So, did Tiger Woods finally turn the corner on his public relations problem with yesterday’s belated apology?
Did the statement answer all the questions about the crash… and the golf club… and the e-mails from the cocktail waitresses? No.
Was it too little too late? Sure.
Has Tiger permanently tarnished an up-to-now gold-plated reputation? Probably.
Did his statement satisfy the vultures calling for tiger blood? No way.
But it was at least an admission, delivered personally – albeit through his Web site -- by the world’s highest paid athlete that he had transgressed, that his marriage was in need of immediate repair, that he and his wife would try to work things out, and that he was -- despite common wisdom -- a human being who made mistakes (in this case, apparently, a real doozy!).
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is all anybody wanted to hear from the get-go – some credible explanation as to why the formerly-pristine Tiger crashed his car at two in the morning, thus activating round-the-clock scrutiny from the TMZ-National Enquirer-Us Weekly blight brigade.
And while the world’s greatest golfer may never again recapture the exemplary reputation that he enjoyed but a week ago, his statement of apology and acknowledgement of guilt have stemmed the bleeding.
And that’s what he needed to do.
To be sure, some will want him to 'fess up to everything. But most people – most important the folks at Nike and Gatorade and AT&T and EA Sports and Gillette and his other sponsors – will accept the admission and allow him to play – and earn – on.
The point is that now that Tiger has finally spoken out and effectively confronted the rumors with a big fat, albeit reluctant, “affirmative,” the story is now out. Presumably, there is little left to reveal, and the story will begin to subside. All that’s left is for the waitress-in-question to try to optimize her “10 minutes,” which she will likely do over the next few days. The bet here is that by late next week, the Tiger saga will be out of the papers and off the cable networks.
And Tiger, after a week in hell, will effectively be out of the woods.
The next “words” you’ll hear from Tiger will likely be on the golf course. If he wins, “all” will be forgiven. (Well, most, anyway.) Just ask Kobe Bryant or Charles Barkley or David Letterman, transgressors all, who bit the bullet, admitted their guilt, and are right back at it making millions.
Then a month or two or three down the road, look for a reconciled Tiger and Elin to sit down with Larry King or James Brown or some other sympathetic media soul and explain “what happened” in the week that was.
Meanwhile, let’s hope a sadder but wiser Tiger emerges from this excruciating ordeal having learned that:
a) when you’re a global icon billionaire and you get in trouble, you can’t keep it “private”
b) when you’re on trial in the Court of Public Opinion, lawyers aren’t necessarily the ones to turn to for the answers you need and...
c) as my mother used to say, “No matter how much money you make or how much power you have, never get too big for your britches.”
Fraser Seitel has been a communications consultant, author and teacher for 30 years. He is the author of the Prentice- Hall textbook "The Practice of Public Relations," now in its tenth edition, and co-author of "Idea Wise."