can ask questions. In this one, none are allowed. A real news conference is open to all accredited media. In this one, only hand-selected members of the press get to watch as Woods reads a prepared statement into the one camera permitted in the room.

Tiger Woods
AP Photo/Eric Risberg)A simple statement to a select group of media representatives isn't likely to gain Tiger much credibility.

You don't signal to the public that you want to make amends and then construct an environment in which you're never challenged about what exactly you're making amends for. I believe I'm speaking for mothers everywhere when I say this: If you're going to do something halfway, why even bother to do it all?

Unlike a lot of people, I don't believe Woods owes the media, fans or curious onlookers an explanation about why he engaged in extramarital affairs. Woods doesn't owe the media a question-and-answer session. He doesn't owe America an embarrassing, in-depth interview with Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer or Oprah. He doesn't owe the public any more statements on his Web site.

All he owes us is great golf. The rest we should leave to our imaginations.

But if Tiger's plan is to "address" the media so it will get off his back, this news conference certainly won't accomplish that. In fact, all it will do is make the media even more adamant in its attempts to expose Woods as a fraud.

Many of my colleagues have always hated the fact that they are at Woods' mercy when it comes to access. By holding a news conference and not allowing them to ask questions, he is rubbing the media's nose in the fact that -- despite his crumbling public image -- things are still on his terms and not the other way around.

A superstar athlete's arrogance and the media's pettiness always make for a dangerous combination. Just ask Barry Bonds. Whatever benefit of the doubt Tiger used to receive from the media should be long gone. Even if he reads the most apologetic, heartfelt statement in the history of the world on Friday, it won't satisfy some people, and more than likely the majority of the media will rip him for being too cowardly to step outside of a controlled environment.

In fact, there already is nothing for Woods to gain in the court of public opinion on Friday, because his unwillingness to answer questions already has people questioning his sincerity.

So again, why bother?

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods
AP Photo/Ng Han GuanThe shadow of his return to the PGA Tour will hover over Tiger's appearance Friday.

This ill-advised tactic shouldn't surprise anyone. Tiger has been playing this situation wrong from the beginning. One of his problems is that he is too obsessed with his public image. The only people Tiger should care about making amends with are his family and his sponsors. And that could be handled privately.

Once it was clear he wasn't severely injured in the accident outside his home, the only message Tiger should have sent is this: No matter how many women come out and claim to have slept with him, whatever is or isn't going on inside his home is none of our business.

Tiger didn't commit a crime. He didn't dishonor the game (though we can't say the same about his marriage vows). He's a public figure who cheated on his wife, and in case anyone hasn't noticed, that's been done by plenty of politicians, and by other athletes.

Tiger's best course of action has always been to return to golf as soon as possible and let everything else play itself out. His self-imposed exile seems senseless and unnecessarily dramatic. Kobe Bryant was accused of rape and potentially faced a lengthy prison term, but he held a news conference before the charges against him were dropped and admitted that he was guilty of cheating on his wife. Then he played through the turmoil. Had he disappeared like Tiger did, the scrutiny and speculation would have only intensified.

Tiger apparently didn't get that memo, and instead has made himself a hostage to the tabloids. Now he's trying to regain some control, but it's too late for that.

I understand Woods might have used this break to put some order back in his life -- there have been numerous reports that he spent part of this time seeking treatment for sex addiction -- but he seems to have forgotten that the reason he reached iconic status in the first place is because he's an excellent golfer, not because he's the husband of the year.

He should have returned to the PGA Tour long before now. Tiger's return was never going to be easy, because he isn't accustomed to such intense coverage of his off-the-course life by the tabloids and other outlets, and no matter what, some golf fans were going to find his reported behavior so offensive that they will no longer want any part of Team Tiger.

You can't please everybody, and that's just the way celebrity works. Half the people love you; the other half hate your guts. It's too bad Tiger is spending so much time concerning himself with the wrong half.

Jemele Hill can be reached at jemeleespn@gmail.com.

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