The League

Michael Kun

Michael Kun

Co-author of The Football Uncyclopedia. He is also the author of six other books and is a practicing attorney.

Tiger Owes Us Nothing


By the time you are likely reading this, Tiger Woods will already have come out of hiding and made the public apology that we've all been anticipating since the night he crashed his car, from which his wife tried to extricate him by smashing in the windows with one of his clubs. Fortunately for Woods, because of his profession, a golf club was the handiest item around at the time. Had he been a lumberjack, he might not be around today to make an apology. (And no jury in the world would have convicted his wife, by the way.)

Once he's finished apologizing, everyone with even a peripheral connection to the world of sports will start breaking down his apology, syllable by syllable, backwards and forwards, analyzing it like the Zapruder film. (Note to anyone who isn't familiar with the Zapruder film: pay more attention in history class.)

We did the same thing last spring with Alex Rodriguez's apology. Then it was Michael Vick. Then Donte' Stallworth. We just did it weeks ago with Mark McGwire's apology. And we will spend even more time analyzing Woods' apology because, well, he's Tiger Woods.

To whom did he apologize first?
Did he apologize to fans before apologizing to sponsors, or after?
Did he apologize to the people at Buick before the people at Gatorade?
Whom did he include?
Whom did he exclude?
His wife's family?
Other golfers?
The women with whom he had affairs?
Was he sufficiently somber?
Did he take enough responsibility?
Did he deflect blame?
Did he talk about "what I did," which indicates responsibility, or about "what happened," which doesn't?

Hours upon hours will be dedicated to this analysis. Heck, the Internet might actually shut down. And, ultimately, the whole analysis will be a meaningless one. Every word that Woods utters will have been scripted by a public relations firm, and rewritten by another public relations firm, then vetted by three more public relations firms and four law firms. His dentist might also be given a crack at it, too. He will have rehearsed his comments frequently, before a different public relations firm and maybe some of his sponsors.

We will get from Woods what we always get when athletes come forward with their public mea culpas -- some else's version of what the mea culpa should be. Someone else's words, not Woods', to convey not what he feels, but what will "play" the best with the public. We will have no more idea afterward what Tiger Woods is feeling and thinking than we do now because he will merely be parroting back someone else's slick and carefully chosen words. And do you know what? That's more than what we deserve. A lot more.

Here is a simple truth: Athletes don't owe us anything. Tiger Woods doesn't owe us one damn thing. And among the many things he doesn't owe us is an apology. He didn't do anything to us. Not a thing. And before you start talking about lost innocence, or faith in mankind, or some other vague concept, please stop. I'm tired of hearing a bunch of 40-year-old men talk about how Tiger Woods (or some other athlete) has somehow injured them because they supported him, and rooted for him, and bought the products he endorsed, only to have that all thrown away by learning that he wasn't perfect after all. Grow up already.

If you thought Tiger Woods was perfect because that was the image that was marketed to you, that's your problem. And if you bought products or watched him play because you thought he was perfect, that's your problem, too. If you thought that pro athletes were perfect, that they didn't make mistakes, that they didn't have problems, there's something wrong with you. Haven't you been paying attention?

Mickey Mantle had a drinking problem and was a womanizer. Michael Vick was involved in dog fighting. Mike Tyson raped a woman. Mark McGwire took steroids for a decade or more. And those are just the ones whose first names start with "M."

Athletes are flawed, just like we all are. In fact, they're often more flawed. This shouldn't be news to you.

Unless an athlete spits in your face, or pushes you, or steals your girlfriend, he doesn't owe you an apology. (And that's only generally speaking, because if he spit in your face because you cursed at him, pushed you because you were pushing him, or stole your girlfriend because you treated her poorly, then he doesn't owe you an apology at all.)

Tiger Woods owes an apology to his wife. He owes an apology to his children, and his family, and his wife's family. He owes an apology to his sponsors.That's it. And he should be allowed to make those apologies however and whenever he wants, in private. He owes us nothing. Nada. Nothing. Zip. Zilch.

In fact, it is my sincere hope that Tiger Woods looks right into the camera says something like this:

"My name is Eldrick Woods. As you know, I did something terrible to my wife and my family. I'm ashamed of myself, and ashamed of what I did to the people I love most in the world. God knows I'm not the first person to have an affair. Statistics say that a huge percentage of those of you watching right now have had affairs, or will have affairs. And if you do, I hope you'll recognize what a terrible thing you've done and apologize to your husband or your wife as often as you need to in order to regain their trust. And if you do have an affair, you don't need to apologize to me. Just like I'm not going to apologize to you. I hurt my wife. I did something terrible to my wife. And I've apologized to her, and I will continue to apologize to her for the rest of our lives, if she'll let me. I'll do it every day, but I'll do it privately. I am going to take the next year off to spend with my wife and children. Then I'll decide whether I want to come back and play golf again. Maybe I will. Maybe I won't. But until I decide, I'm going to spend all my time with my favorite people in the world -- my wife and my children -- and let some other people win some tournaments. Goodbye."

I'm not a golf fan, not by a long shot. But if Tiger Woods actually said that, I'd become a Tiger Woods fan. But there's not a public relations firm in the world that would let him say that, even if it's what he truly feels. And that's a shame.

