Woods takes first step toward new image
Friday, February 19, 2010
- Yes 48%
- No 39%
- Undecided 13%
1047 total votes.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – I’m not a therapist, nor do I play one in Mississippi, but my first thought after Tiger Woods’ 14-minute re-entry statement was this: If he rereads and believes and acts out the many excellent introspective points he made, he’ll become a highly evolved and changed man.
Actions, not words, will determine that.
He’s already aware of that. His wife let him know.
“As Elin pointed out to me, my real apology to her will not come in the form of words,” Woods said at the TPC Sawgrass in his first public appearance since a Thanksgiving accident led to revelations of infidelity and an indefinite leave of absence. “It will come from my behavior over time.”
His focus on soul rebuilding rather than a golf return indicates a good start. In-patient therapy at a rehabilitation center tends to signal someone is trying to improve. We know he’s going back to rehab tomorrow; we don’t know when he’ll play golf again.
The priority apparently is to save his family life, not win a 15th major at the Masters. The priority apparently is to fix himself, not his golf swing. To find himself, not his tee ball.
Sincerity also derives from actions.
“In therapy I’ve learned the importance of looking at my spiritual life and keeping in balance with my professional life,” he said. “I need to regain my balance and be centered so I can save the things that are most important to me – my marriage and my children.”
During the repetitive, scripted speech, Woods seemed heartfelt much of the time, too staged and robotic at times and angry when addressing what he called family badgering and inaccurate reporting by tabloid Rottweilers.
Specifically, Woods used the word “I” 108 times, “me” 33 times, “Elin” 10 times, “behavior” nine, a form of “apology” eight, “wife” seven and “family” six. Generally, he was more candid than I thought he might be, given the controlled nature of a session in which questions were not allowed.
We learned he is sorry for letting so many people down with his irresponsible and selfish behavior. We learned he spent 45 days in therapy and is headed back tomorrow. We learned he wants to be a born-again Buddhist after having lost his way. We learned he wants to change. We learned he is introspective like never before.
“I have a lot of work to do and I intend to dedicate myself to doing it,” he said. “I will continue to receive help because I’ve learned that’s how people really do change. . . . My failures have made me look at myself in a way I never wanted to before.”
Woods clearly was at his best during the speech not when apologizing, not when harping on the media, not when preaching about privacy. He was at his human best when he basically answered this question: “How do you explain your actions that led to the scandal and sabbatical?”
Never have seen him more candid.
“I was unfaithful,” he said. “I had affairs. I cheated. What I did is not acceptable, and I am the only person to blame. I stopped living by the core values I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. Instead I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by.
“I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them. I was wrong. I was foolish. I don’t get to play by different rules.”
I’ve covered every major championship Woods has played in. I may have written more words about him than anyone this side of a wire-service reporter. And I’m here to tell you that that last block is the best quote ever from Tiger Woods.
He said he believes the tenet that “it’s not what you achieve in life that matters; it’s what you overcome.”
Woods also would be served by a couple of other principles.
It has been said, too, that mattering most is not what happens to you or how you react to what happens to you, but how you choose to react.
It has been said that it’s more important to be happy than right. And more important to be kind than right.
More prone to be stubborn than giving over the years, he has part of that down.
“I am the one who needs to change,” he said. “I owe it to my family to become a better person. I owe it to those closest to me to become a better man. That’s where my focus will be.”
Touring pro Notah Begay, his friend since their college golf days at Stanford, said he sees a budding transformation.
“It’s tough to get any man in America just to go to marriage counseling, let alone go into a 45-day rehabilitation,” said Begay, one of about 40 friends and associates in attendance. “He’s trying to learn about the thought processes that caused the actions so he can cut them off next time.”
There were missteps in the Woods address. He mentioned far too early – six paragraphs into re-entry from sex scandal – that his foundation has helped kids for 13 years. And he might have been better served making a sincere plea with tabloid journalists rather than harshly condemning them.
“Contrite” and “contrive” are one letter off. We got both in 14 minutes.
At the end, we got a plea for forgiveness, a sniffle, hugs for friends and a wiping of the face as he exited stage right.
Even though skeptics might say he looked too scripted, even though there was no Q&A, even though the event was highly orchestrated, even though his moods shifted, the address helped him.
This was a start. As with repairing a soul, rebuilding an image is a process.