Friday, February 19, 2010

Tiger's Apology

"Whenever someone says, 'This is not about money' — it's about money."

H.L. Mencken

I read a lot of H.L. Mencken when I was younger. And I remember reading this — or something like it — when I was in college.

Mencken was a prolific writer, though, so I can't say I remember precisely where I read that. And I can't say that my quotation is exact.

But I think you can get the gist of it, can't you? The essence of it has stayed with me all these years so if my wording isn't exactly what Mencken's was, forgive me. Pay attention to the message, not the messenger.

And this messenger believes everyone has an agenda — and some of them are brazen enough to protest that they don't have an agenda while everything about their public actions and language says that they do.

I guess it was for that reason, more than any other, that I found Tiger Woods' apology today insincere.

Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group called Woods' "scripted" statement "awkward."

I thought it was awkward, too, but for what may be different reasons.

Woods didn't exactly say, "This isn't about sex," although, clearly, it is. And he didn't say, "This isn't because I'm a reckless, self–centered individual," although he certainly appears to have been one.

So why did Mencken's statement keep running through my head? When did it start? I think it may have been the point when he said he "stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in." So far, so good. I admit, he had me for a little while, when he said he only thought about himself and how he felt a sense of entitlement.

But then came the clanger, as far as I was concerned.

"Thanks to money and fame, I didn't have to go far to find them," he said, speaking of the "temptations" that had gotten the better of him.

As if he was really saying, "Gee, you know, I've got this terrible character flaw, but I was doing a real good job, a commendable job of keeping it under control ... darn that fame and fortune! It made it all too easy, too accessible. I mean, come on, what's a guy to do?"

Maybe it was wrong of me, but I kept thinking of the recordings I've heard of the last interview with serial killer Ted Bundy. Have you heard them? They were made the night before his execution. Evangelical Christian James Dobson conducted the interview. In it, Bundy kind of hints that he knows more than he's telling — probably a ploy to obtain an extension — and then talks about pornography as the "root" of his problem.

He didn't exactly blame pornography for his crimes, but he strongly implied that it played a key role.

Well, guess what? Lots of people look at pornography, but I would say that relatively few of them go around cracking girls' skulls open with whatever heavy club they can get their hands on.

Obviously, it isn't that dramatic — or deadly — in Woods' case, but I think the pass–the–buck mindset is the same. Lots of people have been blessed with fame and fortune, but relatively few squander them.

Then, in what I can only assume was intended to appear to be an indication of his selflessness, he pleaded with the media to leave his family alone. "They did not do these things; I did."

There it is, the confession — and the reminder. This is about Tiger — not his mother, not his wife, not his children. Like many things, I think this began as something entirely different, but now it's about who is in the spotlight. The attention may be bad, but it is still attention.

It can't be about money. He's a millionaire several times over. I think, at this point, it's a craving (possibly one of which he is not consciously aware) to have the spotlight all to himself — Tiger Woods, the essentially good guy who was the victim of fame and fortune.

So if anyone (especially Tiger) tells you this isn't about Tiger, trust me ... it's about Tiger.

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