The interviews about the interview lasted longer than the interview. Given the enormity of personality, no one in the golf world could be the least bit surprised that a five-minute television Q&A would generate hours of discussion. Because, make no mistake, this is about control.
Tiger Woods inexplicably and suddenly decided to face a scant few select questions that were more lobbed than hurled in two five-minute television interviews that were broadcast simultaneously Sunday evening on Golf Channel and ESPN. The interviews were much more gentle than demanding or probing and were alarmingly brief. In each instance, Woods has remained totally and completely in control of the dissemination of his media message.
Tiger Woods didn’t enter rehab because he’s a “control-aholic” and don’t count on him giving it up anytime soon. Being in control doesn’t cause him pain. Quite the contrary, he gets a crazy kind of high on it, even when his life was spinning wildly out of control.
The return to championship golf and the public eye by the world’s most recognizable athlete isn’t about history or tradition or a major championship quest or any other high-minded reason. Woods is making his 2010 debut at The Masters because the “Men of Augusta” have forgotten more than most people know about how to grasp control of a situation and choke it near about to death.
If Woods has come to this revelation that he needs to look the public in the eye and be accountable for his actions, in recovery terms, he has barely taken the first step.
Curiously, Woods and his handlers deemed it appropriate to grant these interviews two days after one of Woods’ women released to entertainment site TMZ the contents of some rather racy text messages. Not-so-coincidentally, Elin Nordegren, according to TMZ, was so upset at the profane nature of the messages that she moved out of the house.
Woods wouldn’t comment about the nature or the state of his marriage with either Kelly Tilghman of Golf Channel or Tom Rinaldi of ESPN, saying simply, “We are working on it.” Nor would he reveal exactly what happened on the night after Thanksgiving when he wrecked his Escalade and lay on the ground bleeding. “It’s all in the police report,” he said. He will explain exactly what happened that night to no one.
It’s clear that some – perhaps significant – part of Woods sincerely wants to atone for his misdeeds. But if it has anything to do with relinquishing control of the situation, it’s equally clear that he wants no part of it. While interviewers were told there were no out-of-bounds questions, the time limit was carved in stone. Five minutes – no more, no less.
And the networks involved had no leverage. It’s curious why CBS and NBC were left out of this loop. CBS was busy with NCAA Tournament coverage and NBC was occupied with televising the Transitions Championship. In fact, Golf Channel and ESPN were embargoed from promoting the interviews until after 6:30 p.m., essentially to avoid stepping on coverage of the Transitions. Ironically, weather forced the Transitions to a late finish and the interview started while the Transitions was being decided.
Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, Woods still holds most of the cards as to how his fractured image is portrayed. Traditionally, he holds a news conference on Tuesday of Masters week. Whether that tradition is upheld is still in the air, given the nature of a mass interview with the world’s golf media.
It might be that Woods and his camp will gauge the media reaction to the television interviews before they decide whether he will go into the media center and face a roomful of unruly writers.
While the truth will set you free, it can also be a vicious master.
“I was living a life of a lie, I really was,” he told ESPN. “And I was doing a lot of things, like I said, that hurt a lot of people. And stripping away denial and rationalization you start coming to the truth of who you really are and that can be very ugly.
“But then again, when you face it and you start conquering it and you start living up to it, the strength that I feel now,” he said. “I’ve never felt that type of strength.”
Woods was wearing a Buddhist bracelet – “for protection” – he told Tilghman. As part of his treatment for addiction – and he has yet to tell the public that he is an addict – he is turning back to his Buddhist roots for spiritual growth. However, also as part of his recovery, amends to those harmed are in order. But an apology is merely the announcement that he is about to make amends.
“I hurt a lot of people, not just my wife,” he told Rinaldi on Sunday. “My friends, my colleagues, the public, kids who looked up to me. There were a lot of people that thought I was a different person and my actions were not according to that. That’s why I had to apologize. I was so sorry for what I had done.”
Given that a 1,000-mile journey begins with a single step, perhaps the larger view is that Woods has put one cautious foot in front of the other. Yet, in present time, he still controls the pace. And that is still the problem.