When the news emerged yesterday that Tiger Woods announced he was taking an indefinite break from golf while he tries to mend his nearly decimated fences with his wife in the face of an increasingly growing sex scandal (would the number of women who come forward or are said to have had affairs with him eventually match those filing last month for unemployment?) there were likely a few reactions.
Relief among his corporate sponsors, who had started quietly downplaying and removing their overt links to him, despite their contracts.
And shudders among broadcasters and golf bigwigs who realize the sport is likely to take a hit on the tube.
But it was a wise move for Woods, who in a period of just two short weeks saw his image go from a golfing great and upstanding American role-model to a comedy punchline (even David Letterman was getting big laughs with Tiger Woods jokes) and an editorial cartoonist’s dream-come true (see above cartoon for just one of many examples). His announcement and apology came on his website:
I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children. I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I’ve done, but I want to do my best to try.
I would like to ask everyone, including my fans, the good people at my foundation, business partners, the PGA Tour, and my fellow competitors, for their understanding. What’s most important now is that my family has the time, privacy, and safe haven we will need for personal healing.
After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf. I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person.
Again, I ask for privacy for my family and I am especially grateful for all those who have offered compassion and concern during this difficult period.
His announcement is unlikely to halt new revelations (if more are to come) about women in his life, if there are any more poised to come out, but it takes the story to a new level, in media terms. He has now apologized, and withdrawn from golf, so any new revelations will likely start having a “Who cares? So what?” quality to them among news consumers.
And there could be brand name redemption in his future: it’s not unusual for a fallen sports hero to make a big comeback. And when Woods returns to golf just watch the ratings of that game to go through the roof — just as golf game ratings will likely drop to the basement now that he’s gone. And endorsements? If he returns to all of his golf-skill glory, he’ll likely resume or pick up more lucrative contracts (as if he needs the money now).
Meanwhile, as in politics, the media loves a good news narrative that has a clear “arc”: a young man becomes an athletic champion, he becomes an athletic great, he becomes a big advertising property and is beloved by all, he stumbles, he declines and falls from his pedestal — he returns and triumphs and a whole new series of news stories detailing his return to grace are then published and broadcast.
Why, in the end, it could be turned into a book or a movie.
(Remember: you read it here first..)
The above cartoon by John Cole, The Scranton Times-Tribune, is copyrighted and licensed to appear on TMV. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. All rights reserved.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.