By Michael Kun  |  February 19, 2010; 6:12 AM ET  | Category:  Crime , Donte Stallworth , Michael Vick , Roger Goodell Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: The Tiger Woods apology | Next: Apologies mean nothing


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Brilliant Michael, simply brilliantly put. It's none of our business. We need to have expectations of persons in OUR own lives and not those in the public. I hope that he does live up to his own family's expectations now - it's a long journey to regain their trust and respect - but it is possible.

Posted by: LIZHEN | February 19, 2010 11:45 AM

You are the greatest writer ever. Thank You for this TRUTHFUL column!

Posted by: RealPacerFan | February 19, 2010 5:36 PM

OK this is the word. Thank you Michael Kun
Somebody turn out the lights and close the door.

Posted by: 2belinda | February 19, 2010 11:46 PM

Thanks for writing this great editorial. The fact is people on TV are flattened characters. What we see is not who they are. We need to know why we watch them.

In Tiger's case we watched him for his golf skills, not his moral values. If his moral values bother you, don't watch him play golf.

It's time Americans got their pointy, Puritanical noses out of people's private lives. This obsession with who's sleeping with whom is disgusting. Tiger could sleep with 1,000 women and he's still a great golfer...a divorced dirtbag, but still a great golfer.

He doesn't owe me an apology.

Posted by: arancia12 | February 20, 2010 12:55 AM

It's about time someone stated the obvious. I have no idea why sportswriters or the public think that athletes owe us anything, except to do their best on the field.

Posted by: alnegin | February 20, 2010 8:50 AM

Thank you, thank you! This is EXACTLY right. I've said for years that anyone looking to athletes as role models is too dumb to live. They're people like anyone else, and their personal lives should be just that--personal.

Posted by: 1toughlady | February 20, 2010 9:12 AM

as usually, it is political event. Of course, this article is having the right point of view, but Tiger Woods used this apology to gain political capital. It is no coincidence, beyond any doubts, that his praise to Buddism
came at the time of Dalai Lama visit and fast crippling relations with China. Politics, as usually. I, sincerely, do not think that this entire story deserves so much attention, as it has gotten.

Posted by: aepelbaum | February 20, 2010 9:45 AM

Of course an athlete’s character is relevant. In spite of an athlete’s talent, their character determines how the public honors their "on field" performance. Why is Pete Rose not in the Hall of Fame? It isn't due to his lack of talent. Why is Body Miller being allowed to perform without constantly being lectured on his off slope conduct during these Olympic Games? He is keeping a low profile and his mouth shut. Wood's isn't on the payroll of all the companies he endorses just because of his performance on the links; a high powered PR effort was made to create his lost squeaky clean image. Many of the products he endorses depend on a spokesperson who is viewed to have a strong moral center, and Tiger sold them a defective product. While most of the fans who idolize him for his physical prowess, there are also many who are still disappointed by the fact that Tiger Boy's image was a chimera, a fantasy. Given his dishonesty in his personal relationships, can we be sure that he has never fudged a scorecard or moved a ball to get a better lie? What else is phony about him? Is what he did thought to be less onerous by sports fans than was Pete’s gambling? If this is true, then this is an indication of the underlying misogyny of fans; women are dime a dozen bimbos to be used, abused and then tossed aside. This would be the only rationale for thinking his off links antics don’t really matter.

Posted by: csintala79 | February 20, 2010 10:24 AM

He's a guy. He's a celebrity. He has money. If his behavior is a surprise to anyone, they're not paying attention or they're not a guy. Poor, non-celebrities also have affairs. If you like watching him play golf and win tournaments, that's what matters. I despise our hypocritical society for holding celebrities, politicians, and others in the public eye to a higher standard of behavior than they themselves would observe, given the chance.

Posted by: maxinea | February 20, 2010 10:57 AM

I agree that athletes private lives should not be made public. I really do not want to hear about it. That said, the athletes have sold themselves to sponsors and have become -- I hate this term -- "brands." So now they not only have to be good athletes, but comport themselves with whatever moral code or image their corporate sponsors dictate -- basically thet have to be good corporate citizens. I only wish we could go back to the days when athletes were just athletes, not spokespeople and philanthropists. Babe Ruth was a notorious drinker and womanizer, and yet, no one cared. He had no corporate sponsors (he had nothing to do with the candy bar) and his only job was the play great baseball.

Posted by: alonzoQuijana | February 20, 2010 12:53 PM

Amen. If anything, he shouldn't even bother to apologize to his sponsors. Most guys would never buy a Buick just because Tiger Woods drives one, but if guys thought it was the Buicks that made him successful with women, you'd sell more cars, not less.

Posted by: hatchlaw | February 20, 2010 4:00 PM

Now tell us what we owe him? I think it is the same...nothing at all. Whatever he "gave" us we paid for, albeit indirectly. I have only one problem with this piece. Woods did not "have an affair". He solicited and paid for tons of prostitute beef. That was classless, not a simple moral lapse.It should embarrass his sponsors and the PGA to be associated with him. Do THEY owe him anything? NO! He has lots of dough and time on his hands. He should maybe go away a while and think this throuigh. I wish him well but that press conference was staged babble.

Posted by: MyCut | February 20, 2010 4:42 PM

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