Giving Them What They Want — Again!!

By Jason Whitlock
Updated: April 6, 2010

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The cynics will nitpick Tiger Woods and his Monday afternoon news conference, and, having spent a great deal of my professional life controlled by cynicism, I will not object.

Tiger did not cop to being zonked on the sleep aid Ambien during his Thanksgiving-night car crash. Nor did he acknowledge the foolishness of rehabilitating a knee injury with the help of a doctor with a shady connection to performance-enhancing drugs.

Woods sidestepped a question about the status of his marriage. And he didn’t have a great explanation for why his “indefinite leave” from the game magically ended just in time for the world’s most important golf tournament, the Masters.

Tiger gave his critics plenty to work with.

He also gave his supporters exactly what they were looking for — a contrite, likable, normal human being. He gave us a reason to forget and move past the prisoner-of-war confession he staged in February.

In just 34 minutes, in front of some 200 reporters crammed inside an interview room at Augusta National Golf Course, Woods erased the robotic, inhuman caricature that had emerged in the wake of his personal-life scandal.

What we saw on Monday, in his first legitimate question-and-answer session with the media, was the typical, remorseful married man who had finally come to grips with just how much he’d screwed things up with his selfish sexual promiscuity.

“I missed my son’s first birthday,” Woods said, referring to his decision to enter therapy shortly after Christmas. “And that hurts. That hurts a lot. I vowed I would never miss another one after that.

“I can’t go back to where I was. I want to be a part of my son’s life and my daughter’s life going forward, and I missed his first birthday. I mean, that was very hard that day and something I regret, and I probably will for the rest of my life.”

That’s as close as Tiger likely is ever going to get to publicly opening a window to his soul.

Again, the cynics have every justification to scream “bull crap.” Now that his sponsorship empire has crumbled and he’s a punch line on late-night TV, Woods is ready to check his libido for the sake of his kids. It’s rather convenient, his critics will say.

It’s also what men and women have been doing since the beginning of time. Kids — far more than any adult, religion or law — inspire us to conduct ourselves in an ethical, responsible and courageous manner.

In times of war, men and women sacrifice their lives soaked in the genuine belief they’re improving their unborn grandchildren’s lives. Making a sincere effort to give up porn stars and cocktail waitresses isn’t quite storming Normandy.

Given Tiger’s relationship with his own father, it’s difficult for me to believe he would not respond appropriately to the possibility of his wife and children relocating to her home country of Sweden.

We can debate the likelihood of Tiger’s success another day. Monday was about whether Tiger was believable. He was.

“You know, when I went through that period when my father was sick and my father passed away, it put things in perspective real quick,” Woods said. “And when my kids were born, again, it put it in perspective. And then what I’ve done here, it puts it in perspective.”

“It’s that it’s not about championships. It’s about how you live your life.”

Ah, the cynics. What will be different this time, they’ll wonder. His father’s death and the birth of his kids should’ve already given Tiger the perspective to avoid sexual overindulgence. Tiger is a jailhouse religious convert, promising a return to the Buddhist principles that guided him as a child.

We all fall. The reward is in our pursuit of righteousness. There is no reward in damning a man who is trying.

The American public is ready to forgive Tiger. The galleries for his Monday practice round were enthusiastic in their support. That enthusiasm is likely to grow after sports fans get a glimpse of the kinder, gentler Tiger Woods, who interacted with fans throughout his morning practice session.

“I’m actually going to try and obviously not get as hot when I play,” Woods said of the on-course tantrums that have peppered his play throughout his PGA career.

“Just trying to be more respectful of the game and acknowledge the fans like I did (Monday). That was just an incredible reception for all 18 holes, and (I want to) show my appreciation for them. I haven’t done that in the past few years, and that was wrong of me.

“So many kids have looked up to me,” Woods continued. “And so many fans have supported me over the years. Just wanted to say thank you to them, especially going through all of this over the past few months. It really put things in perspective for me and how much I have underappreciated the fans in the game of golf.”

I’ve damned and slammed Tiger for five months. It took some time for him to get the apology right. Now that he has, I’m ready to celebrate his attempt at redemption.