During each and every meticulous, world-stopping moment of Tiger Woods’ 13 minute and 29 second press statement on Friday, Kultida Woods, the mother of the beast, stared at the floor.
This is unimportant though—because of the millions of other viewers of the speech, not one other person could move their eyes away.
Woods’ speech was, for the first time in the history of his voice, captivating. The most visible athlete on the planet held such a large audience’s attention because Woods spoke to all audiences.
He bashed the paparazzi for aggressively tracking his family. He called out the media for spreading rumors about his wife, denying that Elin ever attacked him with a golf club the night of the car accident. Then he apologized to his wife, to all those who have supported his charity foundation, and to families and parents who revered him as a role model.
He apologized to everyone. Tiger Woods looked through the camera and directly into his audience with his understandably rehearsed, but by no means disingenuous, shaky, shamed eyes and set the tone for the speech right from the start, in the second paragraph of the address.
“I want to say to each of you, simply and directly, I am deeply sorry.” Tiger Woods goes personal.
When it comes down to it, I don’t really care whether his camera performance seemed sincere, or whether his stage presence was up to par, or whether Elin was in the audience. All this stuff that filled the airtime and word counts of pundits and critics all weekend as they gave their commentary on the situation is not important.
Of course his wife wasn’t there; Tiger made it clear that she is tired of being in front of the camera.
And of course the performance may not have had the Hollywood, Oscar empathy and sincerity that people were looking for. Woods has always been socially awkward both with his words and actions. His Stanford golf teammates called him Urkel. His commercials show him being awesome on the golf course, not giving awesomely bad gifts at a Christmas party. Tiger Woods is not Charles Barkley or Peyton Manning.
What I care about is Woods’ purpose—and the purpose revealed a Tiger that is as radical of a character shift in any public figure since Tiger’s last shift, from prolific, lofty golf legend to shady golf star party boy.
This time, Woods moves to something that people have wanted him to be since the beginning of time: a man who wants to be a role model.
Throughout his entire career, disregarding completely any whisper of sex scandal or marital abuse, Woods has never been the personality that people want him to be. He has long been criticized for not being fan-friendly enough, for being dull and closed to the media, and for being just generally not as publicly ambivalent and endearing as the world’s richest, most visible athlete should be.
Lately, his on-course ethics themselves have even come under fire from writers and golf greats alike, most prominently Tom Watson, who bashed Woods’ antics in a Joe Posnanski article for Sports Illustrated that has gotten major play in the media.
All of this criticism is pretty much valid. I know a golf writer for a major publication who bluntly states that Woods has done way less than he could with his platform in terms of being an ambassador for the game of golf.
Woods has been a very private golf champion. He has never actively pursued the worldly role model role. It’s come naturally, but that’s the only way it’s come, and that’s probably the only way it would ever come considering who Tiger is and how he has always positioned himself.
But this all changed Friday morning, in a matter of 13 minutes and 29 seconds.
Tiger’s speech was the first major, clear representation of him actually caring about being looked up to and being sanctified. His words were some of the first hints of his life that Woods respected the fact that people count on him.
“Achievements on the golf course are only part of setting an example. Character and decency are what really count. Parents used to point to me as a role model for their kids.”
These are the words that matter. Not his apologies, but his acknowledgements. Tiger Woods is realizing now what is asked of Tiger Woods, what has always been asked of Tiger Woods: not to be the greatest golfer in the world, but to also be the greatest sports icon in the world.
If he understands this, then his speech was successful. Because really, this is what everyone cares about. We don’t truly care so much that he respects his wife as much as we care that he respects us. It’s not as much an issue of Woods being a good husband to Elin, but being a good hero and a good idol to us and our youth.
What matters even more is that these acknowledgments seem to be motivating Woods to take action. Finally. The words that echo in the room as the speech closes are this: “I ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again.”
Not that he wants the world to forgive him. Tiger Woods wants the world to believe in him.
And that is revolutionary.
Originally posted at that Tosten Burks Tumblr that is all the rage with the youngens.