The Sports Sermon

February 25, 2010

Last Friday for 15 minutes, the world stopped for a press conference. There’s only one man in sports who has this sort of captivating power: Tiger Woods. This press conference was unlike any Woods had ever given, as he was returning back into the spotlight after two months of sex scandal-induced silence.

During these past two months, the sporting world has been rife with controversy and speculation as Woods experienced one of the quickest and steepest falls from grace in recent memory. Friday was Woods’ chance to tell us what happened, admit his guilt, and begin the long road back to golf and a stable personal life. Plain and simple, Tiger duffed this opportunity.

To begin, let’s examine the circumstances under which Woods held this conference. Woods announced early in the week that he would be breaking his silence in a Friday press conference. Woods himself would select which members of the media would attend and would take no questions. These controlling moves begin to show how Tiger has not learned much from his ordeal. In a speech where he was supposed to apologize and open himself back up to the world, he micromanaged the environment to such a degree that he would avoid any outside scrutiny or questioning. He wanted to come clean, but only on his own terms.

It is clear that Tiger’s previous lifestyle of extremely tight control and limited media access led to an environment in which he was able to get away with almost anything. The way he conducted his press conference showed that he is incapable of exposing himself to anything outside of his complete control.

The speech itself did little to make up for his poor choices surrounding the event. Woods entered a room with blue curtains all around, stood at a tiny podium, and then began his horribly slow and stunted prepared statement. Those thirteen minutes were a public speaking disaster. He progressed so slowly, at times seeming to pause or trip on words deliberately to indicate deep emotion. If he wanted to show emotion, he should have opened himself up to a more loosely outlined speech, allowing for moments of genuine remorse to come through naturally.

It appeared the time when emotion was actually present was when he went on the attack to chastise and dismiss all reports that his wife Elin somehow hurt or assaulted him this past Thanksgiving night. Normally, this would be a good move. However, the press is not to blame for the spread of these rumors.

Let’s take a look at the facts. In the early morning hours after Thanksgiving night, Tiger Woods crashed his car in his neighborhood subdivision. His neighbors found him asleep on the sidewalk wearing no shoes. The back windows of his car were smashed in and his wife was standing near him with a golf club. He then disappeared for 10 weeks without telling anyone what happened. Tiger should blame himself—or his publicist—for the extremely poor way the situation was handled and the resultant rumors, not the press who connected the pieces of the salacious puzzle.

Despite providing the perfect case study on how not to handle a damaging situation, all is not lost for Tiger Woods. One need only look to the example set by Kobe Bryant. After enduring a public relations nightmare brought on by adultery and rape allegations throughout the 2003-04 NBA season, he has been able to pull a complete 180 and return to the pinnacle of his profession.

The manner in which Woods handled this ordeal, including his Friday press conference, has put him in a deep hole. That being said, if anyone is capable of recovering from a rough start to return to the top, it’s Tiger.


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