The League

Dr. Matthew Prowler
Resident Psychiatrist

Dr. Matthew Prowler

Resident Psychiatrist at The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania

Humanizing Tiger


So here we are. It's almost become a cliché. The public mea culpa after a celebrity's fall from grace. It may not always be sufficient to heal a star's severely fractured image. But it certainly seems that it has become necessary.

Tiger's apology will be a tight public relations orchestration. A statement only -- no questions will be asked, likely few answered. But this moment has been anticipated for months -- the call for a public apology was immediate after the news broke in November.

Tiger was contrite in a written statement and asked for privacy. But his visual absence only seemed to fan the flames. People wanted him to take responsibility for his actions in front of the cameras. I was one of them. But why?

It's as if we feel owed a spectacle, tears, that moment of public shame, before we can forgive. Maybe it humanizes the figure? Or makes us feel better about ourselves? But public forgiveness, if it comes with time, does not mend his personal transgressions -- it does not ease the strain on his family.

But does it mean that he is a changed man?

Addiction treatments often refer to the Prochaska stages of change. Due to the unique nature of Woods' celebrity and his public relations nightmare, Tiger was forced to skip the conventional 'contemplation' and 'preparation' phases of change. He jumped straight from 'pre-contemplation' (not considering change or thinking there's a problem) to 'action' (specific overt modifications in behavior), with a recently completed rehab stay.

The idea is that maintaining change comes from successfully navigating through these stages. But Woods, since he was caught, fast-forwarded the process. He did not approach change willfully, but rather stumbled (or crashed) into it. How this will affect his 'recovery' is yet unclear.

But the public will likely never know if Woods is truly a changed man. The press conference is theater. And it's also a courtroom of public opinion -- when it comes to changing our perception of Woods, will we consider contemplation?

By Dr. Matthew Prowler  |  February 19, 2010; 11:19 AM ET  | Category:  Dr. Matthew Prowler Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Actions speak louder | Next: We're talking about cheating?


Please email us to report offensive comments.

I just want athletes to perform. I could care less what they do in their private lives. I just wish we could get back to the days when bad behavior was just overlooked by the media or we just accepted the individual as a human, a flawed human like the rest of us. Having moral role model in your job description is too much for any of us.

Posted by: alonzoQuijana | February 20, 2010 12:41 PM

After relentless demands from the media for a statement, Tiger Woods delivered one that was controlled an unemotional. So? I did not anticipate warmth and humility from a person who doesn't show those traits on a good day, and I wouldn't expect a stellar performance from anyone whose life has come crashing down around him. I can't begin to imagine facing TV cameras and the entire world to confess my sins. Give him time and space to put the shattered pieces of his life back together. In the meanwhile, think about this culture that pays millions of dollars to make athletes look superhuman.

Posted by: FromGeorgia | February 22, 2010 5:47 PM

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