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Taming Tiger

Mar 4, 2010

by Vanessa Horwell

After watching Tiger’s mea culpa, I sort of wish he hadn’t broken his silence — contrary to what I would advise clients in times of crisis.

Why? Because he broke the spell for me — and no doubt millions of others. While I’ve never been a Tiger fanatic, his reputation for prowess, razor-sharp mental focus and determination was what set him apart from other more “human” celebrities and athletes. This was a man who was intensely private — after all, he was able to hide his extensive philandering for how many years?

We saw this man screw up, literally and figuratively, and descend into a self-imposed recovery period to sort his mess out — away from the public’s insatiable appetite for scandal, idol destruction and celebrity demise. But that’s not the problem.

Now, he’s brought his life into the open again, into the public domain for its forgiveness and his eventual resurrection. For a guy used to hitting laser-like drives onto fairways, his was definitely an “out of bounds” ball or that almost forbidden word for most golfers …”a shank.”

Tiger’s public statement was terrible on any number of counts, but I’ll explore only two here.

Greater golfer, lousy speaker

Listening to his “I’m sorry I’m sorry” speech, it became painfully obvious why Tiger’s previous statements were posted on his website and not YouTube — Tiger is one lousy speaker. What that man needs is some media training, not rehab.

Paradoxically, although he’s been in the public spotlight for years, he’s most definitely not a public speaker – his on-course intensity bled into his public persona. And that was okay before because his controlled and emotionless voice was part of that persona and enmeshed with the rock-solid Tiger brand. But not anymore, not now he’s exposing his dirty laundry for the world to see. What we saw unravel before our eyes was a lame, emotionless forgive-me-for-I-have sinned apology which did not gel or feel authentic. Tiger is not sorry for what he’s done to me, or to my husband who loves golf — because he hasn’t actually done anything to personally affect or harm us. He’s not sorry to you, or the person next to you.

Who Tiger should be sorry to are the sponsors that have invested millions and millions into his brand, his bank account and, of course, his family. So why is a public apology necessary then? To make him feel better, to absolve his actions and shed some of the guilt?

We don’t need to hear or see anything that personal or private. Really, we don’t. We have enough of that “reality” already.

What resulted from Tiger’s statement was a media circus, with news hounds and talk show hosts dissecting every soundbite, adding their own spin or interpretation to it — a bit like what I’m doing right now. Something to fill a slow news day and little else. In my mind, all that Tiger’s apology succeeded in doing was to feed the media beast and prolong our unhealthy obsession with sinners and rehab, not change the public’s opinion of him — which was the intention, I’m sure.

Which brings me to my next point.

Sex addiction? Spare me, please

We all have issues, we all screw up, say sorry and move on. Some of us repeat our mistakes, most of us learn from them. But so many “issues” we seem to have developed over the past three decades have spawned from a need to pigeonhole what is inherently defective human behavior. Can’t concentrate? You have ADD. Can’t stop yourself from getting sloshed every night? You are a drunk. Can’t keep your knickers on? You are a sex addict.

I am certainly not a qualified medical profession (although I slept at a Holiday Inn once) but I don’t think Tiger is a sex addict. I don’t even know if that is really an addiction — humans have been grappling with lust and sexual urges since Adam and Eve. It’s not even listed in the DSM, the standard diagnostic manual for psychiatric disorders. In my humble opinion, sex addiction has become the exclusive purview of entitled, spoilt rich brats — and anyone else wanting to avoid a very expensive, I’m-taking-you-to-the-cleaners-for-everything divorce.

Moral and scientific arguments aside, who are we to judge if Tiger has become a better man? Better still, why should we care?

People cheat. People crash cars. Tiger isn’t the first golfer/man/human to do it, and he won’t be the last.

Taming Tiger is a job left best to his wife, and perhaps his mother, but not the public. Leave us out of your mess, please, and be quiet. Because in Tiger’s case, silence really is golden.

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