December 02, 2009
OK, so I guess we can say the whole "stay silent and hope this goes away" approach didn't work out so well for Tiger Woods, yes?
Woods is in the midst of the worst crisis of his life, a marital apocalypse brought on by his confession of "transgressions" that, at best, involve one woman not his wife, and at worst -- well, you can imagine the "at worst."
So it's time for Tiger to come clean. (Aside: we see now why he didn't in the first place, don't we?) Hopefully for Tiger, it can't get much worse than this -- the first revelation of infidelity is far, far worse than any possible subsequent ones -- so now that the first skeleton has tumbled out of the closet, it's time to haul out any more that may still be in there.
There are several steps he needs to take, immediately. First off, he needs to quit blaming the media. I'm not saying this as a member of the media, I'm saying this because blaming someone else for his own failures of character isn't going to win him any lasting sympathy. The whole "I did wrong but it's also your fault for publicizing it" approach he took in his apology is cheap and a way to skirt the real issue. (Plus, there's an old saying by Mark Twain that you don't pick a fight with someone who buys his ink by the barrel -- or, in 21st century terms, who counts his site visits in the millions.)
I'm not saying the media were blameless here; you could sense TMZ salivating with excitement at the prospect of Woods or his wife getting arrested and perp-walked out of their Windermere home. And when the "charges" against Woods ended up totaling $164 -- or what Woods has lying around in his change jar -- TMZ looked both foolish and vindictive.
Not every media outlet is that bloodthirsty. Most are simply reporting the facts, and thanks to Woods himself, the facts alone are damning.
So this is what Tiger needs to do. He needs to use the media like he's never used it before. He needs to go on "Oprah" and do a Barbara Walters special. He needs to appear with his wife, Elin, at his side -- assuming, of course, she wants to stay at his side after all this -- and he needs to appear in lots of long, slow shots staring out over the water behind his house in contemplation. He needs to get new images of himself out in public to counteract the sound of a desperate cheater on that voicemail.
He needs to open every door, tell every tale, lay out the truth. Not in graphic detail, but complete in scope. If he's been a serial adulterer, he needs to confess. If it was this one time, he needs to confess. But no more half-truths, no more hiding. He can't crack the door partly open and expect that people will be satisfied. That's how this:
... becomes this:
If he wants this to go away -- and it will, eventually, no matter what -- and yet still retain some of his dignity and his image, he needs to open every door now.
He needs to go on soft-pitch talk shows and use some handpicked Golf Channel/ESPN interviewers to lob him questions that are hard, but not too hard. And he needs to go on David Letterman's show, for obvious reasons -- Letterman had his own dalliance with infidelity earlier this year and would be a sympathetic figure.
Along the way, he should hire a willing and malleable writer -- one of the ones who kept insisting that this is no big deal and we needed to move on -- to bang out a quick autobiography with a soft-focus photo of him and his family and a generically inspirational title like "Lessons Learned." There are surely already books in the works on this; why not get the story straight from Tiger himself?
Also, he needs to undercut the people who would sell him out for a quick buck. Was there only one mistress? Were there more? He knows, and he knows that they're seeing the six-figure check that Jaimee Grubb just banked, and he's got to realize that they're thinking they could use a little extra holiday cash too. So he's got to do everything he can to marginalize any woman who might come forward with her own "My night with Tiger" story, by painting them as opportunistic gold-diggers ... though not in so many words, of course.
He needs to do this all now, in the Christmas season but before the holidays actually hit. People will be more focused on their own lives and less likely to sit down and pore over the details of his stories. And then he needs to zip it shut tight and disappear for six weeks. The media needs fresh meat, and by the time Tiger returns to the course in late January, his story would be old news. He'd have one extremely uncomfortable press conference, and then he'd get back on the golf course and that would be that.
Tiger Woods screwed up. Phenomenally. But there's a way out of this for him, a way that these sins could actually humanize him in the eyes of the public. What worked for him before isn't going to work for him now, but there's still a chance he could rehabilitate his image.
But he's going to have to start from the ground up.
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