Analysis of Tiger Woods' mea culpa statement
We discussed Tiger's vague "mea culpa" statement in an English composition course. We discovered many things, among them:
*It appears to be completely written by the golfer
*If he had a publicist or lawyer look at the piece of writing, that person should be fired
*His writing is not that good style-wise, although he does not have explicit mechanics errors; Tiger seems to "stack" ideas together into the same sentence; he has too many "I's"
*Tiger is good at breaking up paragraphs
*The statement fuels, instead of slows, gossip about his private life
*Tiger is in a Mark Sanford-esque mode, although less maudlin; Tiger seeks privacy but wants to admit his guilt
*Tiger is in a bad psychological space which prevents him from maintaining accepted divisions of privacy and publicity. He is more "Michael Jackson" than "Michael Jordan" right now.
*Tiger does not understand the scope of popular interest in him and this episode
My main reaction was this: the piece of writing has some vague, unknown purpose. From an objective point of view, Tiger's purpose for the writing should have been:
1) Protect his wife and children from media spectacle; save his marriage
2) Dispel rumors about his infidelity; deny, deny, deny
3) Maintain and reinforce his iconic image; i.e. maintain his "business model"
In actuality, Tiger seemed to write for these purposes:
1) Admit guilt and try to move forward
2) Show humility; or, in a way, self-flagellate
3) Assert his family's right to privacy
Interpreted according to the first three purposes, the piece of writing is an abject failure. The statement will increase gossip about his "sins" (his word), increase scrutiny on his wife and children, and undercut the iconic image that has made him such a successful pitch-man.
But according to the latter three purposes, he did admit guilt, self-flagellate, and assert his family's right to privacy, although the assertion will ironically weaken his case -- by acknowledging turmoil, Tiger's "comment on current events" memo in effect shows that psychologically he wants some kind of public punishment, a la Mark Sanford.
Tiger should have called up Eliot Spitzer! The ex-Governor of New York has already rehabbed his image really well -- I heard him on NPR speaking confidently as a panelist for a debate about whether the Obama Administration's economic policies are working. When he was in the national gossip spotlight, Spitzer did these things:
*Public confession on TV, not in writing; made himself "available" to media but did not answer questions (TV is the superior form in our culture; the web gives a message of trying to maintain secrecy)
*Pursed his lips and apologized for specific indiscretions
*Defined and contained the extent of his infidelity problem (i.e. to one prostitute)
*Began the process of rebuilding his "family man" image
*No expression of anything maudlin; he communicated a controlled psyche
So, Tiger is in trouble! The post already has over 10,000 comments! Why even have comments on such a statement? All he had to do was click "no comments" on the post, as anyone can do on their blog. Ugh! I feel for the guy, but I'm so happy to see the humanity of Tiger. As I said in class, "We think that our superstars are superhuman, but presidents and megastars are just like us."
Can you believe it? All this from hitting a fire hydrant outside of his house. The pressure to maintain his domination of golf and the billion-dollar business of his "iconic status" created huge hypocrisies. Now the chickens are coming home to roost! Psychologically-speaking, Tiger is having great difficulty maintaining healthy boundaries between private and public life. I'd like to say, "Let's let him deal with this on his own," but hey, this is an American Cultural Bonanza! Get it while you can, because this won't last long.